Nature pleases – Picardy 4

End of October 2018

Wu Chi – undifferentiated timelessness, the un-manifest aspect of the Tao. In peacock feathers from the garden birds.

I enjoyed teaching an introduction to Chi Gung for a group of Masters students (Greek, Dutch, American) from the Netherlands before I left. Their performances at Thursday’s showcase were stimulating: a two-hander addressing non-binary issues in an appropriately naïve style, and a quirky performed reading reminding me of the toymaker in Copélia.

View from the garden. It was colder in the final days, but I still did T’ai Chi there in the morning sun.

Delicate ivy ‘drawings’ on the wall.

Silver birch bark – surely the origin of the design of camouflage clothing!

Autumn leaf burning by E. I sat and watched the burning embers and the small flames lick as the sky darkened. The fire was still warm in the morning.

The walk back to the station took me past Halloween house decorations, the luminous sumac tree, and a village hall (last time the gate was shut and I couldn’t see in, so this time I crept up and peered in the window – they were all playing cards in there!). Then there were two furry friendly (hungry?) donkeys who I was instructed not to feed, and several people who kindly stopped to offer me a lift, which I declined so I could walk.

Sumac tree.

The WW1 memorial for the dead soldiers, significant given that the topic of my studies is death.

German troops occupied these small villages between 19 14-18. Britain helped out. There are information boards all along the roads of this area of Picardy with photos of these times.

Strips of roots growing across the bottom of the tree.

A whorl of bark.

Flowers found at ground level on the pavement.

Outside the old school is this lovely sundial with the inscription La grive aux raisins (thrush with grapes is a delicacy and also the name of the local newsletter) and on the gate of the village room.

View from the train to Reims.

Another sundial, a giant one in Reims lit up in the night. Cadrans Solaire de la Marne, also connected to WW1 as the River Marne, site of the battles of 1914 and 1918 where the German advancements were halted.

From the back of a toilet door at Le Maryland bar in Reims – not so very respectful of our monarch!

This bar is near the Cathedral and I do not recommend it as it was full of smokers and smoke, and with men making not so-funny remarks. I didn’t feel comfortable there on my own.

Sculpture by Armelle Blary https://armelleblary.com in a window in Reims – inspired by the work of Louise Bouregeois I would guess.

Les bunnies. At the home of Julie Martin who was my bla bla car driver 10 days before and who kindly invited me to stay on my return. Together with her lovely flatmate, Marie, I was cooked two sorts of crêpes which were delicious.

Many thanks to them for their hopitality. Check out their innovate business: Be Vegetal My Friend which offers all sorts of workshops with plants and flowers, plus you can see Julie demonstrating what she does, and go there to get designs for your wedding or event.

Julie Martin, Be Vegetal My Freind, in her element!

Reims Tourist Information

Picardy, France

17th October – Reims to Saint Erme

I am in Champagne country, in Picardy. I took the train from Reims.

The driver waited patiently

The countryside looked amazing through the train window – flat, on into the distance, great expanses of single colours.

A little like a desert

I visited the Artisan Baker and then left my rucksack under a tree as the Intermarché was in the opposite direction and I was tired.

I set off with the additional weight of shopping (root veg and cheese) and the first place of note I passed was the library – so surprising to see one in this small but well resourced village. The three women greeted me effusively and showed me around, asking me questions, instructing me on how to use it and proudly showing their collection of English books. Marie T was just leaving, she said, and offered me a most welcome lift, telling me her incredibly sad personal family ‘death’ story on the way. She said that volunteering at the library had been her lifeline and now she was living again.

The local church

I am staying in a old convent (where nuns are or were is always a good place for me). It was used as a prison and a hospital in the past by the Americans and the Gestapo so it has a chequered history.

The walled garden is by far the best bit

18th October 2018

In need of redecoration but charming and clean

Early the first morning, the cockerel (that’s him above, all white and fluffy) asks us why we are not outside yet. He is right, it is a gloriously sunny morning. I found a spot between four silver birch trees for t’ai chi.

Later I was greeted by Johnny the gardener and able to keep practicing my French. Everyone is really friendly.

Especially the cat, Buddha
The peahen and her mate aren’t shy
They hoot in the courtyard
Necking in public!

The hives are not producing honey but they have a local source.
Spiralling up to a pool of sunshine I sit and soak it up, starting my writing.

Oak trees make me feel at home

L from New Zealand crouches in a grotto – he wears nail varnish and makes both art as well as shelves – his contribution to the community.

Avoiding the wasps delightedly supping

I move as the sun goes behind trees, finding new spots.

Collecting windfalls – brown, yellow and red; prising walnuts from their damp black coats; snapping hazel shells for a breakfast from the garden.

Someone has made apple cake and roasted some chestnuts which I add to my banquet.

Autumn delights

We drink tea and eat homemade cakes during the English conversation group that evening. I learn about some of the local people, their jobs, travels and families. We have a laugh.

Amazing views

Reims

Mid October 2018

Leaving busy, noisy Paris from Nation

One and a half hours from Paris Nation by Bla Bla Car, Reims is in champagne country. Not far from the Belgian border, it is just north of the Wildlife Parc Naturel Régional de la Montagne de Reims, west of Metz and south of Lille.

Reims train station

I visited for part of a day and there is undoubtedly more to see. Julie, my driver, deposited me at the Gare / station (there are 2 entrances) and as we bade each other goodbye she kindly invited me to stay with her in a week’s time – she is a couch surfing host.

Very smart looking trams stop here too

Opposite the front of the station is a park, Square Colbert, which was completely closed for landscaping, and beyond that, along the Boulevard du Général Leclerc, are the posh hotels. At right angles is Place Drouet d’Erlon, along which you will find eating places galore.

And the magnificent Fontaine Subé, statue and fountain

I unfortunately chose poorly (I wanted a place in the sun and a chèvre / goats cheese salad). I do not recommend Café Le Gaulois – the food was very poor quality and over priced.

However, I did enjoy my kir!

The Catholic Église Saint-Jacques (Church of the patron Saint of the caminos (walking pathways, les chemins) in Spain (the one who gave Santiago de Compostella its name).

A beautifully simple façade

I found the Musée des Beaux-Arts quite by chance.

The black figurative sculptures look like shadows along the wall, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims
This is the garden a the back of the Musée des Beaux-Arts

The next stop had to be the cathedral, stunning against the blue sky.

Wonderful Gothic architecture of the Notre Dame de Reims cathedral. The place where 30 Kings of France were crowned.
Outer detail – angels
And inside, two of the spectacular stained glass windows, cathedral, Reims
The Basilica Saint Rémi is well worth seeing. This plaque is on the ground of the cathedral

Round the side of the cathedral the Carnegie Library can be found.

Art Déco entrance to the Carnegie Library
Foyer light, Carnegie Library, Reims
Detail – tiles showing a patient having his back examined, Carnegie Library, Reims
Window of the Reading Room showing books, Carnegie Library, Reims

I passed the Opéra, the opera house on my way back to the station.

The Opéra is also an example of Art Déco design
The Opéra seen from the front with Tragédie and Comédie at either end, and famous French composers inbetween
Someone has put up a bunch of dried flowers in memory of the ‘Martyrs of the French Resistance’
Grass is grown between the tramways – a good idea for Edinburgh?
I saw this on the window of the Tourist Information as well as here, at the door of the station, Reims

Reims Tourist Information

Reims Cathedral

Opéra de Reims

Carnegie Library, Reims

Musée des Beaux-arts, Reims

Bla Bla Car car sharing website – more ecological and cheaper than public transport – takes a bit of getting used to, but a great way to meet people

Couch surfing a worldwide website for people who offer a bed or couch to travellers. No money changes hands, but you are expected to offer something – to cook a meal or, in my case, give a Shiatsu.