Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 10, Honfleur, France

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Marco Polo docked at the Honfleur Cruise Terminal early in the morning, under a dark threatening sky and strong winds.

Honfleur is an ancient town in north west France and is located on the south bank at the mouth of the Seine River. It is known for its old picturesque port with its houses of slate covered frontages, and has been painted many times by famous artists, including Claude Monet.

St Catherine’s church which has a bell-tower separate from the church is the largest  wooden church in France.

Many tours had been offered for those who wished to go ashore, from ancient towns to D-Day Landings in World War II.  However, before we could disembark we had to retrieve our passports from Reception, so we could enter France.

We had booked a tour to the ancient town of Bayeux, where the famous Bayeux Tapestry is displayed. It was over an hours bus ride to the town. We had a local guide who gave an interesting commentary on the history of the area, from Roman times to World War II, as we passed through the various villages and towns. By the time we reached Bayeux the weather had cleared to a fine warm day.

In fact the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’, is not a tapestry, but a beautifully embroidered linen cloth some seventy metres long. Wool yarn, coloured by vegetable dye, was used for the embroidery and the work is divided into fifty panels. The story begins with Edward the Confessor sending Harold Godwinson to Normandy, and ends with English troops fleeing the battlefields at Hastings. About six metres of the ‘tapestry’ is missing. These scenes were probably centred around William’s coronation.

It is believed to have been commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half- brother, Odo, who was bishop of Bayeux and Canterbury, and may have been created in Kent, by monks in the 1070’s some years after the conquest.

Originally it was hung in the Bayeux Cathedral, but is now housed in a specially built museum in the old abbey complex near by. An audio explanation is delivered by headphones as you walk along the glass panelled exhibition.

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We also visited the awe inspiring Bayeux Cathedral and were able to take lots of photos, both inside and out.

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In the afternoon we returned to the ship via a route that allowed us to view the ancient part of Honfleur.

I had made arrangements to meet with Eileen O’Duill in the Research Help Zone to find how I could access on-line, some of the ‘movie clips’ she had used in her presentation. There is much of this kind of material available to help family historians understand  important events in history.

Two sets of lectures were presented in the early evening. ‘Manorial Records’, by Paul Blake and ‘Ideas for researching non-conformist ancestors’, by Jackie Depelle. I found choosing between these two difficult, as I needed to go to both, but finally decided on ‘Manorial Records’ and made many notes to follow up on in the National Archives the following week.

In the second set of lectures we had the choice of ‘How to reopen and work a genealogical cold case’, by Lisa Cooke and ‘Matchmaking and marriage customs in  19th Century rural Ireland’, by Sean O’Duill. I went to Lisa’s presentation, as I’m always opening ‘cold cases’ and trying to move my research forward.

After a break, Eileen O’Duill delivered the last of the Unlockthepast lectures. ‘Mrs Fancy Tart is coming to tea: Making sense of family stories’.Eileen used one of the stories in her own family history, on her father’s side. It was many years before she could solve this little mystery, and it was all down to her father’s interpretation, as a small child, of the unusual surname of his mother’s visitor. Delivered with warmth and gentle humour, this presentation was excellent and really enjoyed by all present. A great way to wrap up a big ten days of wonderful presentations.

We rounded off the night with a cocktail party where prizes were drawn, photos taken and a wonderful time was had by all.

We were not able to sit on deck after dinner as the weather had turned dark, wet and windy, and we needed to pack and put our suitcases outside our cabin door, to be collected by staff ready for disembarking the following morning. Our cruise was coming to an end.

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