Our final stop on our return journey from the south of France was exactly the same as our first: Reims. The city seems to be ideally placed for people passing from Calais to the east of the country; it’s the largest town on that side that’s a good two or three hours’ drive, not too far, not too close, ideal for anyone who has a couple of hour ferry crossing as part of their day as well.
For us personally, it also worked out pretty well that Reims was roughly halfway between Calais and our penultimate halt in Lyon, and when we’d stayed there on our first night it had been a pretty short visit – we were still getting to grips with the metrics that indicated a good hotel such as the distance from the town centre (in hindsight, of course, pretty obvious) and we were pretty dead tired from a 5am start to get an early ferry from Dover, so we didn’t explore much of the city and I only got a handful of pictures. This time we could find a hotel closer to town, explore a bit more, and as we were only a few hours from Calais with a 6pm ferry we could also relax a bit more in the knowledge that we didn’t have much to hurry for.
This time, the hotel we stayed in was closer to the town, but also right by the train station. Me, I love trains, so I took a few shots of the railway from the window of our room.
Like many European cities, Reims has an extensive tram network. On our first visit we only encountered it on the main road; this time, we found it a few other places, including in a park.
I’m not used to trams much (the only ones near us are in Croydon, and usually when we enocunter them we’re actually riding them, and even then it’s during the sections where its on separate tracks), so it’s weird to me to see them get comparatively close to footpaths in a park, especially without any sort of protective barrier.
And even weirder, that the tracks would be laid on some of the more greener parts of said park.
The park these trams were running through was Les Hautes Promenades, which contains various war memorials, including this one to the French Resistance.
Being mid September at this point, although still nicely warm the trees were beginning to show the first signs of autumn. The orange-brown colours of the leaves compliments the colours of the French flag that was flying amongst them.
It wasn’t all park; we were well amongst residences where we were. I grabbed this urban image of one of the blocks.
This shot has been through a few processes, including the obvious monochroming, and it has also been straightened in Lightroom to make the vertical lines actually vertical and not converging.
Near the La Resistance memorial (to the French Resistance, not the best song in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) one can find La Porte de Mars, an old ancient Roman arch, apparently (according to Wikipedia) the widest arch in the Roman world. I presume at some point it served more of a purpose than just being a free-standing arch in the middle of a flower garden, but now all that remains are three arches.
Despite dating back to the third century, the details in the arches are still remarkably intact and sharp.
Close by is the Monument aux Mortes de Reims (seen in the background of the La Resistance image above), a memorial to the killed and injured in the First World War.
As we continued to wander around the city, I saw this combination of flag and architecture that caught my eye and warranted a photograph.
We stopped in a street café for a drink in a square with some very geometric topiary.
Our walk continued and we passed a bookshop which looked nice. First I tried a slower exposure to capture people’s blurred motion in front of the store.
At the risk of these coming out blurry in the wrong places, I also took a standard exposure of the store with no-one in front of it. I love the lights in the windows.
As the sun began to set, I got a shot of a street in the fading light and long shadows.
One of the more prominent landmarks we somehow managed to completely miss on our first visit was the catherdral of Notre-Dame de Reims. It’s quite big, but even on this walk we could have missed it (if it were not for the fact we’d looked it up on a map) as the end we approached from is well nestled amongst the surrounding buildings.
The cathedral was covered in carvings and gargoyles. Many, sadly, had not fared as well as the ones on the Roman arch, and showed a lot more damage despite being a millennia younger (it took quite a beating in the First World War). This guy seems pretty shocked to have lost his right hand.
The carvings above his head were much more ornate than what I’ve seen before.
Not all of the sculptures had fared as badly as he – this next fellow seemed to be largely intact. One of the benefits of bearing a cross, I guess.
Some, however, had fared worse. This one has lost both of his hands, and looks less surprised so much as disappointed.
Even this ornate side of the cathedral was butted up so close to the surrounding buildings it was hard to get a clear shot of it.
Fortunately if you were prepared to just get some closer shots of the details, rather than a wide shot of the whole cathedral, the sights were impressive, such as this stained glass window.
The gargoyles too seemed to be mostly intact.
At the front of the cathedral there was a large open space, allowing me the room to photograph the whole thing with my standard 24mm lens.
The details on the doorways was amazing too – including this, one of the more muscular effigies of Jesus I’ve seen.
We carried on our walk, beginning to loop back towards somewhere for dinner (ultmiately we had chosen to return to the same eatery we’d visited on our outard journey, as we enjoyed the food so much). The return had a few interesting sights to it. I quite liked the textures of these phoneboxes.
There was also this piece of graffiti. I think it says what I think it says.
I also had another opportunity to photograph the modern fountain on the Place Drouet d’Erlon.
This time I also tried some short shutter closeups as well as longer exposure wide shots.
I also took a few others goes at photographing the Place Drouet d’Erlon itself, this time with slightly more favourable weather than our first visit.
The statue – which I still haven’t identified, mainly through laziness – also held my attention for a few shots.
The next morning, after completing our final goodbyes to the city and having a relaxing breakfast knowing we had penty of time to make our ferry later that evening, I took a few pictures of the park near our hotel.
We headed for Calais, sad to be ending our holiday, but looking forward to getting home to our kittens after two weeks away.
It was a pretty amazing two weeks, though. This is a rough line of the route we took through Europe during the fortnight, excluding of course the trips we made during our static week on the southern French coast.
I certainly enjoyed the times when we were clearly the only UK car in sight. It gave me a sense of pride that few others from Britain had ventured that far in their own vehicle. That was mainly on our southernly journey down the east, away from the more-travelled routes to the south. Two weeks was quite a long time for us to be away (usually our holidays are a week long) but it was nice to have a week of travelling a lot and seeing a new place every day, even if it was very tiring, with a week of heavy relaxation in the middle. I don’t often sit still very well on holidays, so tiring myself out with six days of constant travel meant that I was ready to spend a few days not moving at all.
Would we do it again? I’d love to. I feel like we’re a bit more practised at it as well so we’d know what we’re doing. The first day was a bit stressful as we’d simply not done anything like this before; by the end we were well practised. What I would love is to do some of it again with more time for stopping. I regret not stopping by one of the French military cemeteries (which were far less ornate than the American ones), or pausing to take more photographs as we passed through the Alps.
Stopping and taking photographs, especially when I’m in a car, is something I’ve been needing to work on. I’ve improved it a little by travelling more often with my camera in the passenger cabin rather than the boot, but it is still difficult to find somewhere I deem safe to stop and take photos. The depressing thing is this is something I seem to have gotten worse at – I recall being better at it when we first visited the south of France on our honeymoon, a few months before Creative Splurges started.
What I’m most proud of on this holiday was how many pictures I took. By my standard, only 1,000 shots over two weeks is quite restrained, but what pleases me is I was selective. I didn’t take five shots of the same thing just because it was there, and I would often refrain from taking a shot just for record, choosing not to take the photo if, say, the foreground was cluttered with tourists and not the shot I was looking for. It’s amongst the first signs of me being more considerate of my photography, and planning the end result before I fire the shutter.
Aside from photography, we found many places we’d love to return to for longer stays in the future. Lake Annecy, Switzerland and of course Côte d’Azur itself are all places we hope to visit again and explore in a bit more depth.
Until then, that’s your lot for this trip. If you want to view all of the stops from our tour you can check out this link. Meanwhile, I’m off to edit the images from our last holiday, which we got back from last week.