10.04.2013 - 11.04.2013 16 °C
My apologies for missing yesterday's addition for those of you who are keen followers of this affair. I love the fact that you read it and let me know that you have and feel so guilty when I miss a chapter. Sadly yesterday saw me having another dose of gastro - might be the foie gras might not - and I was a bit floored by it last night and in no state to enter. I'm pleased to say that a night of abstinence, a good night's sleep and I'm fit and firing today and ready to enjoy Paris.
Yesterday we were priveledged again during our stay in Reims. It is, first of all, an incredibly lovely city with wonderful medieval buildings wherever you turn. It also has the wonderful cathedral Notre Dame which was the place where 16 French kings were crowned. The last was Charles X who was the Bourbon puppet that the victorious powers put in place following the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. I suspect that he was as good an advertisement for republicanism as any that France provided but the gowns and finery of his coronation were on display and were absolutely magnificent. I'm continually impressed when visiting churches in France by the fact that they're free. Some smaller ones are in the UK but to go into Westminster Abbey or St Paul's or even the York Minster is not cheap and, in most cases, photoraphy is not allowed. In France you are invited to make a donation and simply asked to be respectful - how nice is that? We both spent time in the cathedral and then I went through the museum at the Bishop's Palace next store - home of the afore mentioned memorabilia of Charles X's coronation, while Hugh went for a walk and waited for me.
We'd decided to leave the car at the hotel - in retrospect should have given it back to the hire car company sooner but who knew - and just walked. We found a 3rd Century Roman arch on the edge of town known as the Porte Mars. There was nobody but us there and it was incredible to see. It sits in a long park near the railway station and it was ironic to see this ancient splendour as a garish carnival set up on the other side of the path - that's Europe I think! Lunch was in a simple bistro on the edge of town - one course only for me and I didn't finish what I ate (should have guessed then!). Then it was down a dingy back street to the Lycee Franklin Roosevelt and another trip highlight.
Last weekend, we went to Pegasus Bridge which was the first site taken by the Allies during the retaking of Europe. Yesterday we visited the spot where it all ended. Yes, in a former schoolroom in a building which had become SHAEF's Western headquarters, the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich occurred on 7th May 1945. The room that was used is still looking as it did in 1945, with maps of the theatres of operations on the wall, and chairs laid out as they were when Jodl and his colleagues went in to end it all. It could have happened two days earlier but the Germans had hoped to make a separate peace with the Americans and British and to be allowed time to get their troops out of the Soviet zone. As the Allies had agreed on total unconditonal surrender, this wasn't accepted and with no real choice left to them, the Germans capitulated and placed themselves in the hands of the victors. It was quite surreal to stand in this unassuming room and to consider the history that occurred there. Amazing!!!
Today was all about getting to Paris. We dropped off the hire car this morning early and got a cab back to the hotel for breakfast and some last minute packing. Our train left at 1143 so we headed to the station about an hour early - because we hate being rushed. Probably just as well as the dimwitted taxi driver took us to the wrong TGV station out of town! I spoke to the lady at the desk and she explained the problem. We then had to get another cab back to Reims Central - which was almost walking distance from our hotel - where we managed to find our platform, get our cases and bags on and be in our seats with minutes to spare! I hate that!!! It was a 50 minute journey to the Gare D'Est and we then had to unload our cases and bags. Fortunately the platform was at street level and there was an appropriately sized cab available. He didn't have a GPS so we had the fun of him finding his way via a map book - so old school - but he got us here without fuss and we were met by the property manager representative
We've had a walk through the neighbourhood and a late lunch at a bistro. We've taken our first photos of the Tour Eiffel and done a little food shopping. I'll tell you more tomorrow.