The St Andrews Pilgrimage to Thiron 2007

Although our pilgrimage to Thiron took place in 2007, it is still fresh in many of the pilgrims minds and for those whose memories of the trip are fading I hope this article will bring back many happy memories.

My grateful thanks go to Ray and Joan Smith, for this is work is entirely theirs as it is taken directly from the daily journal they kept and the photographs they took during the trip. I was thrilled when they first showed me the journal and even more thrilled when they allowed me share it with you. Please enjoy!

Monday 4 June 2007

Thirty-nine pilgrims from St. Andrew’s Church, with coach driver Ian left Hamble-Le-Rice at 06.15 hr for our base for the trip – Ibis Hotel Chartres France.

A short coffee stop was made at Clacket Lane Services on the M25. Then on to Folkestone, arriving at 10.05 hrs to board the 10.50 hrs Euro Shuttle train to Calais via the channel tunnel.

The coach was driven through an extremely Large marshalling area then onto the train through other carriages until reaching first vacant carriage. This was shared with two other cars, one in front and one behind. When each carriage was full, safety doors at each end of the carriage dosed.

Before entering the tunnel, the train travelled around a large loop taking approximately 5 mins. The transit through the channel tunnel took 25 mins. Before commencing a similar loop to take us to the disembarkation point. The loops were necessary to allow the train to turn around ready for the return trip.

Arrived in Calais approx. 13.10 hrs (local time). A tea stop was made at 14.05 hrs at Baie de Somme, a pleasant service area adjacent to a canal system, stocked with large carp and other fish and marshland, home to many ducks and duckling.

Returning to the coach at 15.00 hrs for the journey to our base – Ibis Hotel, arriving at 18.45 hrs.

A pleasant evening meal was taken together in a separate dining room.

The Channel Tunnel

In May 1994 HM Queen Elizabeth 11 opened the tunnel in Calais.

Construction work on the 31 mile long tunnel took 7 years, employing over 13,000 men. Work began both in Folkestone and Calais in 1987, the two tunnels met on 22 May 1991 and 28 June 1991.

The tunnel consists of two rail tunnels each 26ft. in diameter and 93ft. apart. There are interconnecting tunnels every 1230ft. to a 16ft. diameter service tunnel.

Four types of train services use the tunnel. Eurostar for passengers only, link London Waterloo to Paris and other European cities.

Euro tunnel shuttle for passenger carrying vehicles, i.e. cars, vans and coaches. The vehicles are carried in enclosed carriages with passengers remaining in their vehicle.

Euro tunnel freight train for accompanied lorries using open wagons. The lorry drivers travel in a passenger carriage for the journey.

Freight Train for unaccompanied freight is carried in railway carriages.


The idea for a road tunnel linking England to France dates back to 1802.

A train tunnel was first proposed in 1820 geology checks were started in 1870. However nothing further took, pace. The first trial tunnel was started in 1880 to 1883. A second attempt took place between 1974 -1975 but was abandoned by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The third attempt began in 1987 and was completed in 1994, many millions of UK pounds over budget.

Tuesday 5 June 2007 -Visit to Thiron

We left the hotel at 09.00hrs en-route for the main reason of the pilgrimage, to visit the Abbey Church at Thiron Gardais. The first church of St. Bernard de Thiron, who went on to construct approximately 100 priories in France and 12 abbeys in England”, Scotland and Ireland, including St. Andrew’ s at Hamble, Hound Church and nearby Bursledon all in Hampshire.

Mass was said in the Abbey Church of St. Trinite Thiron by Fr. J. Travers assisted by David Winser. The service was attended by the Hamble pilgrims, the Abbe Boisaubert, the Maire (Mayor) of Thiron Bernard Jego and other local dignitaries. After the service Bert Attwood presented the Abbe with a large kneeler with tapestry of St. Andrew’s Hamble. No other kneelers were visible in the abbey and the Abbe placed this near his private prayer area.

We then walked to the Grange aux Dimes (Tithe Barn) where the monks of old gathered and stored foodstuffs and cereals that everyone paid as taxes to support the clergy and abbey. The tithe was one tenth of annual produce of land and labour.

The barn and gardens have been respectfully restored to their original style as a Visitor Centre.

The Maire, Abbe and the local Tourist Officials cordially received us.

Bert presented to the Maire gifts of framed painting of St. Andrew’s by the Artist Dorothy Palmer, a 900th Centenary Plate of St. Andrew’s and a cake made by our very own Confectioner Maureen Tickner. And he extended an invitation to the Maire, Abbe and Tourist Officials to attend St. Andrew’s 900th Celebrations in 2009.

The Maire presented Bert with a History of Thiron Abbey and Town Medal of Thiron. Cake, biscuits and champagne and friendship were enjoyed by all.

One remaining reminder of the Monks tenure of the abbey is their fishpond now lined with trees.

On our journey back to Chartres we passed many Voie de Liberte stones, small pyramid white blocks at 1 km. intervals marking the route of the Liberation Forces in 1944.

Returned to Chartres for the afternoon and a visit to the local Carrefour.

Walked to Chartres Cathedral during the evening to watch a spectacular light show illuminating in stages the facade of the Cathedral accompanied by music.

Wednesday 6 June 2007 – Vaux le Viconte

Visit to Vaux le Viconte at Melum, a 2.5 hr. drive from Chartres passing hectares of open farmland, then through timber plantations. Arriving at noon.

The Chateau was built by Nuolay Foucade the Finance Minister to Louis XIV However Foucade did not reside in the Chateau due to his using public monies to fund the construction. Legend has it that Foucade at the age of 19 had an iron mask placed on his head and then imprisoned. Hence the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’.

In constructing the Chateau Foucade cleared three villages and 28,000 men were involved in the construction work.

Louis XIV copied the design of the Chateau and together with the same architect constructed the Palace of Versailles.

The tour of the Chateau began with the private apartments; followed by the stately rooms, then onto the kitchens, which were well equipped. All rooms were delicately decorated with elaborate ceilings and chandeliers.

The final sight was the man in the iron mask sitting on a stairway behind a locked Iron Gate.

The gardens were very neatly planted and each section surrounded By small trimmed hedging. In the centre of the garden was a large fountain, ‘The Crown Parterre’. At the far end of the garden, some 1.5 km. from the Chateau was a monumental statue of Hercules and the Grand Canal.

The original stable block housed a large selection of magnificent old horse-drawn vehicles. The carriages were brought to life with harnessed horses, coachmen and passengers with accompanying sounds of horse’s hooves.

English Carriage Makers had originally made many of the carriages. Items of harness, saddlery and ostler’s equipment were on display together with a Blacksmith’s shop.

The Chateau has been used in the making of many films.

Thursday 7 June 2007 – Corpus Ckristi

Early breakfast then all aboard the coach at 8.30 hrs., for our journey to Basilique du Sacre Coeur, built on high ground with panoramic view over Paris – misty at the time.

Abodie designed the Cathedral, construction work began in 1875 and finished in 1914. It was not consecrated until after World War One

The interior of the church contains one of the word’s largest mosaics, which shows Christ with outstretched arms.

The pilgrims celebrated a private mass for Corpus Christi in the peaceful Chapel of the Pieta in the Crypt; taken by Fr John Travers robed in green, loaned by the Cathedral and assisted by David Winser in civvies. Joan Glue read the lesson.

After mass we walked to the nearby Place du Tertre – the artist’s quarter where visitors were having their portrait or caricature drawn by street artists.

A snack lunch was enjoyed in the Irish Pub watching the word go by.

Then returned to the coach for an extensive tour of Paris. Passing the Paris Opera, The Ritz Hotel where Diana Princess of Wales departed from on her last fateful journey.

Next to the Ritz Hotel is the Ministry of finance set in the wall is the official measure for the ‘metre’.

Passed the Louvre, until l682 the residence of the Kings of France. Opened as a museum in 1793, it now houses the national art collection including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci.

Next the Pont des Arts, the first iron footbridge in Paris.

Followed by Notre Dame, all road distances in France are calculated on the basis of the ‘Okm’ a large brass plaque set in the square in front of the Cathedral.

Then passing the Eiffel Tower built for The International Exhibition of

Paris in 1889 commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution.

On to the Arc de Triomphe commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon after his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. It was not finished until 1836. Local driving was horrendous, the surrounding area is known as Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. Car insurance is invalid if you have an accident here!

Along the Avenue des Champs Elysee to Elysee Paface, La Madelaine, Place de la Concorde, between 1793 & 1795, 2,800 people were executed here including Denton, Robespierre & Marie-Antoinette. Finally to Tour Montparnasse, a fifty nine storey building, after its finish in 1972 the City of Paris Council banned any more buildings over seven storeys.

Foregoing the 38-second lift ride to the toy we opted for refreshments in a nearby cafe, only to be served by a waiter representing ‘Paris’s Victor Meldrew’!

Returning to Chartres at 1945 hrs. for dinner. At dinner a vote of thanks was given to Bert & Beda for arranging the trip and to Ian, our coach driver for the safe tour of Paris, and also to Pat for acting as ‘trolley dolly’ keeping us all supplied with refreshments throughout the journey.

Friday 8 June 2007 – Monet’s Garden

All of the pilgrims checked out of the Ibis Hotel by 0800 hr. ready to board the coach and commence our return journey to Hamble via Monet’s Garden which was reached by 10.30 hrs in time for our pre booked visitor slot at 11.00 hrs.

A walk around the famous lily pond still looking the same as in Monet’s paintings. Past the nursery gardens then onto the tourist shop.

Then onto Monet’s house, the interior walls all decorated with bright colours, the en suite bathrooms were served by narrow passageways therefore allowing hot water to be taken to them without the need for house staff to enter the attached bedroom.

Monet’s Garden is at Giverny on the Banks of the Seine. 47 miles from Paris near Veron. Claude Monet lived in the house from 1883 to 1921.

Returning to the coach at 1315 hrs. to recommence our journey to Calais, arriving 1645 hrs. to board the 1750 hrs. train to Folkestone.

After a quick trip around the Duty Free Shop, we returned to the coach ready for Immigration checks (UK Immigration Contro0. We all had to leave the coach, pass through the Immigration Offices and re-board the coach before boarding the train. Same procedure for boarding as the outward journey.

Arrived at Folkestone and left the train at 1730 hrs – local time for the final leg of the trip to Hamble, arriving at 2050 hrs.

The pilgrimage was one that we were pleased to have taken and look forward to meeting the Abbe, Maire and other dignitaries when they visit St. Andrew’s to celebrate our 900th Anniversary in 2009.

I hope reading this copy of Ray and Joan’s journal and looking at their photographs of the pilgrimage has bought back many happy memories of our pilgrimage to those who took part, and has wetted the appetite of anyone who would like to join us when we go on our next pilgrimage to Thiron to celebrate with our French hosts their forth coming 900th anniversary of the building of the current abbey. (Watch out for details in our News section)

Once again may I offer my sincere thanks to Ray and Joan for all their hard work in putting this record of our pilgrimage to Thiron together and most of all for giving their kind permission for me to publish it here – Thank you!



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