Saturday, May 5, 2012

France and England on $98 a Day - Bayeux and Its Tapestry

David had to persuade me to go to the medieval town of Bayeux. I figured we'd get lost in a maze of city streets trying to find the museum housing the famous tapestry and might ruin our driving record. Thanks to David's skilled navigating, the man practically sprouts maps—both the official Michelin ones and detailed drawings of his own—by this time in our travels we'd only gotten lost twice. As the driver, I'd logged 400 or so non-lost kilometers and, except for that little tire fiasco, was feeling pretty smug about my talents. I wanted to keep it that way. But David was intrigued with the notion of seeing Harold, in stitches, suffering his just punishment at the hands of William the Conqueror; off we went on an overcast morning.

Our few days of warmth and sunshine—we toured Mont St. Michel in 80 degree weather—seemed to be over as we were back to overcast skies, intermittent rain, and 9 C temps. I figured at least the museum would be indoors. And well-heated.
I'm delighted to report that the Tapestry was a wonderful surprise. The museum (admission 7.80 €) supplies a free audio guide that explains each of the 58 panels depicting Harold's hubris and resulting fall from grace.  Not to embroider the story, but the scenes in this 68-meter tapestry showing how William conquered Harold and England in one tumultuous battle are really quite detailed. David and I enjoyed the history lesson.

The town, too, was easy to navigate since a dozen signs direct everyone to the tapestry, and parking was available if not plentiful. We enjoyed walking the picturesque streets, gawking at the Notre Dame of Bayeux (Several French towns have their own version of the famous Paris cathedral.), lingering on the little bridges over the river that snake through town, and eating at a tiny, three-table, bar that served superb food.
As Tightwad Travelers, we rarely eat in restaurants, but we're glad we chose The Cave for one of our few meals out. The place was full of locals and boasted a plat du jour, “meal of the day,” that tempted our tastebuds: “piece de boeuf grillee, sauce bearnaise, pommes de terre rissolees au beurre” for 8.50 €. We hoped that meant a slice of filet with bearnaise sauce and potatoes. It did. And it was fabulous! If I can find a recipe for pommes de terre rissolees au beurre, I'm going to make it once a week, at least.

I left Bayeux with renewed confidence in my driving and David's navigating. Unlike our first experiences driving in France, I've gotten to the point where I'm confident enough to lift my eyes from the road long enough to read the road signs. I haven't gotten brave enough, yet, to turn on the radio, but perhaps that will come. Now, if only I could do something about the weather

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