Quotes

Aug 4, 2017

Tower Power: Brossauthym

THE STORY:

Despite what every photograph, souvenir, and marketing brochure would have you believe, Paris is not just the Eiffel Tower. It's not even just the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame towers. There are many towers, looming large around the city. One even dwarfs the Eiffel Tower (in height, not beauty). So today I bring you a tour de tours -- a tour of towers, that is.


For a point of comparison, the Eiffel Tower was built in 1887-1889 and is 324 meters high. It was, in its day, the highest tower in the world. And then there's the 52-meter high keep tower at the Chateau de Vincennes, which was the tallest medieval fortified structure in Europe when it was built in 1337 under the reign of King Philippe VI.

 

Are these actually towers? Or more just tall domes that tower over the city, and that you can sometimes climb. On the left bank, you've got the Pantheon, which sits on a prominent hill and therefore can be seen from afar and also commands a good view.


And on the right bank, the more famous dome you can climb, Sacre Coeur. This gives you a spectacular view of the towers at the top, of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and even of the local water tower.

 

Square Claude Charpentier, in Montmartre, the Chateau d'Eau -- which translates literally as Water Castle but is what we would call a water tower -- is still in use today as a reservoir, one of the main sources of water for the neighborhood. It's a 19th century tower that really sticks out from the surroundings at 43 meters high.


Many of the numerous churches around town have prominent towers.

 

And so does the Great Mosque, built in 1926 with a tower that's 33m high.

 

At la Defense, it's pretty much nothing but towers, modern ones, skyscrapers that is.


At 54m high and situated pretty smack-dab in the center of Paris is a very noticeable, though often ignored, Tour St. Jacques, built between 1509-1523. It's rarely open for climbing, but when it is, it's spectacular. You get an amazing view from up top, including all the other big towers in the city, since it's so central.

 

Also quite central, in the 2nd arrondissement, but with no view to speak of sits Tour Jean Sans Peur, which translates as the Tower of John Without Fear. It's considered the tallest medieval civil tower remaining in Paris. Actually, it's the last vestige of a Palace of the John Without Fear, Duke of Burgundy built here between 1409-1411. 

  

Because it's tucked in, the view really isn't much to speak of, though there are some fun glimpses of 19th century Paris through the lens of 15th century Paris.


 

This is what it looked like during the renovation (re-making) of Paris under Haussmann in the mid 1800s. The tower earned Historic Monument status in 1884 but didn't actually get renovated for another hundred years.



Here's what it looked like when it was an entire castle, in the 1400s, not just the remaining tower.



As if the early 1400s isn't early enough, they make sure to show you that the foundation is built upon some of the remains (already about 200 years old at the time of the tower's construction) of the Philippe August wall around Paris from the 12th/ turn of the 13th century.

 

Have you ever noticed that old tower staircases usually turn clockwise? That's not an accident. Think about climbing the staircase, as an attacker, with your sword in your right hand (since most people, and especially back then, either were or were forced to be right handed). Your encumbered by the narrowness of the stairs and by the central pillar. Now imagine the defender coming down. Their right arm has lots of room to swing.

 

Along the way up and down, you see markings like this (or other shapes) on the wall. It's not graffitti, but rather the "signature" of the medieval workman who carved the stone, so that he could get paid properly.


The vaulted ceilings are considered a great work of French sculpture. After the starkness of the medieval architecture on the way up, it really does stand out as something special.

 

From the sublime to the sub-prime, here's a distant look at the easy winner of the Ugliest Parisian Tower Contest: Tour Montparnasse (in the Can't-Miss-It department, as seen from the lovely Tour St. Jacques). For nearly all of the towers you can visit in Paris, there's a lot of climbing involved (for example, Notre Dame has around 400 steps -- up then down!). You can only elevator all the way up two: the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse, for the obvious reason. Just look at that thing! Or, better yet, if  you have any sense of aesthetics, look away!
 

At 210m, it really sticks out. The most modern tower on our tower tour, you will not be surprised to hear that it was built in 1973 during that architectural period when all things "modern" and blocky reigned supreme. Blech. Parisians universally despise this tower.


The other really central tower is the one you can climb at Notre Dame, my beloved 12th century cathedral, with its famous gargoyles. From up here, just below the top of the 69m Quasimodo bell tower, you also get stunning views of pretty much all the towers around, including the Eiffel Tower.

 

Maybe in the end, it really does come back to the Eiffel Tower. But just keep in mind that it's not alone, sticking up out of the Paris cityscape.

THE CHEESE: Brossauthym

Brossauthym (sometimes written as Brossauthym Lochois, Brebis Brossauthym Lochois, and even Pur Brebis Brossauthym Lochois) is made in and around the Touraine area, the old name for the area around the city of Tours, in the Indre-et-Loire department in the newly-named department of Centre-Val de Loire. It's a sublime farmhouse cheese made from raw sheeps' milk which makes it really stick out from the midst of all the goat cheeses in the vicinity.


It's somewhat reminiscent of Ovalie Romarin, but with the twist that it's sheep not goat, and thyme not rosemary. The cheese is a perfect balance of salty, buttery, and savory, with hints of farm and wet wool (which is a good thing, I swear) and of course thyme, and also the sweetness of the cream and floral notes. It's only available between the months of March to October because of the natural milking cycles and seasons of the sheep.

As you can, it's produced at more than one farmhouse, and sold at more than one store. And not every Brossauthym is the same, so I can only report on the taste of the one I buy, pictured above. These down below appear younger and fresher, which generally means milder and sweeter in flavor with fewer stinky notes. And they're missing the thyme, which kind of bugs me, if I'm being honest. Brossauthym is usually aged for around 10 days, but even a few days on both sides can make a real difference in texture, look, and flavor.


THE CONNECTION:

Brossauthym is a cheese made in Tours, the city, which happens to be the same word as "tours", the French word for "towers". A cheese from Tours for a tour of tours.

1 comments :

  1. Lovely post and gorgeous pictures ! (and I like the "connection", I had been wondering all along what you could find !)

    ReplyDelete

 
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