Tapisserie de Bayeux - The Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is now protected by UNESCO and is back in the town that bears its name. It is housed inside a fairly bland government building just to the edge of the town centre (not that well sign-posted). Once inside the tapestry sits within a curving display behind glass and subdued lighting. It is amazing that the colours remain so vivid. As you would expect photography is prohibited and a request for quiet is generally respected.
Everybody visiting is given an audio tour and there is a special version for children. It guides you as if you're reading a strip cartoon and explains the story. This does mean that the queue is slow moving and it is hard to break ranks and stand back to admire the work as there are many people at the window. It takes about 40 minutes to go around and give the story and the tapestry justice.
It is propaganda of course and a lot of the story is about Harold's disastrous trip to France when he was kidnapped and had to be rescued by William who then is promised the crown of England once Edward dies. Harold is shown swearing on a relic and bible to show how much they didn't trust him. However one suspects Harold would have promised anything to get away and one theory has it that he may have been a bit inebriated when he made the vow. By the time of the battle he had already travelled to Yorkshire to kill a lot of invading Danes. So clearly a man with a lot on his plate.
We all really enjoyed our visit and found the audio tour really helpful in understanding the story. Our children (eight and 11) participated well and did not lose interest. The Bayeux Tapestry really is very special and had us all wanting to find out more about that period of history from both the English and French point of view upon our return home. It would be nice to have been able to go round again, but the entrance fee allowed only one turn. The tour ends in the rather over-priced gift shop with its tapestry cushion covers and marked up books.
Afterwards we spent some time in the charming town of Bayeux. The beautiful cathedral once housed the tapestry and is of course the inspiration for much English Church architecture. Parking is cheap and there are lots of interesting shops in its narrow picturesque streets. We finished with a picnic on a bench in a tree-lined street, where we watched dogs who had been stripped of their dignity leaving a poodle parlour!
Tapisserie de Bayeux opening hours
Summer, 15 March to 15 November:
9:00 to 18:30 (till 19:00 from May to August)
Winter, 16 November to 14 March:
9:30am to 12:30 and 2pm to 6pm
13 rue de Nesmond
Centre Guillaume le Conquerant Bayeux