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12th of March 2005


We took our car across to France through the Channel Tunnel, operated by Eurotunnel. You can't drive through the tunnel (ventilation and breakdowns), but take your car onto a train which takes several hundred vehicles through at a time.

Charles found the toy car in the passenger terminal ...

.. and the most comfortable chairs in the lounge!


Laon is an ancient walled city built on a rocky outcrop in eastern France. The modern town sprawls round the foot of the rock. Given its history and locati8on, we found it amazing that there were virtually no visitors and negligible tourist infrastructure.


The Cathedral, seen here against the skyline, is early 11th Century. Some of its features inspired the better-known masterpieces at Reims and Chartres.

Oriel window and lancets.

Another Oriel window at the West end.

Ancient wall paintings still survive on the East wall, in fairly good condition. Christ here is depicted on the Cross.

The main door is adorned with dozens of statues of incredible intricacy. The beautiful carving is a tribute to the faith of the people who made it.

A wider view of the front, showing the two towers symmetrically placed either side of the oriel window over the entrance. This was a model for the design of the later, larger and more elaborate, front at Reims.


The Gatehouse leading into the old walled city.

View of the new town from the City walls.

Charles escaped from Ivy, but not to cause havoc this time ... just to sit on one of the benches!

On top of Laon's City walls: Charles trying to warm his hands on David.


We stayed at the Hotel Mercure in the centre of Reims. This was the third hotel we tried, the others having been full. It is a good standard and within easy walking distance of the City centre.

Ivy preparing to go down to dinner at the Hotel restaurant.

Dinner .. including, of course, a bottle of Champagne (Reims being the centre of the Champagne area).

Charles going down the stairs from the Restaurant to the bar..


13 March 2005


The magnificent Gothic cathedral in Reims stands on a site where a cathedral has stood since the fifth century. It is dedicated to Notre Dame (the Virgin Mary). The present cathedral was started in 1211 and took over 100 years to build.

The entrance on the West side, with two tourists

Thefront is adorned with hundreds of intricately carved statues of saints and apostles, as well as the Old Testament prophets.

The twin towers rise several hundred feet in the air. They have been restored in the last century after severe shell damage in the first world war.

The Cathedral dominates the whole centre of the town. It can be seen from miles around.

Lectern in the shape of an eagle, covered in gold leaf.

A view of the aisle, looking to the East. Charles in the foreground gives an impression of the size.

The stained glass is brilliant, not only at the front but also in the transepts, seen here.


We stopped for lunch at a small, family run restaurant called the Pub des Maragolles, just outside Longwy. There was a family party in the same room who had some children a bit older than Charles, who kindly lent him some books to keep him amused ... in French, of course.

Throughout our trip through France we saw numerous large cemeteries for the fallen in the first world war. This is the 30 Corps cemetery in Verdun, which heroically held out against a long siege, led by Marshal Petain.

In memory of the suffering in the war, Verdun has declared itself the `world centre of peace'. Appropriately, this is symbolised by guns (example here in a memorial in the East of the city).

The French countryside is very open and sparsely populated compared with England. We saw loads of wildlife, including this enormous flock of migrating cranes. We also saw buzzards, deer, a little bustard, serins and a red kite, among others.

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