Thursday, July 25, 2013

A quick tour of Troyes then on to Sauve in southern France

Note: The following narrative is based on My Trip Journal entries recorded during a trip I made to England and France in May 2013 with my companions, Richard and Cecelia White from Chatham, England.

We arrived in the city of Troyes yesterday evening and I was enthralled by all of the medieval buildings still in pretty good nick as my English friends always say. There were a number of impressive churches and a marvelous cathedral with flying buttresses and glowering gargoyles, too! The center of town was latticed with channels of water with the occasional sculpture that I found very pretty. 

Panoramic view of the French city of Troyes and its cathedral.  Photo by
Mary Harrsch.
So we got up early so we could spend a couple of hours walking around Troyes before heading south to our "gite" (a French guesthouse).  We went downstairs at the hotel and found a beautiful spread of fresh fruits, yogurts, a variety of rolls, flan and beverages. We watched the news laughing at our efforts to translate for the French announcers. 

The amazing breakfast buffet at our hotel in Troyes, France.
Photo by Mary Harrsch.
Then we repacked the car and headed off on foot to photograph what we could within walking distance. I tried to spot various gargoyles and get closeups of them and got a couple of nice panoramas of the town square and fountain area. 

Panoramic view of the historic town center of Troyes, France.  Photo by Mary Harrsch
Carousels seem to be very popular here and they are quite ornate. Troyes had one in the town center and yesterday I had photographed one across the street from the entrance to Fontainebleau. 

Carousel lends a festive air to the center of Troyes, France.  Photo by
Mary Harrsch.
As it turned out the cathedral was being rennovated so we couldn't go inside but I tried to get some nice shots of the exterior.

The tower and front rose window of the Cathedral
of Peter and Paul in Troyes, France.  Photo by
Mary Harrsch.
Mythological creatures sculpted on the ramparts of the Cathedral of Peter
and Paul in Troyes, France.  Photo by Mary Harrsch.
The streets of the historic district in Troyes are
lined with batted 16th century-era buildings.
Photo by Mary Harrsch.
As it was getting on towards mid-morning, we hustled back to the hotel and struck out for the southbound motorway. The countryside I had seen so far was a gently undulating patchwork of green pastures and bright yellow fields of flowering rapeseed sprinkled with wind turbines but as we neared the Burgundy region the land became much more hilly and the forests were punctuated by occasional patches of evergreen trees. Soon I began seeing fat cream-colored Charolais cattle grazing in the fields and the freeway was lined by wine bottling plants. 

Français : Vache de race charolaise avec son v...
A Charolais cow and calf. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My friends told me that the evergreen trees were not native to that part of France but imported. Now they are viewed as an invasive species.  This, of course, sounded strange to me being from Oregon where Douglas fir are prized for their quality lumber.

The motorway rest areas here are very extensive with both DariMart-like convenience stores and full sit down restaurants. Some even have developed playgrounds for the children. The French must also enjoy camping as you see lots of signs depicting camp trailers and picnic tables for camping areas. I wished we would have had more time to explore some of the historical sites along the way as well. I eagerly looked for the iconic brown heritage signs as the French put pictures of the actual structures on the directional signs. There might be a castle, a chateau or even a Roman bridge depicted. But we were planning to explore Nimes tomorrow and were expected at our guesthouse tonight so we really couldn't stop as we had to drive over 400 miles today.

As we neared Orange we spotted a crenelated fortress high up on a rock formation. I think we must add it to our must visit list!

We finally turned off the motorway to head for our vacation cottage just outside of the village of Sauve. 

The village of Sauve on the banks of the Vidourle River in southern France.
Photo by Mary Harrsch

We stopped at a pretty good sized supermarket to buy some Toulouse sausages and couscous for dinner. It was my first visit to a French supermarket and it looked very similar to ours although they had some really delicious items that we don't ever see - at least not in Eugene/Springfield. Of course the French love breads and pastries so the bread section was quite extensive, many containing chocolate bits as the French are really fond of chocolate, and there were so many choices of cheese it was almost overwhelming. I was actually looking for east European-style farmer's cheese though and couldn't find any so I settled for a wedge of chaumes.

The terrain here in the south of France is much more Mediterranean looking with umbrella pines, junipers and yellowish rocky outcroppings. We found our "gite" down a narrow track that wound its way past an old mill that had been renovated into a residence then into an adjoining field.  Our cottage was a low-roofed adobe-style structure with a combination living room-kitchen space, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a separate shower room.  Actually this arrangement is quite convenient as it does not tie up the bathroom if someone is taking a long shower.  The pictures my companion had sent me showed a swimming pool and I didn't see one but a walk around the property revealed a full sized pool out in the middle of the field a short walk away.  

Our host greeted us and gave us a supply of clean towels and we found the buffet in the dining room stocked with dishware.  Cecelia had volunteered to do the cooking and soon had a delicious skillet full of Toulouse sausages cooked, sliced and added to a dish full of couscous along with some sauteed zucchini and fresh tomatoes.  It tasted so good after a long day of travel.

Tomorrow, after taking care of a few more housekeeping chores, we're off to explore the Roman amphitheater at Nimes. There is also a Roman temple and a museum of gladiator armor. I also saw an ad for a bullfighting museum with matador costumes that might be interesting but I have no plans to attend a real bull fight as this is one of the last places in France where the bull is tormented and killed for the crowd.

To see more of my images of France, visit my Flickr account!

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