"Gargoyles & Graffiti"chronicles architectural elements that I find interesting or unique in my travels. Gargoyles are my passion, but today graffiti (which I hate but am learning to love as it is everywhere) is as much a part of architecture as the gargoyles and decorative railings that thrill me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mont St Michel A Few More Details and a Walk

Seen here are a few architecural gems of the Mont St Michel abbey. The views from near the top are incredible. There are walking tours of the bay at low tide with guides. If you would like more information on this, I found a great blog site that explains how it works. Classic Journeys low tide walk

Mont St Michel seen from above

Abbey seen from below
The walk up is super steep and strenuous. I would not recommend it for anyone with mobility issues. Our guide walked fast, but she did keep checking to be sure we were behind her.

Absolutely amazing place, but again I would love to see it less crowded. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Mont San Michel Chapel & Abbey

Chapel inside Mont San Michel
Mont San Michel was a place I have been wanting to visit for a lot of years. I finally had that opportunity last month, and it did not disappoint. The only hard part was that the guide told us all the way there on the bus how crowded it would be, and she was right. She also wasn't really able to give us enough time to really enjoy it. Warnings about not eating at any of the restaurants ... we wouldn't have enough time. So I arrived in a panic about getting back. It wasn't really true either. I definitely could have eaten there. The problem is the little buses that take you to the site are a very long wait, so we were unsure how long it would take to get back. In the end, we waited for the bus to arrive for a while.

The only downside of the tour was the guide. Other than that, Mont St Michel is just beautiful and amazing. Truly though, if I was to do it again, I would definitely go there and stay in one of the hotels - enjoy it by day and night, and take my time. The feeling of being rushed almost ruined the excursion.

Our guide

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mont St Michel first impressions

Approaching Mont St Michel
For years, I have been wanting to visit Mont St Michel. On a cruise that went from Barcelona to Dover years ago, I tried to get on the tour but it was sold out. I have heard incredible things about it. It is an abbey and monastery in Normandy, France. But really it is so much more.

Another view of Mont St Michel
As we approached, I couldn't believe my eyes. Here stood this magnificent structure from the 8th century AD. But who would believe such a structure would be built on a piece of land that the ocean surrounds it every day? The tides come in and out. Sometimes you can walk to the abbey and the near by islands. But by 2pm in the afternoon, the signs in the parking lot tell you that you better have moved your car ... as that area will now be under water.

Parking lot that by 2pm is under water

You can get to the abbey by walking, taking a bus or taking a carriage with horses. The bus is the fastest way, but the lines are long for the bus.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Church at Eze #2

Church at Eze altar

The Church of our Lady of the Assumption is a Catholic Church at Eze, France. Tucked in a mountainside with fresh air and the scent of incense, this Church is a visiting stop for many tourists to the French Riviera. Eze is one of those special places, a walking town not far from the ritz of Monaco - but worlds away. The Church is from 1772 and more information on it can be found here.

Statue of St. Francis

While there, I chose to light some candles and say some prayers. In my mind, there is no better place for this.

Good place to pray

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Church at Eze #1

Church at Eze, France
On my cruise of the Western Med, my favorite stop was Eze, France, and my favorite place at that stop was the Church. I have posted already about the graveyard outside, but the Church is also magnificent inside. It is humble and beautiful and amazing all at the same time. The sense of peace I felt when entering that Church was priceless.
Our Holland America Eurodam group taking photos

More photos

Personally right now, I am facing some major challenges and it is good to remember such a Holy Place. Just looking at these photos makes me realize that there is a whole lot more to life than a furniture business in Cozumel.

Eze Church

Monday, June 17, 2019

Eze Cemetery: Mary Margaret Townsend

Peggy Davis possibly Mary Margaret Townsend
Gravestone of Mary Margaret Townsend

This was the first gravestone photo I took in the Eze Cemetery. It was so hauntingly beautiful and unique that it struck my eye. I never really focused on the dates that she was born and died, and only realized after finding out more about her that she only lived 25 years.  With a name like Mary Margaret Townsend, I assumed I would not find much information on her, but I could not have been more wrong. 

Mary Margaret Townsend was also known by her stage name, Peggy Davis. She had been a Broadway (Ziegfeld) Follies girl and first married at the age of 12. Her first two husbands were both bigamists and both marriages were annulled. She ended up on the French Riviera with her third husband and died, apparently of suicide or accident. Her car went over the embankment near Eze on one of the Cornice roads. She drank two double brandies, then wrote a quick note and drove off. There is much speculation about what actually happened that night, but it truly sounds like something out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel or even the plot of The Blind Assassin.

From one website I found, her husband said .... 

"My wife adored the Riviera. Here she desired to live, here she died, and it is fitting that she rest here forever," Mr. Townsend remarked after the funeral service. And in that grave ended the remarkable career of a stage butterfly, who, at the age of 25, had lived more than most women of 75.

More information about the life of Mary Margaret Townsend can be found here

Another exert from the same website ...

March 30, 1931
Birmingham, AL

A nine-year-old girl, whose nimble feet, and soprano voice attracted attention here in 1914, became a Broadway Follies beauty known as Peggie Davis and later the wife of David Townsend, Wall Street broker.

She was born here December 31, 1905, as Mary Margaret Laird, and in childhood she showed unusual ability in dancing and singing and won much attention.

Her father was a traveling salesman, and the family has since moved from the city.

The titan-haired beauty was married at age 13 to Colonel J. A. Davies, 43, of the ordinance department, United States Army, November 3, 1918. The marriage was annulled a year later. At the time the action was filed here she was working in the films in Los Angeles. Her complaint charged Davies had another wife in Texas.

Among the pictures in which she appeared was "Under Two Flags” with Theda Bara.

I also found a notice about her death in a 1931 newspaper from Florence, Alabama. Mary Margaret Laird (her maiden name) was born in Birmingham, Alabama, according to this newspaper account. Click here to read the full article.

I wonder now what drew me to these particular graves. This was definitely a sadder tale than the first. RIP, Mary Margaret!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Eze Cemetery: Olga Platonina Dinwiddie

Gravestone of Olga Platonina Dinwiddie
First of all, I want to say that the cemetery in Eze is adjacent to the most beautiful Church, a place of peace and serenity. You can see for miles around to the mountains and to the sea. It is tucked in to a mountain side. I believe that a person could not find a more fitting place to be put to rest. 

When I decided to investigate the reason that some of the gravestones in the cemetery were in English, I would never have believed the fascinating information I would find. I picked Olga Platonina Dinwiddie as the first person to check out, as her name is so unique and she has such a beautiful granite stone. Born in 1886 in St. Petersburg, Russia, her former name was Olga Platonina Stenbock-Fermor, and she was a Countess. She was also an accomplished painter and her works are still sold today. There seems to be a mystery surrounding her life. Not much is known other than she was born in 1886 and died in 1956, according to the art dealers who sell her paintings. 

She was known to have spent a lot of time in Paris and possibly Italy. Her most famous paintings are listed as Italian 20th Century and I found two sites in England that has paintings of hers for sale. They are Wooley and Wallis and Newfield Galleries.

Since I found her gravestone and was able to investigate the genealogy of her husband, Donald Mackenzie Dinwiddie, I was able to piece together some information on her life. I found that she married in 1929 at the Brentford Registry Office in the UK. The man she married had an incredibly interesting past. His grandfather was David Dinwiddie from Penpont, Dumfrie-shires, Scotland, who spent most of his life working for the British Crown in India. His grandmother was Mary Mackenzie, who was born in India, but her family roots were from Glasgow, Scotland and Dublin, Ireland. The grandfather, David Dinwiddie, wrote his memoirs and they are incredible. If you are interested in what life was like in the 1800s in the British colony of India, click here

But the most amazing thing I found was on a genealogy site, and it was written by the nephew of Donald Dinwiddie. For the article, click here. But the gist of it is this ... Countess Olga Stenbock-Fermor fell out of a taxi in Paris in the arms of the man who would become her husband. It doesn't get more romantic than that. I never thought I would find such a wonderful fairy tale life from one grave stone! RIP, Ms. Olga!