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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Headless Angels and their Kings

Nearly four weeks ago I arrived in France (after the plane merriment!) on a Saturday night to much jetlag.  On Monday morning I was picked up at 5:30 am to start my workday (11:30 PM Atlanta time!) to catch a train to a frozen food factory in the north of France.  In all of three hours I traversed more than half the length of France via the TGV (the high speed trains at 200 - 350 mph – faster speeds than some commercial air flights!!) to arrive in the Champagne region.  Champagne can ONLY come from this region – *everything* else is just "sparkling wine".  French people try to trick you all the time on this haughty detail, but don’t fall for their cunning ways.  Worked for three days in a microbiology lab with a bunch of frozen vegetables, salmonella, listeria, and heavily accented French people – kind of like talking to an aging onion farmer with bad teeth from southern Georgia.
One of many angels sans heads
The champagne region has a “Tourist Route” that takes you all over the region's countryside, passing by miles and miles of champagne grape vines, all the big champagne houses (Moet & Chandon (Dom), Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot (Cristal), etc…), and about a million small champagne houses.  The entire region is a cask to underground cellars of champagne barrels and bottles.  Seriously, nearly the entire region!  (I took the Taitinger tour a few years ago – the cellars go on forever!!).

Had the opportunity to go for a couple runs in the city and be a tourist, picture-snapping at every street corner!  So, pictures---

Reims Cathedral – As mentioned before, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  This one is not much different, except that it is in the middle of cleaning and the clean and dirty differences are disgustingly impressive.  HOWEVER, this cathedral has a few interesting details… Every single king of France was crowned in this Cathedral!  The exterior also has remnants of some interesting details … Check out what some soldiers of the French Revolution did to many angels surrounding the entry doors…  Beheaded and Behanded, kind of like Marie-Antoinette.  

There are also a few pix of a big angel that is missing a wing and an arm.  She is the “Famous Reims Angel” that has been written about in tons of French stories and tales.  I have no idea why she is so famous, but she been written about for hundreds of years now apparently.  Research, anyone?

The last picture is Basilica Saint-Quentin, which like most 900+ year old buildings, is under renovation and cleaning.  It is big, old, dirty and bland (reference Georgia onion farmer again).  The Basilica in Lyon (Fourviere – last set of pix) is seriously spectacular; this gives you an interesting comparison.  It only warranted one picture (from my hotel room), and could have been skipped if I hadn’t been bored one afternoon.
Headless angel

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