Thursday, May 10, 2012

Easy Day in Bayeux

We started the morning by hitting the famous Bayeux Tapestry at its opening time of 9am. We were almost alone going through it, and there was still nobody in the queue to go in when we came out, so we politely asked if we could go through again, and they said sure, no problem, so we went through a second time, and when we came out half an hour later, there were a couple of tour bus loads of people waiting to go in. Hah! Early risers rule!

So first off, it isn't a tapestry at all. It's an embroidery. Big difference: a tapestry is a woven fabric, in which the image is woven into the fabric by virtue of the different colored threads being surfaced at the correct points in the weave.

An embroidery image is made by drawing the lines and colors of the image with individual sewing threads stitched on a plain fabric. Here's an end-on view of the fabric which may make this clearer.

Individual stitches on top of a plain linen backing fabric.

Second, it's basically a comic book, or at least, a continuous story told as a linear series of images, with captions. The whole thing is over 200 feet long but a little over 1.6 feet high. It is stored in a very long glass-fronted case under dim light. It is holding up extremely well for being about 1,040 years old.

You enter at one end with a very good, well-produced audio guide to your ear. The audio guide describes the story panel by panel, pointing out especially interesting sidelights to the images. The narration is paced so that you see the whole thing in about 25 minutes. But once isn't really enough, if you don't know the story ahead of time, so we were especially fortunate in being able to go back through a second time.

Photography is nominally not allowed. Well... we took a few pics.

Early in the story, Harold embarks for France; note they had to wade out to the ship.

Top center, one of the earliest, if not the earliest, depiction of Halley's Comet, which appeared as Harold was crowned king (an evil omen?).

The Battle of Hastings is underway, and the carnage is terrible (Note dead soldiers across the bottom band)

Strictly speaking, one doesn't have to go to Bayeux because the entire tapestry is online as a single scrolling image (but no explanations), or you can have it as a series of panels with explanations.

Next we went across the road to the cathedral. This is a prettier cathedral than Rouen's, and if the sun ever shines on it again, we'll have pics to prove that. For the time being, here is a gargoyle spitting up during one of today's heavy rainstorms.

Gargoyle thinks badly of the weather, as do we.

We took a few pics inside and they didn't come out very well. We have to go back and try to do better. Here's a ceiling detail.

Here's a 14th-century angelic musician fresco from the crypt.

And here's a fairly spooky face.

Then we had the 2 hours of pure adrenaline that is doing our weekly laundry. Interesting story about that. How to find a coin laundry in a strange town? Well, once upon a time we would have asked someone on the hotel staff. But now we ask The Google, finding ourselves on google maps, then using "Search Nearby". So first we tried searching nearby for "Lavomatique" which is French for laundromat. Lots of hits, but the closest was in Caen, 20Km away. Searching nearby for "Laundry" got hits on all the local hotels, but a hotel laundry was not what we wanted. Finally Marian in desperation tried "Laundromat" and bingo, there it was 3 blocks away. But not signed Laundromat:

Later, we used a Tourist Office pamphlet to take a tour of the older buildings of Bayeux. Here's the oldest one; it has been a shop pretty much continuously since the 13th century.

Today we learned: the upper floors over-hang the lower for two reasons: one, to get more floor space without taking up more land, and two, to protect the lower floors and foundation from the elements.

No comments:

Post a Comment