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Published: December 30th 2019
Let's get this one out of the way first . Every morning we wake and before we breakfast we check the levels of the battery. They never fail to amaze us. It barely moves down and soon charges up again. Why do we distrust it and check every morning? It is delivering in a way we never imagined . What a freedom we feel now that we never felt before .
So it is Bonjour from us at Beauvais. This is yet another city we have wanted to visit for some while. It has an astronomical clock that is worth seeing. We have seen clocks before in many cathedrals back home - Wells and here in mainland Europe - Prague . So what is special about this one? We were soon going to find out. It is hard to believe just how much ground we are covering on this holiday . We never planned a Christmas holiday before so it is a new one for us. It is one holiday that has changed our perspectives on motorhoming in the winter months. We are seeing things we have never seen or thought about so far. The leaves are off the trees
and everything is bare. In December the skies are pale grey . We don't have the spring sunshine but when it comes out it is most welcome . We don't haver the summer heat but what we are having is still a reasonable level of warm temperatures. There is no sign of green on the trees yet apart from the parasite mistletoe hanging in great clumps off the trees. The gardens are devoid of any colour apart from Christmas decorations. But we are loving every minute of the trip. The countryside in December is muddy and the fields look like lakes but it makes for a different style of holiday . A first for us and one we hope to organise again. So many possibilities - our minds are on overdrive . Morning breaks late with the hour difference from home . Night comes quickly . The nights are long. Once we get used to it we rather like the cosy feelings it brings. We go to bed early and lie in late .
On our way into Beauvais we saw our first gilet jeune protest . We had expected more of the french revolt against diesel prices and
How the builders got it wrong
Those buttresses are too slim
raised pension ages. Sitting in a wooden hut they had banners and were waving at vehicles passing by. They caused no trouble . Perhaps Christmas for them meant goodwill to all men even their despised President who was trying to impose change upon them.
The aire we wanted to stay on was closed . Yet again a casualty of the wet weather. It was next to the swimming pool. It was on a hill and the van had we been able to park would have been on the wonk. The grass was soggy and there was one van parked on the road . Nowhere for us to park . Barriers prevented access to the site. We had to head closer into town and find the second aire . This one was a joint use car park which we shared with a couple of other vans, a number of cars and a number of buses. We saw our first Brits . We have been seeing few of us out here. Perhaps our breed were all headed for or already in Spain . The aire was next to a noisy busy road and not the sort of place you want to
linger long . The other aire was probably a touch better for a night stay . We made the decision fairly quickly to rush up to the city centre, see what was on offer , do the sightseeing bit and then find somewhere quieter for the night. Before we set off for the city we checked our gas bottles . We have two and they were both full when we left the UK. One 11 kg bottle was just showing that it was almost empty. The gauge heading for amber. The second 11 kg bottle was full. We probably had enough to last the trip but using the heating every night it would be touch and go. We needed to find somewhere to fill the one bottle . That might be easier said than done.
It was a 19 minute flat walk to the Centre Ville. No chance of getting lost . There were enough signs to point us in the right direction and all the time we could see the spires of the gothic cathedral . We would follow the trail of bronze salamanders that were sunk into the pavements. The cathedral was always just in sight over
the rooftops of the houses.
We found the main square and stood for a while looking upwards at the soaring height of the cathedral . I hear you thinking - what an ABC of motorhoming - another bloody cathedral . But what a cathedral. Words like impressive, wonderful - how did they build it? What expertise the ancient builders must have had? Why don't we build on this scale now? Ok we have Sagrada Familia and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral we have been building those with the knowledge of later years, with machinery and better technology . A vast army of workers must have been employed digging out the massive foundations by hand. An army of wood carvers , an army of stonemasons . Each with a job to do and and an exact one at that. They must have prayed for a miracle that the footings would be deep enough to support the bulk of the cathedral above . They must have put their faith in the architect , in God and in anything that would help with the building process.
After much standing admiring the carved saints and apostles we entered through a richly carved doorway. What
we saw inside shocked us a little . It was a cathedral of a slightly different shape than what we expected. It was bare of all statuary inside and no sign of much change over time. A peaceful place but a shocking place . It was dedicated to Saint Peter of Beauvais and was begun in the 13th century . A great period of medieval cathedral building. We walked into the transept and the choir area through the ambulatory . I could see the clock but what drew our eyes was not clock itself but the massive oak structure that was built inside the cathedral . The cathedral was falling down and was being held up by a wooden structure of immense proportions. It felt like it was broken and someone had put a plaster of paris splint on it for the time being before something permanent could be done. We read that the cathedral was the most daring achievement of Gothic architecture with vaulting that reached 150 feet . It had undergone major repair in 2008. We did however wonder if it proved to be too expensive to repair properly or did we just not know how to repair
it? Questions ? Questions? It made us pause for thought as we stood beneath the intricate stained glass rose windows looking skywards. Would it fall down at any time? It was impossible to see how the whole cathedral fitted together . Like a jigsaw with all the wrong pieces. Massive lengths of wood were anchored to the ground in concrete and they leaned against the wall. It was hard to say if the walls were spreading outwards due to the weight of the roof or if they were falling inwards. Wood beams were stretched from side of the roof to the other pushing and pulling the building together as it fought to push itself apart . Along the length were side chapels all showing the zig zag patterns of earlier decoration. Red and green the predominent colours. Frescoes - pale shadows of their earlier forms were still visible to the naked eye.
It seems the cathedral had the habit of falling down When an extra 16 feet was added its height to make it the tallest in Europe the vaulting over the choir collapsed. The transept added in the the 16th century caused the central tower to fall down
. Sometimes you can overreach yourself and the builders of Beauvais certainly did that . Too slim buttresses might have let more light in but they did nothing to help stabilize the cathedral .
I in particular had wanted to see the clock .It is not an ancient clock by any standards , Built between 1865 and 1868 by Lucien Auguste Verite . It stands 12 high and 6 metres wide. It has 52 dials showing the times of the rising and setting sun and moon . It shows the position of the planets and the time in 18 cities of the world . It shows the way that Easter is calculated . Its central face depicts Jesus and the twelve apostles . It can be seen in the round . If you can get in you can walk all round seeing each face closely and watching the way the clock works . We could see the clock - just about through the gratings of a black metal surround . We could hear talking within . As we peered over the grating we could see people sitting down and listening to music . They had paid to sit and watch and listen . This happened every few hours and for that period you could not see the clock for free. Now it all looked impressive and I found myself thinking that old advert that always goes round your head when something is good . "If Carlsberg made clocks they would have made this one ". Were we going to get up close and personal. It did not look like . However we found the timetable which told us the show lasted half and hour and had started at 2.30 so by 3 we were inside the railings and staring in wonder at the face of the clock . It was stunning . Everything moved . From each side we saw a different aspect of its use . From the back we saw its inner workings . The clock was simply stunning . A work of art inside another work of art . We came out pleased that we had waited for the show to end . To have missed seeing this wonderful clock would have been sacrilige .
Our last stop was the boulangerie . I know ABB - another bloody boulangerie . But we need fresh croissants every day. We need fresh bread every day . When in France we have to behave like the French and go in and marvel at the wonderful cake displays . Pain a chocolate , eclairs filled with chocolate filling or coffee , tarts of every fruit imaginable , tiny petite fours, and more of those chocolate logs . This time I bought a pear tart which I can say was delicious with cream and a prune flan. The prune flan was different and that is probably the best description I can offer.
This is the life . Before I wish you a Bonsoir a thought about Winter . "Winter garden , the moon thinned to a thread, insects singing , its time for bed " Matsuo Basho
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