France Virtuelle

France Virtuelle Fall 2022: J’Adore l’Automne!

Somehow, it is already November!  I’m not sure how time flies so quickly, but it is definitely going faster than even the TGV or Eurostar! 

To celebrate the fall, I’m focusing on all things autumnal, including sneaking back a bit to the spooky month of October (did I mention how time flies?) with a serial killer. Celebrating another October event, we look at the Viking history of Normandy history before William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After all that action, we’ll relax with a quick rainy Parisian walk and a look at the natural environment at Versailles. Whew!

Even on a grey day, she’s a beautiful city!

Medieval Serial Killer?

We tend to think of serial killers as a fairly modern phenomenon, with a few notable exceptions like Elizabeth Báthory (whose legend is being reconsidered). 

But France may have had their very own serial killer in the medieval period, one Baron Gilles de Rais!  Gilles was a wealthy Breton nobleman who had a reputation as a fierce and talented soldier.  He even fought along side Joan of Arc before her capture and execution.  But after Joan’s death, he wasted his fortune, sold off most of his property to pay debts, and, it is long believed, became a serial killer.  His unfortunate victims were primarily children, so skip to the next video if that is a trigger. 

Like Elizabeth Báthory, de Rais’ guilt is now being reconsidered in greater context, with even the French government exonerating him in 1992.  Despite this, he is still currently considered the first known serial killer in the Western world. 

Check out this video to learn more about Gilles, his life, his crimes (or “crimes”?), and the context of his trial and execution. 

What do you think?  Personally, I’m not sure.  He was demonstrably violent and unstable.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he was an abuser and killer of children. And considering the chaotic power grabs during the Hundred Years War, it is also likely that the powerful did what was necessary to get what they wanted.  We’ll have to wait and see if more evidence is found either way!

Before Norman England

England and France’s histories have been intertwined for centuries, or dare I say millennia? This relationship was really cemented by Duke William of Normandy‘s successful conquest of England in the 11th century.  There are endless examinations of Duke William, King Harold (the English King who lost), and the whole set up for the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. But relatively few examine—in English—what was going on in Normandy before Duke William and his gigantic gamble. 

One of William’s claims to fame was that he’s the descendent of Vikings, specifically the famous Rollo.  But how do we get from that legendary Viking to the even more legendary William?  Check out this video from History with Hilbert for more on the Viking history of Normandy that led up to why almost a third of English is actually French.  

Note:  Hilbert is studying in the UK but is Dutch.  This aside will make sense in a minute: 

Have you been to Normandy? Did you sense the difference in cultural backgrounds from Paris and the Île-de-France? One of the things for me that is quite noticeable is the huge increase in British tourists and services catering to English speakers. Of course there is also geographic proximity, but that bond (willing or no!) to England feels quite strong. I do wonder what the long term fallout of Brexit will be on the region?

Nature Break At Versailles

If you’ve been to Versailles or even watched videos about it, you know that the palace is magnificent and magnificently overwhelming.  While I disagree with Jay Swanson in his recent video about how disappointing it is*, I do agree that getting outside is key to enjoying a day at Versailles.  The fresh air, the manicured gardens, the many activities for families, the list goes on! 

But as part of the tourist horde, we don’t get to experience Versailles after hours.  And we often forget that the palace started as a mere hunting lodge.  But nature has not forgotten and once we’ve abandoned the grounds, the animals take back the vast property of the château. 

Join photographer Jérémie Villet as he examines the animals of Versailles in all their glory.  It’s a very soothing video, after all of the violence and Vikings. Or just a stressful day at work! 

Turn on subtitles to follow in English

* Jay and I view history through different lenses and thankfully I’m not battle-scarred as he is with his many, many trips through the gauntlet.  However, I am sympathetic since it took me years (ok, decades) to enjoy The Nutcracker again after having to play it in orchestra and volunteer at the actual ballet several years in a row in high school.  Sugar Plum Fairies are not all that sweet when they won’t leave your head.  The tourist crowds and next-level opulence of Versailles on repeat would take its toll as well! 

Jérémie’s Work

You can see a full Versailles 2022 album on Jérémie’s Instagram.  However, the Instagram Gods would not let me link to the album or any of the images directly.  But, they would allow a link to a more recent image from his “Première Neige (First Snow)” collection. 

Look at the adorable ermine!  Their fur was once used in the robes of royalty and was reserved exclusively for use among the highest ranks of society.  You’ll recognize the black spotted white fur robes, capes, and caplets in paintings and photos.  Louis XIV of course was a fan (link only, it seems cruel to put a photo of the little guy’s deceased ancestors next to him/her). 

I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel wearing their fur.  Though maybe a winter in a medieval castle with minimal heat would change my mind? 

Rainy Fall Walk In Paris

ART VISION TV, one of my favorite channels and a France Virtuelle regular, walks around Paris nearly every single day!  Here we have a quick jaunt down Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais on a sleepy, rainy Saturday morning.  We take in some of the Medieval and Renaissance vibe, the arcades at the Place des Vosges (recently mentioned in the Mystery of Henri IV’s Skull episode!), and an adorable dog in a rain coat at 9:55

Like Gil in Midnight in Paris, do you need more Paris in the rain?  Check out this long evening walk, starting with the already up Christmas decorations (!!!) at Les Halles shopping center and meandering over through more of the Marais. 

This may just be a weird Francophile thing, but I often pull up Google Maps and try to follow along as he walks around.  Do you do this too?  Or is it just me?  😂

One More For The Road

Or sidewalk, as it may be.  From the City of Paris Instagram, we have Montmartre in Autumn. 

I hope that you have a beautiful, cozy autumn, with a warm cup of tea or coffee, a blanket, and good company!  And maybe a tarte tatin.  Ok, definitely a tarte tatin. 

À bientôt!


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Image Credit: Metro Sign photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash

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