Vive la France!

Some initial images from France.

Upon arriving in Paris, I headed northwest towards the Normandy region.  I spent the first night in Gourney en Bray and in the morning got my first impressions of France. Boulangerie/Patisseries, there were probably 8 within a two block area of the city center!

My first market day in France, note the ubiquitous wicker basket. Gournay is not far from the sea and there was diverse seafood products.

On this first day I was to get my first "castle" and a geological lesson. This little house in the country was the residence of a French lord who had to leave France with the revolution.  The buildings have now become an agricultural college and a kind professor gave me a little introduction to the area.  The Gournay area is in a plunging anticline in Mesozoic rocks that has been eroded and show the oldest rocks in the middle (it is commonly called "the buttonhole").

The rock structure creates interesting soil differences thus controls the crops which are grown and and other uses.  This geologic map shows the Jurassic "buttonhole" in the Cretaceous rocks.

In the forest I saw my first evidence of the Xmas 1999 winds that had a profound effect on the land.

From the top of an adjacent, forested Cretaceous ridge the chateau is slightly to the right of center and  sitting on a little hill of the Jurassic rocks.

This picture is taken looking back to the village on the top of the ridge from which the previous picture was taken.

The plowed ground is very clay rich but it contains abundant fragments of chert common to the limestones here (and in the white cliffs of Dover across the English Channel).

My next objective was to visit some exposures of the limestones themselves.  The area around the village of Etretat has some wonderful exposures and scenery.

The nearly horizontal, layered rocks in the cliffs are accentuated by the included chert nodules.

Many show characteristic marine arthropod burrowing structures. (close up)

The Etretat beach is also of interest since there is a reinforced concrete structure on the coastal side of the promenade.

How significant the problem must be is shown by the wall around this older building across the street. Note that the modern buildings do not have the barrier and perhaps the new structure has solved the problem.

A brief visit to Rouen gave me my first glimpse of the Seine.

At the coast near Honfleur, the extensive sand flats of the Seine estuary exposed by the low tides, perhaps the same painted by Monet.

Traveling back inland, I spent the evening in Caen, got a parking ticket (beware, "payant" even if the hotel clerk says it is o.k.) but enjoyed the market the following morning.  I thought this fellow had the biggest wok I had ever seen.  It was too early in the morning to try his "La Bodega" paella!

But these ladies had him beat in numbers! And check out how serious this
business is...those are not little trucks!

In elegance this fellow had them all beat!  The shrimp touch!

I ventured back further inland to visit Bill the Conqueror's Chateau in Falaise (cliff).  His cliff happens to be made out of a resistant Devonian sandstone that looks to me more like a quartzite.

Here's Bill in action.

Just note the paving stones around the statue...that same Devonian ss!
Wandering around I finally found another place where there were some rocks what the locals call the Swiss Normandy...a right lovely place, especially near St Remy sur Orne, just south of Caen.

The adjacent valley of the Orne is an obvious retreat for many French people to hike, mountain climb, parasail, etc.

It was packed with these weekend recreationalists, these of the flying types...

On Monday they were all gone and I had the place to explore all by myself...the brown line running from mid-right down to the left is the launching ramp for the parasailers! One must trust their equipment to run down that ramp.

Here is an optional site further along the ridge where you can see the concrete one in the middle of the picture...quite a drop off!  There was a warning sign saying own should not try to fly if the wind was from the west (or behind the cliff).

But the best part was of St. Remy was an incredible geological information center...if only every region of France (and other countries) were so enlightened!

They presented a wonderful perspective of the use of the local geology in the construction of buildings...Patesseries included!  Well that made my job easier...rather than looking for outcrops, I could simply go to the Patisserie and look at the local geology!  Generally from older to younger materials the following are the basic geology of Normandy. Les schistes are not something that one gets from contaminated food, but regions underlain by seriously metamorphosed rocks, including things like schists and gneisses that include Precambrian materials and younger rocks that have been subjected to mountain building in the Paleozoic.

During these mountain building periods some some of the areas formed plutonic rocks (Les granites), kind of the ultimate metamorphism to a completely melted and recrystallized rock (note, my French is not all that good but I have the impression that they are not widely viewed as being intrusions of molten rock from major magma chambers but rather more metamorphosed than the adjacent less metamorphosed and still considered les schistes.  This could be a bit confusing to some but it is a reality of geology...there are few hard and fast boundary conditions between the major rock types)

During the Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments were deposited that have been converted to harder sedimentary rocks (Les gres), including sandstones and limestones (like those in Etretat), many like those in Falisce are so modified to almost be to that somewhat vague point of being in the metamorphic category.

Finally in other areas they don't use old socks but sediments converted by humans to hard materials (Les argiles), like bricks and adobe types of building materials.  The large black zone on the bottom right is the northern end of the Paris basin, where there are few solid stones...except for the Gournay buttonhole area.

The other interesting thing about the St. Remy area is the history of iron mining that has gone on for centuries.  Here is the most recent iron smelting facility...a center for the French resistance movement during the second world war.

The modern iron mining was in deep tunnels however like here the iron could be mined out at the surface.  It was in the deeper mines that the resistance movement activity was concentrated.

This diagram shows the general geologic history of the area.

In some places where the rocks are not as folded they are still strip-mining for the iron...a much safer production method than the deep tunnel mining...the same reasons that Appalachian coal is mined less than those in the midwest and west of the U.S.  Here near May sur Orne:

Between St Remy and May, I got as close to the Jurassic ammonites as I had to this point in a restaurant called the L'ammonite.  Turns out the proprietor said that her son found the ammonite on the school football (theirs not ours) field.  (P.S. the lunch was fantastic as well)

Geologists and the University of Caen were extremely generous with their time and a marine geologist was generous enough to show me his wave and current laboratory where his students are studying wave and current turbulence and their effects on sand movement...apparently the combination of wave and strong tidal current activity on the northern coast of France combine to basically be moving all the sand to the Netherlands!  They are studying ways to try and slow this process down and they have had success with technological solutions...of course, these solutions require input of energy but they are slowing the movement down!

On to the Normandy coast