Europe 2009: Mile 2845 Day 2

30th April 2009

View from a gallery, Reims, France

View from a gallery, Reims, France

A day for exploring. No riding today but lots of walking the few square kilometers around the cathedral. After a, I must admit, good simple breakfast at the hotel (extra of course) we backed our backpack with way too much stuff (mostly my camera stuff – heavy) and headed off. The weather was nice for walking (not too hot and not too cold, blue sky with white fluffy clouds like cotton-wool. Within ten minutes we were at the main “strip” and started exploring the back streets and galleries of Reims. Absolutely fascinating! We quickly found a really nice toy shop but it was closed but, since it would be open later, we decided it was worth coming back.

Looking in a shop window, Reims, France

Looking in a shop window, Reims, France

There were lots of fascinating shops of types which have disappeared (or are quickly disappearing) from UK high streets – why? I think (personal and highly biased opinion here) it is because we have all become too wrapped up in our “packaged” age where everything must be served up already completed and looking ‘nice’. we have become disconnected from the creation process and are too rushed or busy or impatient to be able to create things from scratch. Anyway end of rant (for now 🙂 ) but we wandered past flower shops, bakeries, tea shops, patisseries – all brilliant. It would also seem that the good people of Reims like their shoes judging by the  number of shoe shops they have.

We then returned to the toy shop to look around. Whilst there Isabel managed to fall down some stairs. Very painful and meant she had a limp for the rest of the day. We did purchase some toys for my grandson Scott (an abacus and a nice noisy harmonica which should annoy his mother – I am such a child sometimes 🙂 ). About lunchtime we went to a patisserie/cafe for some coffee and cake – I had a raspberry tart which was superb and Isabel had a tart au citron which had a soft browned meringue in the middle. I was allowed but the smallest morsel to taste so it must have been very good indeed!

Cathedral front, Reims, France

Cathedral front, Reims, France

After that we decided to explore the cathedral. On the way there we stopped for a baguette (I know that that is the wrong way round – dessert before mains but hey this is our holiday – you can choose how you want to do it on your own). As we wandered to the magnificent building I wondered if the inside could in any way mirror the majesty of the exterior. Oh yes it can – with bells on! What a place. The imposing round windows of the exterior become magically transformed into exquisite examples of the craft/art of stained glass on the inside.

Window above entrance, Reims cathedral, France

Window above entrance, Reims cathedral, France

Mainly blue they offer a myriad of other colours that almost leave one breathless. They are a bugger to photograph though! We wandered through the the rest of the cathedral finding it almost impossible to take it all in. What impact must it have had on the medieval mind? I am always amazed about the impact of the great European cathedrals on me- what a statement they make! Gods majesty made stone.

Window by Marc Chagall, Reims Cathedral, France

Window by Marc Chagall, Reims Cathedral, France

At the far end of the cathedral is a set of stained glass windows by the artist Marc Chagall. Very interesting. Next to that is a little chapel that also has stained glass. The effect of the light through all of the the glass in the cathedral is amazing and moving. Lit a candle as we wandered back to the front. Just as we were leaving a group of visitors (I presume a choir or similar) began singing an impromptu hymn in the aisle. I don’t know if it was the acoustics of the place but it was a wonderful sound, the slight echo adding so much to the voices. A marvelous moment.

Once outside we looked in all of the champagne shops on the cathedral square (Reims is one of the main towns in the Champagne region) looking for a bottle for my sons forthcoming wedding. We found a nice rosé which we purchased and then tried to work out how to get it home (normal people, of course, would do that the other way round but then again who wants to be normal?). Apparently the French Postal Service does a special box for posting Champagne bottles – don’t you just love this country?

Women and two children, Reims, France

Women and two children, Reims, France

After sending the bottle on its way we wandered around looking in some more shops and then back to the cathedral square for some good old fashioned people watching (and photographing).

After that it was a walk (or in Isabel’s case limp) back to the hotel to drop everything before heading out again to find dinner. Isabel was looking for some Moule et frites which is one of her favourites. There were a couple of restaurants offering that. Unfortunately we choose the wrong one :(. A decidedly average meal (I had calfs liver and mash – OK but nothing special), good house wine (Muscadet) and very poor service (earning a zero on the highly rated and totally prejudiced Fatman scale and the finger from Mr Teddy) but that was more than made up for by the sight of the the cathedral lit up in the dark on the walk/limp back to the hotel. A very good day.

Water fountain, City Centre, Reims, France

Water fountain, City Centre, Reims, France

Lessons Learnt:

  • Watch where you are going when going down stairs
  • Living in France could make me Even-FatterMan!

Adrian & Isabel

& Mr Teddy

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