Saturday, 31 May 2014

Montreuil sur Mer - the citadel

Saturday evening brought an unexpected treat. I had known that May 17th was the 'Nuit européenne des musées' but hadn't done any research to see if anything was happening in Montreuil. Whilst walking the ramparts we spotted this sign and thought we'd drop in and have a look.

 We were incredibly lucky that the English guide (sadly we never got his name) was at a loose end when we arrived so we enjoyed own personal tour of the citadel.
The original gate house
We were invited to try out the bricole which is a military engine for throwing stones, usually manned by women. I thought the word familiar, could it be connected to 'bricolage' or D.I Y. and apparently yes. They were often hired to other towns or castles in need of defence and so had to have the ability for a quick de/re-construct. Four people were needed to hurl the stones (for demonstration purposes our one was plastic) and I was fine until told to run backwards to avoid flailing ropes. Not an easy manoeuvre.

The bricole

It is one of the few fortified castles where you can see how the building developed over the centuries. Many old castles are pulled down and rebuilt with the original stones but at Montreuil they just kept adding. I had to be dragged away from the carved grafitti, some of it as early as the 13th century, which had been preserved when soil had been used to fill in parts of the battlements as protection from cannon fire. When it was cleared out dozens of images were found, including the cross of Jerusalem, horses and the medieval game of 'nine men's morris' or Merrels as it is known in France.


Cross of Jerusalem
9 men's morris

Fleur de lys

There is a particularly fine wooden barn which, although having been repaired over the years, shows how timber construction was carried out. You can see how the marks were used to locate the right beams.

Particularly interesting in this centennary year was the exhibition explaining the role that the citadel, and indeed Montreuil, played in the 1914-1918 war. There were hospitals for the French, Belgians & Indians and in 1916 the citadel became G.H.Q. The exhibition is in the area that was used as the communications hub and runs until October. I would certainly recommend a visit.

Sunset at the citadel

Montreuil just kept giving and on Sunday morning we were able to spend our last couple of hours at the book fair.

Montreuil sur Mer book fair

 And we loved this menu which we found on our last walk round town.

Menu for ditherers - Le Jeroboam restaurant

After such a lovely weekend even Dover looked attractive!

Dover harbour


The apricot jam is delicious!

Home made apricot jam - gorgeous!


  1. What a wonderful place. We'll have to visit. And those graffiti: things like that really bring the past to life, don't they?

    1. We were so lucky to have had a guide to ourselves because we would have missed so much. They had to tear me away from the graffiti. I have to say we're seriously re-considering where we go in France - it could be here! But I really would recommend a visit. I'm just reading an article (it's under the laptop as I type) on Nord Pas de Calais - 48 Musées de France including the new Louvre satellite. Go pay a visit Margaret.

  2. Any hints about where to stay? Or not to stay? We really are planning a visit.

    1. Hope your email hasn't changed. I'll send details.

  3. What a wonderful place. We'll have to visit. And those graffiti: things like that really bring the past to life, don't they?