Monday, July 5, 2010

Back in France...arrived in Reims

We woke up just after 5 am this morning, ate a light breakfast from our store of supplies, loaded the car and found ourselves on the road south before 6 am. We had a long drive ahead of us but felt well prepared as we followed Jochem’s advice and signed on to the Internet last night for detailed instructions for the fastest way from Waalwijk, The Netherlands to Reims, France per Google Maps. They estimated four hours but after our crazy drives north we were apprehensive about driving times. With no printer I wrote down each of the road numbers and we were able to stay on the correct roads for the entire five hour drive. What a breeze after last Thursday and Friday. Saw more of the huge wind machines with orange stripes on them so you have one more photo of a wind machine.

We had some light rain in Belgium but by the time we arrived in France the sun was shining. We’re watching the end of the today’s stage of the Tour de France right now…they are in Belgium and it is raining hard there! We have some dark clouds but basically pretty nice outside…we have our windows open as we are still without air conditioning but we do have our own bathroom for the next few days. Our hotel is the very old (but well maintained) Hotel Crystal located a few blocks from the Cathedral on a pedestrian street. Yes…we drove on the street with everyone frowning at us so that we could leave the luggage at the hotel before taking the car to Europcar. We’ll pick up another car in four days when we leave Reims.

We walked back to the Hotel along the Hautes Promenades passing the Roman Gates known as “Porte de Mars”…and from a distance another monument. It was only a short walk back to the Hotel and we found a shop across the street with Kebabs….purchased two and enjoyed lunch in our room before heading out again to walk to the Cathedral.

This Cathedral is not as large as some but has more history than most. The first King of the Franks, Clovis, was baptized at a church on this site in A.D. 496 and it has served as the place for coronations of French Kings and Queens ever since. The Cathedral was built between 1211 – 1481 and has gone through many restorations including a massive one after the Germans bombarded it for six days during WW I. Hope you enjoy the photos of the stained glass windows. There are three windows in one chapel that were done by Marc Chagall in 1974. Joan of Arc brought Charles VII here to be crowned in 1429 and resulted in the end of the hundred year war between the French and the England.

We’ve been watching the Tour de France that started this morning in Brussels and will end in the small town of Spa, Belgium. Lots of falls in today’s race because of the rain; including one involving Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank….a favorite. It looks like Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank will retain his yellow jersey for another day!

We’ve found the Laundromat here in Reims so the plan tomorrow is to go to 8 am mass at the Cathedral and then to the Laundromat that is located nearby. I think we’re going to see museums tomorrow as the Tour de France crosses from East to West across Belgium; then we’ll enjoy the Race that ends here in Reims on Wednesday afternoon. One nice thing is that we have free wifi at this hotel for the next few days.

Last minute update: the winner of the Tour de France today was a French rider named Sylvain Chavanel who rides for the Belgium team of Quick Step! And, he took the yellow jersey for most overall points to date away from's a whole new ballgame! And what a thrill for the Belgium people!

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