France 2014 - Caen

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We found the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the Abbaye aux Hommes (the somewhat better known Abbaye aux Dames was closed when we were visiting), which is attached to it. The cloister is lovely, with sculpted shrubs and trees. We entered the church through a tiny door that had a sign, something about the Church of St. Etienne - it was only once inside that we realized that this was the abbey's church: William the Conqueror, who had it built, had dedicated it to that saint. His grave is dead center in the church - and some of his bones are tastefully tacked to the wall of one of the chapels (in fact it sounded like there's very little left of him in the actual grave - he had rather a lot of misadventures after death). We both had fun with the choir stalls in a couple different places: not only did the chair arms between the seats have a different face carved on each one, but when the seats were folded up you could see that each one had a different face carved onto the underside.

Caen Fine Arts Museum is inside the castle walls at the center of town (no castle anymore, instead parkland and museums). They have quite a lot of mid-grade religious stuff on the first floor, some of which I liked. The ground floor is populated by stuff from about 1920-60 - although as none of it really caught my eye the dates may be inaccurate. There's a raised gallery on the first floor with a lot of older, non-religious art. There's one decent Monet, of Etretat (I think he painted that quite a number of times). And a Dore that kind of stopped me in my tracks - very bucolic, tiny cows in the lower left on a very large canvas, but most of the painting is given over to the lovely hills and spectacular clouds with the sun breaking through. I spent some time with that one. They also have some sculptures outside, including one called "One Man, nine animals" by Huang Yong Ping (2000). This consists of nine particularly freaky looking creatures (two-tailed snake, six-headed fox, snake with nine Buddha heads, etc.) on pillars, and in the center a tipped over artillery carriage with a small figure of a man on top.

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by giles