Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What is this thing called France?

During our childhood in England, France, and the rest of Europe for that matter, was a faraway place, full of foreigners and unlikely ever to have any impact on our lives. The advent of low cost, high volume air travel in the late 'sixties began to change all of this and, by the time we left England in the ‘seventies, vacations in Spain were already slaughtering the traditional English seaside resorts as everyone flew south for the sun.
Nowadays, it seems, English youth wouldn’t think twice about taking a summer job in Greece or Slovakia or holding their wedding or baby showers in Barcelona or Nice. Rather sad then, that our perception of France remained as simply a big dollop of land holding Germany and Spain apart, not worthy of further definition. Thus goes another keystone of my simpleminded view of the world; France is actually organized as eighteen regions each of which contain four to ten districts for a total of 84 districts. Some of the regions are household names for good reasons or bad, for example Burgundy, Britanny, and Normandy while others, such as Franche-Comte and Limousin, are less well known, at least outside of France. Our meander through France took us into six of these regions.

Troyes, about one third of the way down France, is in the Champagne-Ardenne region and is a medium sized mediaeval city of 60 some thousand souls which, like so many other cities we have visited, is in a constant state of refurbishment, maintaining the original look and feel of the city center and the close by urban areas. The 13th century Gothic cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul) is perhaps somewhat macabre with its Zodiac signs and terrifying gargoyles but it fits nicely with the area. We walked for several miles through squares, alleyways, narrow streets and courtyards, gaping at the postcard like scenes around every corner. Many photographs later we felt quite numbed by the scale of it all and just had to quit while we could still stand. Lunch comprised a couple of crunchy loaves stuffed with egg, cheeses and salad items and eaten while sitting on a fountain wall. Following is a selection of other street scenes. Click on any image to enlarge it.


LondonEye said...

Absolutely beautiful - I'm quite jealous!
c'est manifique!

Unknown said...

Outstanding keep these coming so we can enjoy right along with your two.
Reminds us of when we were in Switzerland.