Tuesday, May 6, 2008

in France

Well here I am - trying to type on a French keyboard; zhich has a number of letters in different places - as you can see from my typo - one of them is the w

Yesterday, after a night of little sleep, Paul met me at the airport and we drove to Reims (pronounced Rance). We drove through farmland splashed with bright yellow fields. It's like driving through a patchwork quilt with patches of varying shades of yellow green and brown.

It is so easy to travel quickly from one historical era to another in Europe. We parked near a library - a beautiful art deco building and walked to the cathedral: The first king of the Franks was crowned there: It was also there that Jeanne d'Arc brought the dauphin to be crowned Charles VII. Walking in the cathedral you feel physically connected to history. It is incredible to think about who else's feet have walked in the same place.

The cathdral itself is quite something to see, with beautiful stained glass, towering ceilings; carved figures in the walls of the entrance, 3 magnificent rose windows.... But to add to it all, as we were walking around there was music playing - an organ transcription of the trio sonata for 2 flutes by Bach which Paul and I have been playing together. Another way to feel a connection to the place.

Next we dropped by Mumm's. Reims is the heart of Champagne and every house has offices there. We bought a little something to celebrate the trip.

Next to another century - to the war room where the Germans signed the surrender to end the war in Europe in May 1945. Again it was incredible to experience that connection with history, to occupy space that had witnessed such important events. The walls were covered with maps - remaining from the time the allied generals were there - testamonials to the terrible ti,es of battle, occupation, deprivation and incredible bravery.

Then off to Strasbourg. This city is very picturesque, with an incredible number of buildings still standing from the 15th, 16th and 17th century. So often you visit a city and they say "after the fire of ...." - but here, despite 2 world wars, much remains.

Another cathedral - a Gothic wonder. It is hard to imagine what people felt entering it when it was first built. For over 400 years it was the tallest building in the modern world. More magnificent stained glass, towering ceilings and sculptures.

A boat ride through the canals gave us glimpses of different neighbourhoods and buildings from every century including the new buildings for the European Union.

Strolling on....

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