France Through the Ages, May 17-31, 2019, poem
Janetta Rebold Benton
Twenty-six Americans crossed the pond, and took the chance,
To investigate, to appreciate, the culture and cuisine of France.
Although tired when we arrived, we were ready to be set loose,
In a lovely medieval city, to visit Saint-Sernin in Toulouse.
The next morning, our early departure was met with a groan,
But it was worth it, to eat cassoulet in fortified Carcasonne.
In Albi, we toured the Gothic cathedral, with pointed arches and thin walls of red brick,
Unlike the Romanesque, when arches were rounded and walls were thick.
Then on to the museum of Toulouse-Lautrec, a man of short stature,
With a remarkable ability to visually capture,
The real cabaret night life of “gay Paris,”
In lithographic posters, originally used for publicity.
We traveled to Sarlat, a medieval town, built of golden stone, of great charm,
With tiny twisting streets, and a market for fine foods, fresh from the farm.
We toured Lascaux IV, with images of horses, cows, and deer,
Where the artistry, of our ancestry, in prehistory, was made clear.
At the Chateau of Milandes, we visited the home of Josephine,
The mother of many, a humanitarian, and entertainer supreme.
Did you adore, the lower town and upper chapels of Rocamadour?
After you walked all those steps, were you looking for more?
Fortunately, the elevator was an option, if your feet were sore.
Then we cruised along the Dordogne river, a beautiful sight,
And wondered, what would it be like, to live in the cliff, as a troglodyte.
We embarked on a long bus ride, which we were able to endure,
Because at the end of the journey was wonderful Saumur.
At the 12th-century monastery of Fontevraud, we learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine,
And the complexities and intricacies of the royal reigns.
Then some of us chose to sample a variety of fine French wine,
While others visited Saumur’s chateau, ascending the steep incline.
In Amboise, at the Clos-Luce, I confessed, so now you all know,
My all-time favorite artist is its former resident, Italian genius, Leonardo.
We admired Renaissance Chenonceau, were there was bitter rivalry,
Between Henri II’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and his queen, Catherine de’Medici.
The exhibitions at the Museum of Peace in Caen offered an inundation,
Of sobering, if not horrifying, World War II information.
On the Normandy beaches, we paid tribute to our defenders,
For, as Churchill said, “We will never surrender.”
In Bayeux, we saw the so-called Bayeux “tapestry,”
Though actually, in reality, the Bayeux embroidery.
Believed to have been made at Bishop Odo’s request,
It depicted, in factual detail, the story of William’s conquest.
We climbed up to Mont St-Michel’s monastery, a marvel of the Middle Ages,
Erected, essentially, on three levels, constructed in stages.
As we ascended the many steps, all cautions were heeded;
Consequently, no defibrillator was needed.
Centuries later, it was D-Day, a time of both great joy and profound grief,
The cemeteries, so emotionally moving, the magnitude of the losses beyond belief.
To raise our spirits, to return to an earlier reality, luckily,
We travelled on to Monet’s home in Giverny.
Designed by Monet to include everything—pebble path, bridge, lily pad, pond, and flower,
Monet made clear the correct meaning of Flower Power.
We toured Paris, with the Louvre, medieval Notre-Dame and Ste-Chapelle, so pretty,
And Invalides, Eiffel Tower, Pompidou, all here, in my favorite city!
And as for French cuisine, we dined on fois gras, quiche, crepe, and omelet,
While others tried a Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame, and who can forget,
The most beautiful of breads, the French baguette.
As a group, as a family, did we have a specialty?
Mais oui! It was your punctuality.
Throughout our trip, every day,
Who made sure we found our way? That not one of us went astray?
For 14 days, no matter how confused we all were,
Sylvie remained undeterred,
She never lost one of us—no matter what she might have preferred.
Each morning she counted us, when we departed;
Every evening we returned with the same people as those with whom we started.
Would our itinerary benefit from a change?
Leave it to Sylvie to rearrange.
And if the weather report gives you fright,
Leave it to Sylvie to make it right.
So then please raise your glass, for a toast,
To the Tour Director with the most!
And to Richard, our coach driver, extraordinaire,
Who took us safely everywhere,
With nerves of steel,
Behind the wheel:
Please raise you glass!