South Americans on "pilgrimage"
When we reached the top of the belfry, our guide showed us this ship. It comes from South America every year. Why should any South-Americans make such a long trip by ship when there are airplanes?
Well, it is a sort of pilgrimage. No, not to pray Notre-Dame de Boulogne (who arrived on a boat). They come every August to honour a hero of South America's independence from España, the Argentine general José de San Martín who died, exiled, in Boulogne on 17th August 1850.
Notre-Dame de Boulogne
Many French towns and cities have a cathedral devoted to Notre-Dame, i.e. Our Lady, the Madonna. So does Boulogne-sur-Mer. But the Lady of Boulogne has Her own history, which develops amid history and legend.
In the Middle Ages, Boulogne was the most important pilgrimage town in France and its relevance can be compared to that of today's Lourdes. So, the cult of Notre-Dame de Boulogne is very ancient but there are at least two versions about its origin.
The most reported version tells that a very beautiful lady arrived by sea on a boat without sail nor oars. The people to whom she had appeared asked her her name and she answered she was "the advocate of fishers, the source of grace, the fountain of pity". Then, the Virgin delivered her message: "I want a divine light to descend upon you and your town. Have a church built in my name."
The first statue representing a Virgin with a Child was indeed discovered on a small boat near Boulogne in 636. It was laid into a chapel and Sainte-Ide built a crypt for it in the 11th century (see my Things to do tips).
King Louis XI designated the Virgin as patron saint of the Boulogne County. Meanwhile Boulogne has become a great pilgrimage destination. However the church was damaged and the statue hidden in the 16th century, before being burnt in 1793, few years before the church was demolished.
A new statue is sculptured and a new church is built for it in the 19th century.
The first photo show the new statue of Notre-Dame, located on the main altar.
The marble statue in the second photo is located in the crypt of the cathedral.
The wooden virgin in the third image was sculptured in Saint-Omer in 1803.
The fourth photo depicts a mosaic on the low part of the altar in the Cathedral and the last one portrays a hand of the original statue of Notre-Dame that survived until our days.
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
The French eat a lot of cheese, especially at the end of their meals. This is a cheese shop located in the centre of Boulogne-sur-Mer where you can buy several kinds of cheese if you like. My family and I are not so much cheese-lovers, so we didn't buy anything, but my eyes enjoyed the view of the barrow with cheese on it. The inside of the shop (second photo) looks very picturesque, too!
Two kisses on the cheeks
When people meet, they kiss each other on the cheeks. This French custom is called se faire la bise.
Two kisses are exchanged, first on the right and then on the left cheek. This number is the rule, unlike in other places where it can vary a lot (for example in Bretagne). I have never seen two people exhange four kisses, which are reported to be typical of the département Pas-de-Calais.
A great record for a small town
Even if Boulogne is quite a small town, it holds an important record for the regional economy: it is the biggest fishing port of France! Locals are very proud of this and many brochures for tourists report this information.
We all know that France is renowned for its patisseries, and Boulogne seems to have more than its fair share! They are all over!
There is a particularly fabulous one located on Rue Adolphe Thiers, with amazing art deco interior. They do delicious lemon tarts.
We also popped into one on Place Dalton for a mid-morning snack…very hard to make a decision amongst all of those delicious treats!
- Road Trip
- Food and Dining
Another typically French thing is the use of window shutters on the houses. Ideal for keeping the cold out in winter and the heat out in summer, they are decorative too and add to the security of your home.
- Arts and Culture
Boulogne Christmas Market
For two days while we were in France, Boulogne held a Christmas market. Both inside and outside of the old town walls were stalls selling anything from cheese, candles, gifts, crafts, hot mulled wine, flowers, Christmas trees, music CDs to food and drink. It was great fun to walk around and I was surprised at how few people there were there.
- Family Travel
As part of the Christmas Market in Boulogne, a demonstration of ice sculpture was staged. Using a chain saw and an angle grinder, many huge blocks if ice were joined together and formed into santa and his reindeer.
I have seen ice sculpture once before, at a Chinese exhibition in the Netherlands a few years ago, but I have never seen them being created, which was very interesting.
- Arts and Culture
I think these little trucks are so quintessentially French, and they always remind me of the Pink Panther films with Inspector Clouseau. Therefore I always smile when I see one.
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