Summer travels

Rebecca.Constabel | December 6, 2011


With the nights closing in rapidly and the first frosts setting in, it is about time I write a summary of what I have been doing for the last few months. Most of the summer I spent travelling through France trying to find parallels with the Framlingham tombs. I must admit, it was one of the most amazing journeys I have ever done and it left me feeling like Indiana Jones half the time! My trusty companions were a silver Clio, a sat nav and a fantastic camera. To be fair, it was not quite as good as a hat, motorcycle and side-car, but they did the job beautifully. I even started to write a travel diary full of anecdotes, like the nineteenth-century explorers used to keep, but it turns out it is quite difficult to drive a car and write notes at the same time. Unlike a horse, a car won’t follow its companions no matter what you do, and considering the multitude of gendarmes along the road, it seemed a really bad plan to write my story during the day. There were some interesting encounters with curious farm dogs, escaped bullocks in the middle of the road (it was a good thing they were more terrified of me than I was of them) and a near miss with a suicidal chicken, which, excuse the pun, luckily chickened out at the last minute, but thankfully that was all in terms of surprises.

My journey took me across the country as I traced the itinerary of the third duke of Norfolk in 1533 before he was called back to England by Henry VIII. For those of you who know about Henry VIII, it is little wonder that Norfolk left quite rapidly after the king ordered him back, making it hard for me to accurately trace his return journey. With the help of some of my colleagues, I had worked out the duke’s outward itinerary beforehand so I knew where I was going as I finally set out. Despite all the preparation, I still made many interesting discoveries along the route. For instance, I found out that Norfolk had followed the old pilgrims’ paths from Paris to the south. Even today I met a large number of pilgrims along the road walking a significant portion of the journey. Others, like me, visited the major stops by car. Norfolk stopped at a couple of beautiful locations, some of which can still be seen today.

 

Unsurprisingly, though, France has changed a lot since the sixteenth century. Most of the original churches and the towns themselves have since been destroyed by fire, bombings, political upheaval and various other forces of destruction. St Mathurin, once an important cloister and pilgrimage site, was destroyed a only few years after Norfolk’s visit. Beautiful though it was with its flower-lined canal, Briare also suffered since the 1530s and has changed its appearance significantly since then. La Charité-sur-Loire, another gorgeous location on the Loire river, was once one, if not the, most significant pilgrimage site in France after Cluny, but it too suffered from fire and the bombings of the World Wars. Although some of the medieval centre still exists, there was little left of Norfolk’s time. Overall I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait to go back next year.

 


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