Sunday, 14 March 2010

COVER AND POSTCARDS FROM FRANCE

Jean Pierre, my friend from Paris sent me a cover and lighthouse postcards to my collections. The French Post issued on November 23, 2009, two stamps celebrating 45 years of service of the helicopter cruiser "Jeanne d'Arc". The French Navy’s cruiser was commissioned on July 16, 1964 and has trained thousands of naval officers before retirement in 2010. The training ship could take on board eight helicopters and from its deck three helicopters could take off simultaneously. The stamps present the cruiser on the sea (in the background a world map) and the Jeanne’s crew.
This is the oldest and perhaps greatest of French lighthouses and one of the most famous lighthouses in the world: the Tour de Cordouan. The lighthouse is located 7 kilometres at sea, on a rocky tableland, at the mouth of the Gironde River and faces the Atlantic Ocean and the French coasts of Médoc and Charente-Maritime. It was designed by leading Paris architect Louis de Foix, who spent 27 years building the lighthouse from 1584 to 1611.

The 68 m (223 ft) unpainted light gray tower is an elaborate structure and includes 6 floors: on the first floor can be found the King’s Apartment (The King of France never came to Cordouan though). The chapel is on the second floor, the fourth and fifth floors are used as landings. Between the fifth and sixth floors is situated the lighthouse keepers’bedroom. On the sixth floor is the lantern. In 1645 the wood-fired lantern was blown off by a storm and replaced by a new lantern designed to burn whale oil. This was replaced in 1727 by a third lantern designed for charcoal. In 1823 Augustin-Jean Fresnel brought the first of his lenses to the tower, and here he perfected the lens designs that were soon in use around the world. The present lens was installed in 1854, during a thorough restoration of the tower ordered by Napoleon III. The lighthouse was not electrified until 1948. The light is still active and guided tours are available from Pointe de Grave.

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