Day five was Amiens to Beauvais … and today

… and today (in 2017) started with me using up a few hours sleuthing WordPress plugins that handle maps.  Despite trying several, including one that clearly gets used by thousands of people to embed active maps from Google maps with routes and the locations of photos on them I hit only blanks.

Literally blanks: no damn luck at all, the place where the map should have been in yesterday’s post remained determinedly blank, varying only in whether it had a border round it or not, whatever I tried.  To add insult to injury, nothing even produced useful error messages and my attempts to follow debugging instructions on the web led nowhere.  Ah well, when I finally put that aside, (I hate to be beaten by an IT challenge) I did manage to finish my marking commitments, marking the near end of my relationship with Roehampton University, and I did get started on a final redraft of a paper. Meanwhile the England vs. South Africa test match commentary provided a bit of auditory background … which I’d never have listened to cycling in France or Spain!  And now here I am, trying to connect with last year.

6/8/16 started with me packing up the tent and a short cycle along the Somme into the centre of Amiens to find the cathedral.  Many years ago, probably 1979, I had cycled with my then girlfriend from Amiens round a necklace of gothic cathedrals that surroud Paris.  I think we had taken a train to Amiens and then cycled from there to Noyon, Soissons, Laon and Rheims before getting a train back to London.  That trip had had many glorious times and was some of the inspiration for this trip so it was a bit of a personal history marker to return to Amiens cathedral and one shock was how poorly I remembered it.  That was despite having visited it at least once more over the intervening years.  The last time was about 23 years ago.

There were things that came back and remembering that it is a glorious pile was undoubtedly right.  I could paste in lots of ‘photos here as I must have spent quite a few hours in the cathedral just doing the gawping, ‘phone camera pointing, tourist thing.  That had my own personal overlay of trying to remember my earlier visits.  However, I’m not going to do that today as I was a bit shocked yesterday by how bad the ‘photos I pasted in here looked so I want to do a bit more work on yet another aspect of WordPress technology so I can get things in formats that do their subjects more justice.  The system I used to start the photos section of the pelerinage web site last year worked OK though all I got to mount there back then was my (large) collection of ‘photos of Chartres. What I used for that allowed anyone browsing to see bigger copies of the ‘photos, but that system won’t embed here in blog posts.  More sleuthing to do.  No wonder I didn’t get the site or the blog anywhere near where I wanted it to be while I was also doing each day’s cycling, ho hum, and also coping with finding working internet and later with the malfunctioning keyboard! Interesting how much technology there is to sort out to do this travel blogging game well.

One technological trick I have learned in the last few days is to copy manually the latitude and longitude from the EXIF data in a ‘photo and paste that into Google maps. Something like this “49 42 34.2N 2 10 18.0E” works without the °, ‘ and ” units, which saves time.  That trick confirmed that this:

was lunch taken right next to the cathedral in Amiens and the EXIF data also told me that it was taken at 13.23.  That was leaving most of the day’s 70km still to do with nowhere booked to stay in Beauvais, camp site or other, assuming I made it there.  I think that explains that I have only two ‘photos from the journey in between.  Both are of a nice enough little church in the little town of Monsures.

It was a sunny day again: blue skies with lots of cumulus and light winds both making sure I didn’t fry.  I don’t remember the journey that well.  I think it was a day of frustration with my failure to get technology to do what I wanted, not unlike today.  Back then I was rueing not having better ways to find a good cycling route ahead.  I thought, I think rightly with hindsight, that I spent a lot of time failing to find the best ways to avoid (a) horrible busy roads with too many lorries going fast, (b) unnecessary detours and (c) unnecessary climbing.  The route I took doesn’t look too mad when I look at it in a GPX editor now but I think some of the road surfaces were pretty poor as I found myself unable to judge road quality from Google maps colour coding (you can’t: it’s hopeless) and also pretty poor at working out compromises between crows-flight directness versus rolling up and down the hills too much.

By the time I made into Beauvais it was pushing 19.00 and I found no camp site and that most cheap hotels I called or visited were full.  I was quite relieved when I think my fourth option turned out to have a very small room, with use of shared shower and loo on the landing.  The colour scheme was quite something.

However, Toto-to-be was happy enough locked up there on the ground floor below me, I think to that radiator.  I too was happy and hugely relieved to have somewhere to sleep for myself.  I went out to find a meal and got a beautiful one in the restaurant d’antan.  Hm, Google maps seems to have that as “Le palais bleu” with only ancient reviews, one of which says it had been renamed “Le palais d’antan”.  It was upmarket for me but they seemed unphased by a single diner in a clean but crumpled tee shirt and lycra cycling shorts.  It was just beside the cathedral, the food was beautiful and I was amused to be in somewhere “d’antan” as one of my mother’s long time favourite poems is the “Ballade des dames du temps jadis” or ballad of the ladies of times gone by (blame me for that approximation).  Here, from wikipedia it is:

Dictes moy où, n’en quel pays,
Est Flora, la belle Romaine ;
Archipiada, né Thaïs,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine;
Echo, parlant quand bruyt on maine
Dessus rivière ou sus estan,
Qui beauté eut trop plus qu’humaine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

Où est la très sage Heloïs,
Pour qui fut chastré et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart à Sainct-Denys?
Pour son amour eut cest essoyne.
Semblablement, où est la royne
Qui commanda que Buridan
Fust jetté en ung sac en Seine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

La royne Blanche comme ung lys,
Qui chantoit à voix de sereine;
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys;
Harembourges qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine,
Qu’Anglois bruslerent à Rouen;
Où sont-ilz, Vierge souveraine ?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

Prince, n’enquerez de sepmaine
Où elles sont, ne de cest an,
Qu’à ce refrain ne vous remaine:
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

Tell me where, in which country
Is Flora, the beautiful Roman;
Archipiada (Alcibiades?), born Thaïs
Who was her first cousin;
Echo, speaking when one makes noise
Over river or on pond,
Who had a beauty too much more than human?
Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

Where is the very wise Heloise,
For whom was castrated, and then (made) a monk,
Pierre Esbaillart (Abelard) in Saint-Denis?
For his love he suffered this sentence.
Similarly, where is the Queen (Marguerite de Bourgogne)
Who ordered that Buridan
Were thrown in a sack into the Seine?
Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

The queen Blanche (white) as a lily (Blanche de Castille)
Who sang with a Siren’s voice;
Bertha of the Big Foot, Beatrix, Aelis;
Erembourge who ruled over the Maine,
And Joan (Joan of Arc), the good (woman from) Lorraine
Whom the English burned in Rouen;
Where are they, oh sovereign Virgin?
Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

Prince, do not ask me in the whole week
Where they are – neither in this whole year,
Lest I bring you back to this refrain:
Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!

See  As it appears to have been written about 1461 I think no copyright issues are going to catch me up.

Mum has long used the refrain of “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!” as a somewhat self-mocking plaint when she is nostalgic for times long gone.  She’s not alone in having loved the poem: have a look at the frankly stunning list of references to it, particularly to that refrain, in the wikipedia page.  Who collects these pearls to throw before internet skimming swine such as myself, capitalising on their work?! Well, hooray for them, it doesn’t beat cycling, but a quick tour of wikipedia rarely fails both to inform me and delight me.

On that note, and through it, encouraged to go on wrestling with technology tomorrow, I will stop for another night.  It’s a funny thing a virtual pilgrimage!

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