Sunday, April 19, 2009
REIMS CATHEDRAL AND GIVERNY'S GARDENS
Friday, April 17, 2009 On the road again….
We packed the car and hit the road before nine o’clock. The skies are overcast but the sun kept peeking out from among the clouds. We decided to drive the country roads today instead of the autoroute; saves money and it’s also much prettier. Driving north from Beaune to Dijon through the vineyards and then after we passed through Dijon we drove through field after field of mustard; some still green but many of them already sprouting yellow on their tops. This is a winding two lane road with little ups and downs and many small villages. Plus only light traffic!
Spotted a village that was so quaint looking we had to explore so turned off highway 974 onto D105 at the village of Gemeaux. There are some photos in the slideshow of this very small and beautiful ancient village. The chateau of the town looks like it has a new owner; the roof has been replaced and scaffolding is all around the outside as they pour “beaucoup” bucks into restoration. Several of the houses in the village had roofs that were collapsing over part of the building; but overall the village appears to be alive and well in the twenty-first century.
We arrived at Langres, a walled and fortified ancient village on top of a hill; probably built to protect the French from the Germans. We didn’t stop to investigate this one as our destination was getting close. Soon we arrived in Chaumont, a large city about half way to Reims, our destination tomorrow; this afternoon we’ll spent time together in our hotel. Tomorrow will be a busy afternoon after we arrive in Reims.
Saturday, April 18, 2009 Reims Cathedral
On the road just after seven o’clock we headed for the autoroute under very cloudy skies; soon it was raining and foggy but we continued north staying out of the fast inside lanes as much as possible. We saw a sign that said “accident ahead” just as we had two police cars pass us as though we were standing still! We were doing about one hundred so they must have been at one hundred fifty kilometers. From that point on each of the roadside emergency telephone post that were placed about every kilometer were flashing a yellow light. After we finally passed the fender bender of an accident they were no longer flashing. Their emergency system is very hi-tech we decided.
Stopped for gasoline; a gallon is equal to about four liters; the gasoline was 1.279 euros per liter making it very close to six dollars a gallon for gas. Glad that we’re driving a very small economic car on this trip.
Coming into Reims the sun came out briefly and we thought that we were finished with the rain. We ended up going into the center of the city quite by accident while looking for our Hotel. For some reason, I’ve been really turned around ever since we arrived; must be the lack of a steady sun for orientation. We discovered the Roman Arch and the WW II monuments before we could find our way out of the massive construction going on to create a more tourist friendly city of walking areas without traffic. After many wrong turns we finally found the Formule One Hotel for our night outside of Reims in the town of Tinqueux; a bedroom community for Reims.
We rested for a while and then headed back into Reims and actually found the Cathedral rather easily and parked on the street about four blocks up; giving us a wonderful stroll down the boulevard with the view of the Cathedral all the way there. We spent over an hour in the Cathedral; entranced by the stained glass windows and massive architecture. Originally begun in 1211, this Gothic masterpiece has been damaged by wars and now by the environment and has been repaired and/or rebuilt several times over the centuries. It has served as the place for the coronation of twenty five French Kings; Joan of Arc led Charles VII to be crowned here in 1429. During WW I it was severely damaged by bombs and John D. Rockefeller financed the rebuilding just in time for the start of WW II.
Today they are still working on replacing the many stained glass windows that have been broken over the centuries. One set was replaced by the Champagne Industry of the region and tells their story with scenes about the industry. Another set was replaced in 1974 with biblical scenes painted by the artist Marc Chagall; each faithfully recreated by a master glass maker. Chagall had carefully recreated all the old colors found in the original ancient glass windows; many of which still survive today thanks to people who removed and stored them during the wars.
We walked outside and found that the light rain had returned; put on our rain ponchos and enjoyed our stroll back down the boulevard to our car. We were sure that going back to the hotel would be a breeze! Oh how wrong we were! One way streets did us in and soon we were totally lost again. We’re not sure how but after about twenty minutes we were somehow back on the autoroute and headed towards Tinqueux!
Once there we were ok; headed for the large shopping Mall located about five blocks from our hotel. There we purchased a bottle of wine and another new map to help us navigate our way around Paris tomorrow as we head north for Giverny to see the home of the artist Claude Monet. We’ll be staying in nearby Vernon at another Formule One. . I must say that we’ve really enjoyed our stays at Formule One; the rooms are extremely clean, the beds are good, the linens are white and ironed; and although the showers and toilettes are down the hall they are also very clean. Overall, they are a really good value for the money.
The one thing that we missed most today were the flowers; as we’ve come north we’ve noticed that the towns have not begun to plant the multitude of flowers that are generally everywhere in the European cities in the summer. I hope that by the time we reach the Loire Valley they will have planted the flower beds for us to enjoy before we head home in May.
Sunday, April 19, 2009 Claude Monet’s home in Giverny
We were on the road just after seven this morning under cloudy skies but dry roads and only a light fog. We popped on to Autoroute 4 in the direction of Paris. Today the road tolls were paid in advance a little at a time in increments of less than four euros each. We entered from the east headed southwest as the Autoroute emptied directly into the Ring Road known as the “Peripherique” that goes all the way around the city of Paris. We’d planned well: it’s early Sunday morning and the route was, according to the electric road condition signs: “a French word that I knew meant fluid” meaning that traffic was moving and there were no accidents! Whoppie! I know that Mary was clinging to the door and holding her breath for most of the time until we saw the signs for Autoroute 13 that was our destination and would take us away from Paris. By nine o’clock we’d made our way out of the city and stomach muscles unclenched as we continued northwest towards Giverny, our destination for today. I’ve truly gained a whole new perspective of my husband Jim and his years of driving in the cities of Europe on our trips.
We arrived in Vernon, a larger town near Giverny and headed towards to the banks of the Siene River that flows between Vernon and Giverny. As we entered town and passed by the Chateau de Bizy I notice several old cars parked outside. We pulled a u-turn and came back to take some photos for the husbands. As we entered the parking area we saw a dozen or so Triumph Automobiles parking very uniformly against the wall as thought for a car show. Suddenly we notice that there was a long line of additional ones arriving. We were able to take many photos and cheered them as they entered the parking area before we pulled out as the last ones entered. There had to be nearly fifty of them by the time they’d all parked.
Pulling out we continued into the old part of town near the Siene River as I knew there was a church located near the river and sure enough as soon as we reached the river I started hearing church bells; looked around and there it was; the bells rang for a good ten minutes and we were able to find parking and walk to the church arriving just before the ten o’clock Mass began. It was a high Mass with all the bells and whistles; not quite the Reim’s Cathedral in size but definitely as tall as any Cathedral in France, including Reims.
After Mass we found our new Formule One; registered, emailed the husbands and then drove over to Giverny to visit the home and gardens of the master artist Claude Monet who spent the last forty three years of his life here. One of his most famous paintings: the Water lilies that line the walls of the L’Orangerie Musee in Paris are based on his lily ponds on the grounds of this estate.
We had so many beautiful flowers it was hard to decide what to take photos of. The gardens opened on April 1st and they have been very busy planting their living artwork for the tourist. Do hope that you enjoy the photos that we put on the slideshow on the blogspot for you.
One final stop as the sun was out but clouds are on the horizon; the church and graveyard that is the final resting place of Monet and his family. Tonight I’d sent this journal out as we prepare for our trip tomorrow to Caen and the Normandy Coast. Au revoir…