2016-07-21 (Day 35) Bresles – Dangu

Today’s photo shows the Massey Ferguson tractor factory in Beauvais. This factory employs over 2,300 people and since it opened in 1960 has produced over 900.000 tractors. In 2016, this factory won the prestigious Factory of the Year title in France beating 10 other shortlisted factories from a whole range of industries. Last year, almost 15,000 tractors were built at this factory, 85% of which were exported overseas. The company also has a separate factory about a mile away called Beauvais 2 which builds cabs for there tractors. At this factory, called Beauvais 1, tractors undergo final assembly before being loaded onto railcars and exported to over 60 countries worldwide.

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Travoy leaving Camping de la Trye. With 2 tents,  extra clothes and an extra air-bed, there was a much bigger load on Travoy compared to the last time it was on the road. When I eventually made it back to Dublin, I weighed Travoy on a set of scales. My weight was 61 kg but with Travoy it was 99 kg meaning there was a total of 38 kg being hauled by my bike. Travoy itself weighs about 5 kg meaning there was 33 kg on it or about 6 kg over its weight limit of 27 kg. Fortunately, I wasn’t tackling the Alps and after getting my gears fixed the day before, I hardly noticed the extra weight.

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Total cycled today – 60m km. Total cycled so far on 2016 Tour de Travoy – 1490 km. Just a short spin today as I hadn’t cycled much for the last 2 weeks so thought I would take it easy until my fitness improved. It also helped that, apart from one small climb near Lalandelle, today’s route was mostly flat.

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Church on Rue de Marissel in Beauvais. I don’t normally include church photos on the Tour de Travoy but I will make an exception for this one as it is so imposing. What makes it extra interesting is just how little information there is about it on the internet despite the church’s size. There is no name for the church on Google Maps and unlike most French churches, there is no wikipedia page even on the French edition of wikipedia. Although it looks much older, I would guess it was built in the late 19th Century  and was built to cater for migrants from other countries and elsewhere in France, who flocked to this region during the Belle Epoque.

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Massey Ferguson factory in Beauvais. Today, Massey Ferguson produces more tractors than any other manufacturer in the world.  The factory here in Beauvais is one of only 3 factories worldwide that produce Massey Ferguson tractors, the others being located at Canaos in Brazil and Kansas in the USA. Massey Ferguson also has 2 other factories, one at Breganze in Italy and the other at Santa Rosa in Brazil which build combine harvesters. The company was formed in 1953 from the merger of Massey Harris, a Canadian company and Harry Ferguson’s tractor company which at that time was based in Coventry. In 1993, the company was bought by AGCO, an American conglomerate headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, which also own the German brand Fendt. Last year, AGCO made over $600 million profit on revenue of $10 billion and I am sure if Harry Ferguson was still alive today, he would approve of what has happened to the small tractor company he first founded in 1936.

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Harry Ferguson in 1922 demonstrating his 3 point linkage system to American farmers. There is arguably no other Irishman who has had more influence in the world the last 100 years than Harry Ferguson. His invention of the 3 point linkage led to an Agricultural Revolution in that it enabled ploughing and other farming tasks to be carried out by tractors much faster and more productively  than by using horses. The 3 point linkage system shown above was a mechanical system but in 1936, he patented a hydraulic system which is still standard on tractors to this day. It is estimated that about 200 million tractors have been built worldwide since World War 2, almost all of which have incorporated Ferguson’s 3 point linkage system. Over the last 70 year’s, world food production has increased tenfold partly as a result of Ferguson’s invention.

Ferguson monoplane (1909) and Ferguson P99 race car (1961). While Harry Ferguson’s name today is synonymous with tractors, he is  also famous for being the first Irishman to fly a plane. His flight in 1909 at Hillsborough where the Northern Ireland Assembly now meets took place only 6 years after the Wright Brother’s famous flight at Kitty Hawk. Just like the Wright Brothers, Harry built his own plane and he was the first person in either the UK or Ireland to build a plane and fly it. Harry Ferguson also had an interest in racing cars and a car built by his company was driven by Stirling Moss during the 1961 British Grand Prix. The Ferguson P99 was the first 4 wheel drive car to compete in Formula One and Stirling Moss when he retired said that it was the favorite car that he had ever raced in.

Original Iron Man (Mar 63) and redesigned Iron Man (Dec 63). In 1963, Marvel introduced a new superhero called Iron Man whose real name was Tony Stark and who liked to race cars and could fly using an iron suit. Iron Man was created by Stan Lee and his character was loosely based on that of Howard Hughes, the American multi millionaire. Hughes was a larger than life character who was interested in aviation and racing cars. Originally, Iron Man had a grey suit but after a few months, his suit was painted red and gold, a look that persists today. Interestingly, Iron Man’s original suit is similar to Ferguson grey in color while his redesigned suit is similar to the signature color of Massey Harris tractors which, which merged with Ferguson in the 50’s about 10 years before Iron Man was introduced.

A Ferguson Grey (left) and a Massey Harris tractor (right). I have no idea if the Ferguson and Massey Harris color schemes played a part in Iron Man’s costume but the resemblance is uncanny. But there is no doubt that Stan Lee based his Iron Man character on Howard Hughes. In 1932, Hughes set up an aircraft company called Hughes Aircraft which got a lot of defence contracts and was similar to the fictional Stark Industries. Howard Hughes himself shot to fame in 1938, when he flew around the world in 3 days in a plane his company had built beating the previous record by 4 days. Iron Man originally fought in Vietnam and his main enemies were all communists. Howard Hughes was famously anti-communist and once sacked nearly all the staff at Hollywood’s RKO Studio for nor being sufficiently anti-communist. I have no idea how Harry Ferguson felt about communism but he was arguably more responsible for it’s defeat than anything Howard Hughes or his companies ever did. It could also be argued that Harry Ferguson was also a real life version of Tony Stark in that he flew in an iron suit he built himself, which he called the Ferguson monoplane and was also involved in racing cars. He certainly was Ireland’s version of Iron Man and truly was a superhero.

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Greenway between Beauvais and Gournay-en-Bray. Most greenways were at one time old railway lines which have been converted into cycle lanes and these are now called greenways as traffic is not allowed on them. This 27 km long greenway between Beauvais and Gournay-en-Bray looks like it has been open a few years but for some reason, it is not included in the official map of greenways in France shown below.

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Map of all the greenways in France.   Greenways are very difficult to find in France as they are not clearly shown on either Google or Bing maps. Even Open Street Maps which is used by Strava do not highlight the location of greenways. For example, I had no idea there is a greenway between Langres and Chalons-en-Champage. Last year, I had cycled this route along the busy N44 but would have much preferred to take a greenway. Strangely, the greenway between Agde and Sete on the Mediterranean is not included in this map also although it is one of the most famous cycle routes in all of France. This year, I was lucky enough to cycled on the greenway near Annecy and also the greenway along the Canal du Bourgogne nothwest of Dijon, both of which are included in the map.

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Parc de Saint Leger. This zoo specialises in wild cats (grands felins in French) and there are numerous lions, tigers, pumas, cheetahs and cougars on display here. Parc de Saint Leger has an extensive breeding program and every year up to 20 cubs are born here, including some white lions which are extremely rare in the wild.

White lion cubs at Parc de Saint Leger. White lions are found in the wild at only one place on Earth, in the Timbavati Game Reserve in South Africa. They are so rare that there is believed to be only about a dozen adults left in the wild. There are about 20 zoos world wide with white lions so there is probably no more than 200 white lions alive today. In the last 2 years, 3 white lion cubs have been born at Parc de Saint Leger so this small zoo in France is doing an incredible job in preventing the white lion’s extinction.

63 kV high voltage electrical line project near to Gisors. In Ireland, RTE is the national television broadcaster but her in France, RTE is responsible for maintaining the electricity grid. RTE stands for Reseau de Transport d’Electricite and it manages 100,000 km of high voltage power lines throughout France. In Ireland, the grid is managed by Eirgrid and peak demand is around 5 MW but in France, it is around 90 MW. France is the biggest exporter of electricity in Europe and RTE has over 40 high voltage connections with neighboring countries including a HVDC submarine cable to the UK.The existing Cross Channel HVDC line is located between Calais and Folkestone but a second HVDC line, called IFA-2, has been proposed to link Lower Normandy in France and Hampshire in England.

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Source : RTE-France.com

Map of existing (solid line) and proposed (dotted line) submarine power lines between the UK and Europe. There are 2 existing HVDC lines between Britain and the UK, though a third is currently being built between Britain and Norway. There are also 2 HVDC lines between Ireland and the UK and the map above shows a proposed third line between Brittany in France and south east Ireland. In 2015, IFA-2 was identified by the EU as one of 195 key energy infrastructure projects so it is likely to get the go-ahead soon. It is possible that the upgrade near Gisors by RTE are preliminary works before the IFA-2 submarine cable gets approved for construction.Though it is also possible that post Brexit, none of these proposed submarine cables to Britain will ever be built.

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Sign for the departement de l’Eure. I always thought that the Seine marked the boundary between Normandy and the rest of France but there actually is a small departement known as L’Eure which is north of the Seine but classed as part of Normandy.

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Rue de Vienne in Gisors. The main street in Gisors is cobbled and it was like cycling through some old town in Belgium as I made my way up the hill. However, unlike the Koppenberg or the Kapellmuur in Flanders, the climb in Gisors was pretty gentle and the cobblestones were mostly smooth.

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Chateau de Gisors. The castle here at Gisors was built in the 12th Century and during the Hundred Years War, the chateau marked the boundary between English controlled Normandy and the rest of France. In recent times, the chateau has become famous as a possible location of the Priory of Sion’s treasure. Anyone who has read Dan Brown’s book’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code or has seen the movies starring Tom Hanks will now all about the Priory of Sion. Apparently, the Priory of Sion were a branch of the Knights Templar dedicated to restoring the Merovingian dynasty to the throne in France. The Merovingians ruled France for 300 years after the fall of the Roman Empire but the dynasty died out in the 8th Century. They were succeeded by the Carolingians whose most famous king was Charlemagne, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 in Aachen. In the 10th Century, the Carolingians were succeeded by the Capetians, who would go on to rule France until 1792.  The Knight’s Templar was set up in the 12th Century to try and re-capture the Holy Lands from the Ottoman Empire. The order was very wealthy and as well as taking part in Crusades would lend money to various kings in Europe. This wealth led to the Templar’s downfall because in the 14th Century, many of their leader’s were burned at the stake by the King of France, Phillip IV, who was deeply in debt to the order. However, the rapid dissolution of the Knights Templar has led to speculation ever since as to what became of it’s treasure. Some pseudo-historians claim that the treasure was hidden by the Priory of Sion at various locations around Europe, including here at the chateau in Gisors.

Dan Brown’s bestsellers Angel and Demons (2000) and The Da Vinci Code (2003). Over 200 million copies of Dan Brown’s books have been sold worldwide and both have been turned into movies. Dan Brown is a talented writer and anyone who has sold that amount of books in this day and age is obviously very good at what they do. Dan insists his books about the Priory of Sion are based on historical facts but there is a big problem with this supposition. It turns out that The Priory of Sion never existed except in the minds of 2 French journalists, Gerard de Sede and Pierre Plantard. Gerard de Sede died in 2004 but his son has since admitted that Gerard completely made up the story about the Priory of Sion. Pierre Plantard died in 2000 but before he passed away,  he claimed to be the 30th Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. Leonardo da Vinci was apparently the 12th Grand Master and this is why Dan Brown referenced da Vinci and the Priory of Sion so much in his books. Technically, his books are classed as fiction but in any interviews Dan has given he has claimed that they are 99% historically accurate. This is very clever because he never would have sold as many books if he claimed his books were just stories and not based on historical events.However, by combining real life locations and real life historical organisations such as the Knights Templar, Dan Brown was able to perpetuate one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th Century i.e the Priory of Sion.

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Dan Brown’s bestsellers are based on the 1982 book The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. Much more interesting than anything Dan Brown has ever wrote about though is the real life court cases that have taken place since his 2 bestsellers were published. The central premise in Dan Brown’s book is that the Priory of Sion are trying to restore the Merovingians as kings of France. Dan Brown claims that the Merovingians were descended from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, a claim that was first published in 1982 in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. This claim is the main reason why Dan Brown has sold so many of his books as it implies that the Catholic Church has been engaged in a cover-up for the last 2,000 years. Because they had first made this claim 20 years earlier, 2 of the authors of THBATHG, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, decided to sue Dan and his publisher, Random House, for copyright infringement. However, the judge ruled that because the author’s of THBATHG claimed their book was historical fact they couldn’t sue someone who later used these facts to write fiction. In other words, had the authors claimed their story was fiction, then they would have been entitled to royalties. To add insult to injury, the plaintiffs  were then ordered to pay Random House’s legal fees, which amounted to £3 million. So you come up with one of the most lucrative ideas in recent book publishing history and that idea ends up costing you millions. Sometimes, life is a bitch.

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