In England we visited Blenheim Palace, a cozy country cottage that was Queen Anne's gift to the Duke of Marlborough for defeating Louis in a battle near the German town of Blenheim. It's England's largest private home, located just outside Woodstock where I reminisced about Leonard Earl Lesourd's heralded arrival at the Bear Hotel. (The Bear's motto is "The inn that was old when the palace was new.")
A second surprise was to find the streets laid out in a grid! Where were the narrow winding streets of every other French town?
Sorry for all the gray photos, partly inexpert photographers, partly that it IS gray. We haven't seen the sun since leaving Boston April 1st.
We'd been in Germany for a few days, then crossed back over the Rhine at the German town of Breisach (There's only a small sign -- "France" or "Deutschland"-- nowadays to mark this once formidable border.)
What especially delighted John and me was that we'd encountered the work of this architect, Vauban,
20 years ago in the south of France, where we'd spent a day touring one of his incredible fortresses and reading about his flowering in the Sun King's rays.
Neuf-Brisach was his last project. It's considered his masterpiece, the "ideal city," with its straight streets following ancient Roman models, and its walls forming a perfect octagon (it was Louis who chose the octagon shape, copied since then everywhere, like his palace) with outer defenses forming a star-burst.
The star, of course, was never seen by Louis or Vauban, but today aerial photographs reveal the beautiful symmetry of this stunning little town still entirely enclosed within its walls.
Louis, where will we meet you next?
Click here to read more about Neuf-Brisach.