The Lovely Gentleman of La Flèche

(That’s the gate of the military school on the right and the spire of the church with the ashes to the left)

We spent three nights in La Flèche, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere this trip. On Saturday I went to the tourist office and got a booklet with a walking tour of the town. Then I took a seat outside a cafe, had a cup of green tea and started reading.

(This old shop used to be a haberdashery, selling buttons, sewing supplies and material, sigh)

I hadn’t got very far in my reading when a gentleman who had been sitting outside also, approached me nodding at the booklet and saying something in French. I think he was saying are you enjoying your holidays? but he suddenly stopped when he saw the cover and said, oh you are English! I said, oh yes I’m Irish.

(This is France)

He knew loads about his town and was very interesting. He told me how I could get into the military school if I had a ID card with me. Just be brave and knock on the door and say you want to see the church! He proceeded to tell me that the hearts of the King Henry IV and his wife are in there. Well, not their entire hearts… there’s a story.

(Another little laneway)

The King had always said he wanted his heart buried in the church but that may have just been his way of saying he loved the place. Anyway whoever was in charge of such things took him at his word and when he died they put his heart (or the ashes from his heart, maybe) into an urn in the church. Then when his wife died her heart went into the urn too. Then something they hadn’t anticipated happened – the French Revolution.

(Vintage travel)

In the heel of the hunt the poor king and queen’s urn was taken out into the streets and burned. All was not lost though, some kind gentleman swept up as much of the ashes as he could and kept them safe. These ashes, of the ashes, are in the military church. My new friend was in a hurry to go off and meet his wife so we parted company and I went down to knock on the door of the military school with my Irish driver’s license.

(Another one of the old signs)

I could still be there knocking, for all the good it did me. French schools are on mid-term just like Irish schools. There was no one around. But at least I was brave enough to knock. One other interesting thing he told me was about the river. I’ll tell you tomorrow but in the meantime see if you can guess, there’s a hint in the following photo…

The kindness of strangers. Mairead.

(La Flèche on the Loir)

And here’s La Flèche on the map…

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