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Art Deco Capital – Reims

April 19, 2015 @ 9:10 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

la villa douceReims – the foremost city of the Champagne-Ardenne region. The coronation city of the kings of France – from Louis VIII to Charles X, 25 kings were crowned in Reims. Of the large towns of France, the one that suffered the greatest amount of destruction in World War I – fully 80% of the historic city was destroyed in German bombings. Yet, that devastating blow defined a new Reims, as intense reconstruction transformed the city into a laboratory of French architecture and, ultimately, the Art Deco capital it is today.

During this period between the two ‘great’ wars, Art Deco followed on the heels of the heavily ornamental Art Nouveau style, replacing that enthusiastic decorative art period with more of a purist geometric style. No, folks, I am neither an art nor architecture historian, so I won’t attempt to define all of the characteristics Art Deco represents. A few elements, though, include semi-circular openings, elongated octagons – an abundance of angular, symmetrical geometric forms in window framing, roof lines, elegant facades and ironwork.

Reims delights us with several major buildings of the 1920’s, from the Carnegie library and Saint-Nicaise Church to Villa Douce – the hotel particulier that is now home to the President of the University of Reims and frequent site of musical concerts. This Villa, built in 1929 by André Douce, was manufactured from reinforced concrete and red brick and includes an immense and quite stunning staircase with steel hand railings.

France Champagne Country

Art Deco in Reims

Partially funded by Americans, the reconstruction of the entire city emphasized a geometric plan with broad boulevards that would accommodate the anticipated popularity of the automobile. Art Deco architecture spreads through the city showcasing stained-glass windows, exceptional wrought ironwork, canted angles, Ionic capitals and ceramics.

Beyond the Villa Douce, one of the most remarkable buildings is the Waïda bakery and tearoom adorned with bright mosaics, elegant burr wood paneling and inlaid pictures of meal times and dishes. Perhaps you might top off your afternoon with a glass of wine at the renowned Café du Palais, under the protection of a glass roof designed by Jacques Simon.

Now a mere 45 minutes from Paris by the TGV Est, art, history and champagne enthusiasts will enjoy all of Reims; and Art Deco aficionados will appreciate the architectural tour now offered by the Office of Tourism.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Toasting Châlons-en-Champagne

@ 8:52 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
France Champagne country

Châlons-en-Champagne – Notre Dame en Vaux Church

Champagne country.  I think of Shirley Valentine, one of my all-time favorite films and characters.  Shirley was talking to the wall, you see.  I think all of us can imagine a moment or two, when we felt the wall might listen better than people.

“Do you know what I’d like to do, Wall? I’d like to drink a glass of wine in the country where the grape was grown. Sitting by the sea, just sipping wine and watching the sun go down.” — Shirley Valentine

Now that’s a girl after my own heart … yet, I shall one-up Shirley.  I’d like to drink a glass of champagne by a river in France, and I know just the place to enjoy that moment.   During our planned trip to Champagne country, Châlons-en-Champagne definitely makes the itinerary.  Referred to as “Little Venice” and sometimes, perhaps more fittingly as “Sparkling Venice”, the lovely small city enjoys an interweaving of canals and rivers – the Marne, Nau and Mau.

As the capital of the Marne department and the Champagne-Ardenne region in northeast France, Châlons-en-Champagne embraces renowned architecture – including the remarkable The Notre-Dame-en-Vaux Church – half-timbered houses, lovely gardens and one of the oldest museums of France.  Combine the city’s religious and historic heritage with the natural riverfront benefits, and you have a city well worth toasting!

Jos. Perrier Champagne

Renowned champagne houses of the region

The Romanesque and Gothic Notre Dame church is a UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compestela.  As well the church enjoys pride of ownership of a 56-bell carillon, one of Europe’s largest.

Now, turning back to my original Shirley thought, the city also is home to the prestigious Joseph Perrier Champagne House.  “Perrier, Madame?  Mais oui!”  Overlooking the Marne River, the Perrier vineyards naturally include the three traditional champagne grapes – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay – and, hopefully, a little spot along the river for a genuinely pleasurable taste of this classic champagne.

If not, no problem.  We’ll find a shady spot, where the river and bubbly can flow together.  Along the way, we might also take one of the barge excursions on the Mau and Nau Rivers that follow silent tunnels under the heart of Châlons.  We also will escape to the Jards, as the local gardens dating back to the 16th century are called.    The large, small and English Jards spread across raised walkways to keep the Marne at bay.  Interestingly, the horrid storm of December 1999 that decimated many of the oldest trees of France uprooted many of the city’s trees.  Over a five-year period, the city restored trees and shrubs to those garden areas.

In spite of Châlons-en-Champagne’s Capital status, the city really is small by comparison to Reims.  We plan to move along for a stay there or in Epernay, as we enjoy more champagne … and talk to more walls!  Le joie de vivre!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Annecy: Magnificent Alpine City

April 11, 2015 @ 12:25 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Lake Annecy, France

View of Lake Annecy from the “Champs de Mars”

Annecy is simply breathtaking.  We snaked our way down a curving road to crystal-clear Lake Annecy set against a spectacular backdrop of Alpine peaks.

Once in the city, we looked over the lake from the shade of centuries-old trees in the “Champ de Mars” – a cool and inviting lakefront park and gathering place for residents and visitors.  The second largest lake in France … and the cleanest in Europe … Lake Annecy has been fed by small mountain rivers through the past 18,000 years.  With many restrictions and regulations, they are devoted to keeping it that way!

The turquoise lake spreads over 14 miles below the Tournette Mountain soaring in the background.  Boats dot the lake; tiny birds practice their diving skills, and lazy swans entertain visitors along the canals that lead to the lake.

The scene is one that begs you to simply sit for a while and watch the sailors and swimmers and folks lazing under the trees on a warm summer day.

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved.

Fascinating Secrets of Lyon

April 7, 2015 @ 1:02 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Lyon France traboules

Vieux Lyon riverfront – Atout France/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

A silk scarf and a bottle of wine. What could they have in common?

We look to the traboules of Lyon for their shared history, where these ‘hidden’ passageways are noble tributes to the resilience of mankind. Through the centuries, in fact, the traboules have served many purposes from passageways for water transport, silk workers, World War II resistance members and tourists. Though the historic traboules might warrant a full-length book, today we’ll focus on the silk workers.

Dating as far back as the 4th century, the traboules of Lyon originally helped move water from the banks of the river Saône to the residents of Veille Lyon. Chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, this Renaissance district of Old Lyon developed primarily through the 15th and 16th centuries and included a maze of narrow alleys and remarkable courtyards. Over time the traboules continue to symbolize a virtual labyrinth of history and protection from the elements. Even today in-the-know residents may easily avoid crowds and inclement weather by winding through the passageways of Vieux Lyon and the Croix-Rousse districts.

historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

Let’s slip to the 18th century, when textiles – particularly silk – had begun to define Lyon’s industrial profile. Known as canuts, the nearly 30,000 silk weavers lived in the working-class areas of Croix-Rousse; where the huge Jacquard looms were located. The traboules, then, became fast, protected passageways for delivering bolts of silk to the city markets on Presqu’île peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers.

The hard economic times of late 1831 and the swing of silk prices from merchant to merchant prompted one of Europe’s first uprisings of the Industrial revolution. The outcry of oppressed silk workers resulted in the canut revolts in Lyon, when workers wanted fixed piecework tariffs. When negotiations failed and many of the large manufacturers refused the fixed rates, the workers amassed in the traboules and worked their way to the city center. Initially they gained a bloody victory, but King Louis-Philippe soon dispatched his 20,000-strong army to retake Lyon.

The seeds had been sown, and three years later salary cuts provoked a second insurrection – also defeated. In 1848 a third uprising arose over despicable working conditions. Authorities, though, crossed the ultimate line with their determination and actions to cut alcohol consumption among workers. They dictated that a carafe of wine would contain less wine at the same price. Imagine! This definitely was not in keeping with the ideals of the French Revolution!

In one of Lyon’s most famous and complex traboule courtyards – the Cour des Voraces – the incensed workers gathered to rightfully claim the full-size of their wine carafes. Now we return to your glass of wine and silk scarf … had you any idea! Imagine further how well the secret passageways served the Resistance fighters of World War II. For another day, that story easily rivals the plight of the silk workers.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.