A few weekends ago, I traveled to Reims for the day, and I seriously cannot believe it took me so long to visit such an awesome (and nearby!) city.
The city itself was gorgeous (see!), and it is the largest city in the Champagne region, so I’ll (hopefully) make it back there sometime soon for a day to tour the champagne caves that are nearby (and, of course, to taste the best champagne the world has to offer).
Hands down, the landmark that impressed me most in Reims was the cathedral. I’ve been to a lot of cathedrals… for a non-catholic American, at least, and while I always enjoy them, I can understand the argument that some people make that “after a few, they all start to look the same.” This absolutely does NOT hold true at Reims, however. On my list of most amazing cathedrals I’ve ever seen, Reims probably falls right under the one at Chartres… It even beats Amiens – not at grandeur, perhaps, but certainly in originality.
But before I start gushing too much about the amazing architecture, statues, windows, etc., I think the Reims’ Cathedral also warrants a brief history lesson. For those of you who aren’t French history buffs, the Reims cathedral is where the kings of France were once crowned. This means that Louis XIV (among others) actually inhabited this very church where thousands of visitors pass through today. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that the cathedral (which was built in 1211 after an earlier church burned down) was built ON THE SITE of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remis in AD 496! THE CLOVIS, people!! (Clovis, by the way, is recognized as the first king of France – AND, he was a Roman but converted to Catholicism in, well – 496. He was the beginning of the marriage of power between the Church and the French Monarchy, and that marriage undoubtedly helped Christianity to spread and overtake the paganism that had abounded in Europe before. Basically, his decision to convert shaped the western world as we know it today.)
Aside from being a completely mind-blowing historical experience, however, the Reims Cathedral is just… neat. The statuary immediately stood out to me. I’ve never seen so many or such original statues in a cathedral before. Immediately on approaching the cathedral, it’s evident as soon as you see this:
AND – the statues aren’t even the only thing about this cathedral that makes it unique. The stained glass windows were also impressive and original, and if you’re still looking for a reason to visit – how about the fact that one of the windows was even designed by Marc Chagall himself?
I could spend awhile gushing about all the things I loved about the Reims cathedral, but instead I think I’ll show you….
On December 3rd, I had the opportunity to take a day trip to Canterbury with one of the middle schools in Compiègne. It was my first foray into an Anglophone country since leaving my own homeland in September, and it was AWESOME. I suspect that only others who have lived in a foreign language-speaking foreign country will fully appreciate how nice it feels to suddenly find yourself in a place where your brain can take a break. I could absentmindedly listen to a conversation – and still understand everything! I could glance at a sign and immediately understand with hardly a thought!
Yet, there was a twist… The English was familiar, but the country was still adorably foreign! Without further ado, here are some of the photo highlights from that trip.
Disneyland Paris was… Interesting… very similar to Disney World (on a much smaller scale), but somehow managing to be uniquely French as well. The employees were not quite as helpful as most I’ve encountered at Disney World, but the food was still overpriced and mediocre. A lot of the rides were the similar, but with a twist. I’m glad I got to see it, but I wouldn’t recommend it for Americans traveling to Paris unless: (1) You really really LOVE Disney and (2) You have plenty of opportunities to return to Paris. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to choose between Disney Paris and the Louvre, please, choose the Louvre! We don’t have one of those in Orlando, FL.
I have this personal hypothesis, that because France doesn’t really celebrate Halloween and doesn’t have Thanksgiving, they really go ALL OUT for Christmas. (They DO go all out for Christmas, but whether or not it is for the reason listed above, I can’t be certain.)
Here is a photo gallery of some of my favorite holiday pictures in France. Enjoy!
I went to the market yesterday for the first time since being back in France, and knew immediately that I wanted to devote an entire post to it. I had only just started getting into Farmers’ markets back home before I left the states last fall, and the few tiny markets I would frequent in Sandy Springs and Norcross pale in comparison to the grand bi-weekly operation in Compiègne.
First, I love that the open air market is walking distance from my room at the school. Someday, I want to live within walking distance of a farmers’ market in America – so that I can wake up Saturday mornings and take Bella for a walk to pick up our fresh fruits and vegetables for the week.
Second, there is SO MUCH delicious food here!!! Not just reasonably-priced fruits and vegetables, but also local honey, fresh seafood, meats still on the rotisserie, saucissons, and of course – local CHEESES!!!
Third, the people are really friendly. I’ve gotten to know some of the vendors in the farmers market, and getting to know vendors = free perks! For example, the guy I buy mushrooms from has given me onions and garlic for free before, because I always come to him for certain items. And, when I bought a pumpkin for Thanksgiving, the vendor threw in an additional quarter of a pumpkin for free!
The market is definitely one of the things I’ll miss most about France after I leave here. I’ll definitely be exploring Atlanta’s Farmers’ Markets much more after I get home, but I suspect it will never be quite the same… There is just something about wandering around an open air market in France, with the smells of Saucissons, Fresh cheese, seafood, and lavender in the air, and people all around you greeting each other with bisous* and calling out “Bonjour!” “Merci bien!” and “Bon weekend!” … The open air markets are a piece of France that have really gotten into my soul, and they can always make me smile.