The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                           PAGE THREE


Linden tree blossoms.  Photo courtesy of one of the most unique and unusual of all the festivals in France ~ which there are more than we have space to mention ~ is what is known as the Lime Flower Festival in the charming village of Buis-les-Baronnies in the Drôme département of the Rhône Alpes just north of Provence.

Locally, the event is known as Tilleul en Baronnies (the linden fair), and it is held the third Saturday of July each year.  The blossoms of the European linden tree are what this is all about ~ not actually lime trees or lime flowers ~ and the tree is abundant in this region.  The village is on the banks of the Ouvèze River with a view of Mont Ventoux to the south as the scene stealer, and it is directly east of the Provençal town of Vaison-la-Romaine.  It enjoys a delightful microclimate, ideal for the cultivation of lavender, olives, apricots and herbs.

The blossom of the linden tree is said to have many medicinal properties and blooms on a deciduous tree that can grow to a height of more than 100 feet. The blossoms and tea made from them have a sweet fragrance and have been popular since Medieval times.  The flower is said to have both stimulating and tranquilizing properties, and over the centuries has been used to cure headaches and indigestion as well as ease  insomnia and reduce muscle tension.  It is rich in bioflavonoids, and there are claims that it lowers high blood pressure, reduces fever in children and helps clear congested nasal passages.  Is it any wonder that there is a festival dedicated to it?

Our research on the name 'lime tree' revealed the following: "Lime is an altered form of Middle English lind, in the 16th century also line, from Old English feminine lind or linde" [courtesy of Wikipedia]. There is no relationship between the linden tree and the citrus lime tree or fruit.  There are also many uses of the wood of the linden tree.  As it is soft and easy to work with, with little grain and quite dense, it was used by the Vikings to build shields, became popular for building models and for carving, and was favored in Germany in the middle ages for sculptures and altar pieces.  The wood was used in making puppets and marionettes, as it is also lightweight, and its use in this manner continues to this day. Because of its wonderful acoustic properties, the wood of the linden is used in the crafting of electric guitars and bass instruments, as well as wind instruments such as recorders. 

Buis-les-Baronnies.  Photo courtesy of web site.Chapelle des Ursulines.   Photo courtesy of Pays des Baronnies web site
                                    Buis-les Baronnies                                                                     Chapelle des Ursulines

Beyond the fun of the Lime Flower Festival, the village is a wonderful place to visit, spend some time and explore the very pretty surrounding countryside.  And, for those of you interested in the history of the unique places you visit in France, Buis-les-Baronnies has its share.  Originally settled by Neanderthals in the Ouvèze valley some 50,000 years ago, it later became part of Gaul ~ and the Romans arrived in the first century BC.   It changed hands many times following the fall of the Roman empire and Charlemagne, and in the 11th century it came under the rule of the barons of Mévouillon.  It was in the twelfth century that the barons settled in Buis, which changed the name of the village to Buis-les-Baronnies. It remained the capital of this independent state until the 14th century when it was purchased by the Dauphine de Viennois and came under the French crown some 32 years later.

A Dominican convent was here from the early 14th century which became a seminary of the diocese of Vaison at the end of the Wars of Religion. Approximately at the same time, an Ursuline convent became a girls' school.  Remaining here today from those two institutions are a cloister and the façade of a chapel called the Renaissance Door shown in the photo above.  They are protected historical monuments. Here are a few more tempting photos . . .

Pont at Buis-les-Baronnies.  Photo courtesy of Pays des Baronnies web site http://www.buislesbaronnies.comOlive trees at Buis-les-Baronnies.  Photo courtesy of Pays des Baronnies web site http://www.buislesbaronnies.comCountryside around Buis-les-Baronnies.  Photo courtesy of Pays des Baronnies web site

                      Bridge over River Ouvèze at Buis-les-Baronnies                Olive trees at Buis-les-Baronnies                             The countryside around the village

So, on the third Saturday of July in Buis-les-Baronnies, at the time of the lime flower harvest, wholesalers come to buy enormous bundles, tea of the tilleul is drunk, songs are sung, and the blossoms' fragrance fills the village air.  Ninety percent of the tilleul crop comes from the area around this village ~ the center of many other celebrations and events throughout the year.  We hope you will celebrate along with the townspeople if you are in the south of France this summer!

[Mouse over photos for credits and description. Do visit their web sites!]


Château de Jalnay near Moulins.  Photo copyright M/M van den Bos.  All rights reserved.

Château de Jalnay - a Loire B&B with three centuries of history

Château de Jalnay, with its very own troglodyte caves, is a wonderful B&B in the southern Loire.
Discover the charm, opulence and history of this amazing château as a guest in one of
its delightful en suite bedrooms.  Enjoy lovely breakfasts each morning, included in the price,
and reserve your place at the dinner table for a gourmet experience including drinks before dinner.

Click on the above photo to learn all about this exceptional property!

                Revamped, the Notre Dame Archeological Crypt Is Open Again 
                                                                                                                                                by Arthur Gillette

Since the Middle Ages, the space in front of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral – as with other churches in Europe - has been known as le parvis, a modified name for "paradise".  For many centuries it was crowded with homes and shops.  But in the mid-1700s some demolition (including three small churches) took place there for hygienic reasons. Then, in the 19th century because of the Second Empire's craze to overhaul and modernize the French capital, all the buildings that remained were razed to make way for today's huge, often-crowded, esplanade from which visitors can admire the Cathedral's façade.

By the late 1950s, automobile traffic had so escalated in Paris that the authorities were avidly seeking in-town sites to build public parking lots. The space beneath Notre Dame's expanded parvis seemed a good choice. When preliminary digging began, long-forgotten vestiges of both Roman and Medieval times were immediately discovered.  Luckily for them (and us!), Culture Minister André Malraux had good access to then-President Charles de Gaulle and, after careful unearthing and study of the underground vestiges from 1960 to 1972, it was decided to replace the planned major parking area (only a small one was built) with an Archeological Crypt site open to the public.

Understandably, it was less popular than the nearby Cathedral.  With some ups-and-downs, the number of visitors nevertheless grew, rising for example from 108,484 in 2006 to 150,852 in 2009.  Briefly closed recently to reorganize and revamp its presentation (signposting and free brochures, tactile image tables, and audio  guide rentals for €3 in English and Spanish as well as French) and overall scenography, the Archeological Crypt is again open to the public.  Today, you can visit it every day except Easter and Pentecost Sundays and major holidays from 10 AM to 6 PM. 

Ancient masonry in crypte.  Photo Copyright Pierre Antoine.  All rights reserved.

Once underground, you perhaps predictably discover a pretty astonishing amount of different kinds of ancient masonry, some looking like rubble and others clearly parts of human-crafted structures. 

Photo Copyright Pierre Antoine.  All rights reserved.

And here is a taste of the new explanatory scenography.

By and large, the visible vestiges date from three periods of Parisian history.  The most recent is the 18th century mentioned above and  represented mainly by the base of a longish arm of the then-created Hospice des Enfants Trouvés (Abandoned Children's Home), replaced 200 years later by the huge nearby, and still extant, Hôtel Dieu Hospital.

Earlier remains date from the Middle Ages, when the long-lasting construction of the Cathedral (first stone laid in 1163) gave rise to major urban and commercial development just in front of it.  Now you can see, for example, a well and stairs leading down to a shop cellar.
Perhaps most intriguing during a Crypt visit are the remains left by the Gallo-Roman period. These include a length of the wall built in the fourth century A.D. around the Ile de la Cité to defend it against the invasion of such Barbarian tribes as the Franks (from which… France). Then there is a length of stone wharf that served the thriving, and mainly commercial, river trade up and down the Seine.

Photo Copyright Pierre Antoine.  All rights reserved.

Here is something more 'homey' - bits of residences such as this base of a 4th century column.  Especially striking are the relatively extensive vestiges of the fourth century public baths.  Cleanliness was considered very important at the time.  But the thermae were also popular as a place just to relax, practice various kinds of physical activity and chat, chat, chat (often meaning to discuss politics).  Ingenious technology was brought into play to construct the baths. Here, for instance, is a picture of the central heating system used to ensure flow of warm air beneath the floors of the baths. 

Charlemagne statue in Paris.  Photo credit:  Wikimedia.

After your visit and when re-surfacing to "paradise", don't fail to notice a nearby architectural element that I find hilarious: the equestrian statue of Charlemagne erected in the late 1800s. 

What's the joke? Well the two brothers who sculpted this figure needed a rough and tough-looking model, someone like a front-line attack rugby player. Luckily, they found him close at hand: the model was the Chief Doctor at Hôtel Dieu Hospital just across the newly expanded  parvis!

Contact Arthur Gillette to take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages Strolls. 
Visit our Marketplace page for a complete list of strolls and information about Arthur.

Next Issue:  Post World War II Le Havre:
A 'Pioneer Implementation of Modern Developments in Architecture, Technology and Town Planning'

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