The truth is that after several days spent on the road, we started to feel a bit jaded.
The enthusiasm with which we had explored Turin and then crossed the Alps was pushed aside by a curious type of tiredness. I felt my mind overflowing with the impressions accumulated during yet another day driving through the beautiful French countryside. Lush rolling hills were followed by fields of golden wheat criss-crossed by deep rivers and man-made canals navigated by colourful barges. Chocolate-box houses covered with flowering roses made irresistible the dainty French villages our GPS lady was taking us through.
Even though we only drove for a few hours each day and took frequent breaks, by the time we would reach that day’s hotel in the early afternoon, I realised that I was more inclined to stay in and relax than to go out and obsessively explore the city we had just arrived in.
Countless beautiful views glimpsed in passing through the windows of our little red car were clamouring for space in my increasingly weary head. Have you felt like this on your travels?! Like you have had too much to see and absorb?! Suddenly, all I wanted was a good night’s sleep in order to be able to recharge my batteries and turn what we had seen during the previous days into lifelong memories.
This is why once we reached Reims, we didn’t rush out immediately to explore it. We stayed in, had a lovely dinner in our hotel room and in the morning tentatively ventured out. Yes, I had compiled a ‘must-see list’, but for the first time ever in my travelling life it consisted of one point only:
1. Visit Reims Cathedral.
And so we did.
The Gothic beauty was undergoing some restoration work and a tall scaffolding covered the middle portion of its richly ornamented façade. Still, the cathedral was a very impressive sight, raising high up towards the blue French sky at the end of a long straight boulevard.
As the weather was so nice – warm, sunny and with a refreshing breeze – people were seated in front of cafes and bars, kids were playing in the square of the cathedral and some very innovative water fountains flowed from long and narrow stone blocks.
Up close the cathedral commanded all our attention with its high number of full-size sculptures and stone-carved decorations.
I was particularly taken with the water spouts the tops of which had been turned into whimsical metallic animals.
A steady flow of tourists and other visitors poured into the Cathedral. We joined them.
Inside the cathedral was almost bare. As it had been the place where French kings had been coronated, I expected a lavish interior. Instead the only burst of colour the cathedral seemed to posses were the huge stained glass windows.
From the more traditional ones…
…to some splendid modern patterns.
Even though there were many tourist groups scurrying around in the cathedral, its size was such that it appeared almost empty.
If you looked carefully behind the huge columns though you could see people who were quietly listening to their guides telling them the story of this 800-year old building and how it had been badly damaged during the First World War. Then they would go a bit snap-crazy trying to capture the beautiful windows and the reflections they were throwing onto the stone floor.
Above our heads beautiful chandeliers hung.
Otherwise, the interior was very austere and even the chairs for the congregation were quite simple and rigid.
Considering how richly the cathedral was decorated outside…
… I couldn’t stop marvelling at the contrast its almost bare interior created.
Just then something colourful and happy caught my eye. It was a long drawing made by local children and attached to the railings of one of the cathedral’s chapels. Drawn in by the bright colours and the smiling figures, we spent some time looking at the festive procession depicted.
And then the clock inside the cathedral struck 11.
It was time for us to go as we still had to make it all the way to Lille on that same day. We took one last look at the statue of the Golden Eagle beautifully offset by the stained glass windows.
Once outside, we enjoyed the late morning sun on our faces in the little square by the cathedral at the far end of which was the Archbishop’s Palace.
Then it was time to have some lunch, pile back in our little red car and continue our journey across France.