Fill your Cup – Paris II

Is it just me or are unions the pits?? There’s a petroleum strike and it’s escalating to a general strike around Paris. Our cruise is due in Les Andelys but the last lock was “closed”. We were shy of our destination so the cruise staff jumped through crazy hoops to accommodate. We were just fine: didn’t skip a beat. Union protestors only pissed off the general public. Good one.

Our tour today was around Richard the Lionheart aka King Richard. He was the courageous warrior king of England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 in 1100 bc or so

I was not a history buff by any means, but this king was brought to life by our tour guide, Ben. Ben is an Englishman army veteran who loves to weave a hood tale and he took us on a journey that I won’t soon forget. The cruise director told us that a special guest would lead us to King Richards castle and when our bus unloaded us in town and this character in chain mail with sword and shield and helmet approached I knew we were in for a ride. Les Andelys is a quiet village on the Seine and the surrounding hillsides are rife with sheep and fields. It’s claim to fame is the castle which King Richard the lionheart built. Most castles of medieval times took 10 to 20 years to build. But this fortress was completed in a mere 13 months. It took thousands of workers to accomplish and the result was formidable.

The Chateau Gaillard is perched on a steep hilltop overlooking the Seine and the quaint village. It’s construction is complex and thoughtfully planned with bridges and moats and fortifications to make it impenetrable. Our guide leads us up the steep narrow road to the castle. We pass ancient houses and sheep herds to arrive at the top where the views are breathtaking and the history astonishing. Ben is painting a vivid picture of the times and his stories are engaging. I felt like I was transported back in time. As you stand among the restored ruins of the castle it is easy to envision life in those days. Hollywood helps and the reference is made a few times.

The views from the castle are breathtaking but the vantage from a military perspective is not lost on us. Ben describes the scenarios so clearly you are immersed in it. His words mingled with the visual impact are profound. There’s hope and defeat and gore and devotion and courage. In the end, King Richard is shot with a crossbow by a cook. The bow is removed by the King but the arrowhead remained and the ensuing infection was the fatal blow. As the guide spoke you could have heard a pin drop. The story continues with the succession of brave Richard but (very much like today) the leadership thereafter was weak and ineffectual. As our guide said: if King Richards successor was even remotely brave we would be eating Fish and Chips instead of French Cuisine!

The tour ends in the village and we take some time to explore. There are quaint shops and, of course, a church. We enter the church and light a candle to remember and honour those we have lost. The stain glass windows let in enough light to reflect in our remembrance.

The bus brings us back to the boat where we tidy up and belly up. What a day !!!

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