Saturday, June 17, 2017

Citadel of Blaye, La Rochelle, Chateau Amboise, France

In my last blog I visited Fort Medoc and then hopped on a ferry to cross the Gironde estuary over to Blaye (population 4,900).  It's low tide and the imposing Citadel of Blaye can be seen from Blaye's ferry landing. Built between 1685-1689 on a 115 foot tall rocky outcrop the citadel enjoys a commanding view of the surrounding area.  
This sign "Citadel of Vauban 1689" greets visitors entering the fortress. Vauban, the famous French military engineer, designed the citadel.  Matter of fact, Vauban (1633-1707) was responsible for designing or upgrading over 600 fortifications around France.  Remember, back then there were no trains, paved roads etc. and Vauban cris-crossed France via horse or horse drawn carriage.
 One of two entrances to the citadel. Covering 95-acres, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site.
A cannon still poised to cause some damage. Actually, that forested land you see in the picture is a spit of land in the middle of the estuary. Vauban had a fort built on that spit of land (Fort Pate). Why did Vauban have Fort Pate built as well as Fort Medoc on the other side of Gironde estuary? Back then the citadel's cannons only had a range of three miles. With the estuary being five miles wide, additional coverage was needed to make sure the dreaded English or Spanish fleets didn't slip through.
 Grounds of the citadel. One of the onsite buildings has been converted into a small hotel.
 What are these structures? Cannons were mounted atop.
 La Rochelle, population 80,000, is a seaport on the Bay of Biscay--part of the Atlantic Ocean. A couple of medieval towers guard the entrance to the old town port.
This guy cracks me up. Normally, street performers have a routine where they stand motionless like a statue. This guy created a routine where it isn't as tiring--SITTING motionless in a chair. I thought maybe he was taking a break but, returning 20 minutes later he was in the same position.
I'm not happy a happy camper with news from La Rochelle's tourist office.  A few years ago the National Geographic Channel ran a documentary series titled "Nazi Megastructures" One episode featured La Rochelle and the massive concrete roof structure the Nazis built to protect its U-boat fleet. The concrete pens for a dozen or so submarines offered protection from Allied bombing.  The U-boats were causing immense damage and loss of life to Allied shipping across the Atlantic.  The Allies never did destroy the concrete roof. Anyway, the tourist center said the site was off-limits and I couldn't get anywhere close to snap a picture.

The photo above is not of a church spire but, a lighthouse. Built in the 15th century, the conical-shaped "Tower of the Lantern" was also used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries housing over 100 prisoners.
Wow, when you cross the bridge over the Loire river leading to Ambosie (population 13,000) you can't help but notice Chateau Amboise lording over the town. The castle was home to the French royal court and dates back to the 1400's.  
I was lugging my bike up the steep stairs to the castle's entrance and at the halfway point I said, "no more" and locked it up here.
 Heading to the building entrance.
 The council chamber.
The castle gardens. There's a chapel on the grounds and believe it or not, Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the chapel. King Francis I of France extended an invitation to Leonardo da Vinci and the famous Italian inventor/painter spent the last three years of his life (1516-1519) in a small chateau (Clos Luce) a quarter mile away.
 A view of the meandering Loire from the castle walls.
 Side view of the castle.
Walkway one has to complete to enter the main castle complex.

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