The French stage: Reims and Troyes

Once we crossed the Channel, it was smooth sailing to Reims although the scenery wasn’t very exciting. I chose to stop at Reims because I wanted to see the cathedral. Actually, I wanted to see the angels.

The present cathedral, a fine example of Gothic architecture, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2011. It was where many French kings were crowned, including Charles VII in 1429, with Joan of Arc in the audience. Its 2,303 sculptures, together with its stained-glass windows, tell stories from the Bible for the benefit of those who couldn’t read or write.

Notre-Dame de Reims is the third temple to be built on this site. The previous churches had been built  in 401 and 852. 852
Notre-Dame de Reims is the third temple to be built on this site. The previous churches had been built in 401 and 852. 852

My favourite statues were the Archangel Gabriel with its impish smile, high cheekbones and wavy hair, and the Smiling Angel. His smile is somewhat mysterious, like that of the Mona Lisa. This sculpture was destroyed by a bomb in September, 1914 but thankfully was restored later.

Archangel Gabriel
Archangel Gabriel
The Smiling Angel
The Smiling Angel

Among the original medieval stained glass windows are those created by Marc Chagall. Installed in 1974, they depict scenes from the Bible. Chagall combined modern lines with traditional medieval colours.

The Chagall windows
The Chagall windows

Once I had my fix of medieval stuff, we set off for Troyes. Although it was easy to find the city, finding the hotel proved quite tricky. Out GPS sent us on a wild goose chase. We were looking for the Ibis Troyes hotel. We stopped outside an Ibis Budget to ask at reception, except there was no reception but an ATM-looking machine. And then the car wouldn’t start. Sean opened the bonnet and we settled to wait for it to cool down. I’m not sure how long it took because I took a nap.

We eventually managed to find the proper Ibis hotel. After checking in we went out in search for a nice place to eat. And find it we did in a 16th century house located in the historic centre. We had a wonderful meal that included duck breast and custard napoleon (millefeuille)

Lovely half-timbered houses in Troyes
Lovely half-timbered houses in Troyes

Troyes was a nice surprise. The lopsided half-timbered houses are beautiful, as is the cathedral, where Joan of Arc rallied the townspeople in support of their rightful king. I had a stroll around the historic centre, enjoying the marvelous medieval architecture, narrow cobbled streets and the sense of history. It amazes me to think that many on the houses and buildings were there before my side of the world (i.e. the Americas) was discovered by the Europeans (of course there were incredible civilizations already there who did not appreciate the intrusion, to say the least.)

A random corner in Troyes
A random corner in Troyes

Next stop: Geneva

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 Read the start of the journey here:

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  • The cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims is open every day from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm and the admission is free.
  • Hotel Ibis: rue Camille Claudel – 10000 TROYES €73.20 a night including breakfast