Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fountains and Cats

Perne-les-Fontaine  sits on the Nesque river, the water from which flows into about 44 fountains, some as old as 400 years.  Originally called “Pernes,” “Les-Fontaine” was added to its name in 1936.  We parked in front of the Notre Dame church to cross over the moat over Porte Notre Dame.  The “porte” has a small chapel that juts out over the river and was built on top of one of the pilings.  The wall is crumbling at the sides, but the bridge and the chapel look sturdy and, I’m sure, are kept in constant good repair.  

Through the gates is the first of many fountains leading up into the town on a choice of streets.  There are lots of cats on windowsills, lolling about the fountains, sitting on the steps—all clearly well treated and mostly approachable.  We miss our cats, so it was nice to get up close and personal. 

We wandered around the town looking at the older buildings, walking through the old wall on the other side of the town from Porte Notre Dame.  We had a nice lunch at what seemed like a very popular restaurant—Le Café de la Place.  All three of us enjoyed salmon cooked perfectly.  

After lunch we walked back into the old town in the direction of the car, wandering some and encountered a man who was happy to tell us lots about the town.  He was most informative though I didn’t understand absolutely everything.  We were standing in front of what was once a church.  He explained that during the revolution it was altered to become a public building.  “Liberté, fraternité, égalité” were inscribed over the door, which inscription was doubtless post-revolution.  On the ground floor, there is a “sale de reunion”--public meeting space.  The second floor is a “salon de spectacles,” where are shown plays and the like.  One of the houses on the plaza facing the public building and the one we stood in front of had previously been one of about 14 houses of noblemen—until the revolution, of course, when those noblemen had to skedaddle in order to save their hides.   

Last flight of stairs to top of tower
View from tower
He recommended a climb up to the 12th Century Tour Ferrande where one could see the entire town and the surrounding countryside.  Though the interior was not open for visits, the climb and the view were worth the expenditure of energy.  The tower is reported to have the oldest frescoes in France—likely worth seeing.  And though it was not a prison when built, it was later used as the “donjon,” or dungeon.

The fountains were everywhere--each one utterly different from the last and all nice to see and to hear.  The water is potable, making these fountains pleasing to at least four senses—touch, taste, sight and hearing.  Not too shabby.  The most recently-installed fountain (in 1956) was considered “hideous” by the residents; and the moss was allowed, no encouraged, to grow in a way that conceals the fountain’s design completely.  Out of sight, out of mind.

The town is charming and its citizenry friendly.  Worth another visit one day.

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