|Day 1 - Caen to Beauvais|
Breakfast in Honfleur
This year Linda and I decided to visit an area of France that we had not been to before. Our target was Alsace and the little town of Ste. Marie aux Mines the home of the European Patchwork Show for the last eighteen years and the cradle of the Amish movement . I have wanted to go there for a long time now but the dates have always clashed with something else so this year it was written in the Diary at the beginning of the year to make sure we got there. Our route was to take us from the ferry port at Caen around the north of Paris to the East and then down to Alsace. We stopped at Honfleur for breakfast. This was the first time I had been back there since I was 14!!! but it was as I remembered and just as beautiful, though a lot more busier with Tourists. I went there in the 1950's when France was still recovering from the bombardments of the Second World War.
We had lunch here at Duclair beside the River Seine. The weather was glorious. There is a chain ferry here to take cars the short distance across the river to the other side.
After a stop at one of the Abbeys along the route we made for Rouen. We made straight for the Cathedral. We spent some time inside to take photographs and then made our way to the Square. We spent quite a bit of time here reflecting on the past. It was here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. After a while we decided we ought to find a bed for the night. We made for the Hotel Campanile and were devestated when we were told that the Hotel was full. We were both hot and tired and were looking forward to a shower and a rest before dinner. We decided to go on a further 60 miles to Beauvais and see if the Campanile there had any rooms. We were lucky this time.
Awesome is the only fitting word I can find to describe the Cathedral at Reims. Our drive to Reims took us through varied countryside. Our first stop was at Pierrefonds to look at the fabulous Chateau which was first built in the 15th century. From there we drove through the Forest of Compeigne past the place where the Armistice was signed in 1918. Compiegne is situated at the confluence of the Aisne and Oise rivers. A royal and imperial city, it has been the scene of major events in French history. We arrived at Reims in time for lunch. Unfortunately the weather had changed and it was raining.
Fresco at Toul
On leaving Reims - Epernay was our target and this took us through rolling countryside with acres and acres of vines. We were in Champagne country. Before we reached Nancy we stopped at a place called Toul. The first thing we saw as we drive into the Town Centre was a 'Brocante' with lots of lovely junk outside on the pavement and here we made our first purchases of the trip. Toul is a fortified town and has a wonderful Cathedral. There is a lot of restoration taking place and I was thrilled to find that there are still a fair amount of the original Frescos in tact. Toul has links to Joan of Arc too. She was forced to appear here before an ecclesiastical court when she was being sued for breach of promise before she became a Soldier. On reflection this was turning out to be a Joan of Arc route purely by co-incidence. At the Tourist Information Centre in Toul I found a book about her and we were getting close to where she was born. She was from Domremy and was an Alsacienne.
Ste. Marie aux Mines.
We drove through spectacular countryside of forest covered hills and lush green plains. Ste. Marie is in the Val d'Argent and is an extremely pretty place with some very ancient buildings - 16th century - and an abundance of bright geraniums. We stopped in Ste. Marie before heading to our Hotel in Ostheim a few miles along the valley. We managed to park the car in the Square and the first person we saw was Mary Koval whom we had met last November at Cowslip Workshops. Mary sells Antique American Quilts . We went to Register and bought our Entrance tickets for the next 3 days and went to look at the Traders. We found Petra Prins, the Dutch lady we had met last year also at Cowslip and then drawn to a stand full of lovely old stuff we recognised the owner as someone we used to see at Le Mans when we used to go there to trade at the Exposition de Textiles Anciennes. Dominique Jouvenet is her name and we bought a load of stuff from her and very pleased we were too!! We had a look at a few of the Quilts but decided to go on to our Hotel as we were travel weary.
To be continued .....................................................