Friday, May 16, 2008
Letter No. 9
Bonjour from Troyes,
We had heard from several sources that Troyes is worth seeing. After spending the first half day here—we drove from Langres in the morning-- we have to agree. The inner city is old – medieval to Renaissance – and although an interesting city, it’s not a real tourist trap. People live here in these ancient buildings. The shops that are on the first floor are real shops – clothing, beauty parlors, shoes, etc. as well as cafes, bistros, restaurants, etc.
We’re planning to stay at least two nights. On our first day, we oriented ourselves, visited two of the ten ancient churches in this town and then returned to the campground, in the usual state of exhaustion!
Every one of these churches apparently has its own wonders. Today we visited St. Madeleine’s to see the 14th century building and it’s beautiful stained glass windows. Apparently, medieval Troyes was noted for its windows – and rightly so. They are truly stunning. And the amazing stone curtain, known as a jube (raredos in England???). It looks for all the world like a fringed piece of fabric! It’s a definite Wow!
Equally interesting, though, is how the glass survived two world wars. Adelle made an attempt to ask about that, in French, of the only person in the church besides the tourists. Wonder of wonders, she spoke English, and she told us that they had removed all the glass panels and packed them away for the duration of the war. These are the originals and they date from the 13th century.
She also said that all the churches in France took their stained glass down – a statement that we believe is true because we’ve asked at other churches and got the same answer. She wanted to know which of the other churches we’ve seen, and when we said this was the first, she suggested St. Pantaleon so off we went. This church is “new” – 16th century. During the Revolution, when the Republic’s troops were busy tearing down statues and churches, many 16th century statues were hidden here - and they have remained. Its glass is a form we’d never seen before. Instead of bright colors, it uses a subdued brown outline of its subjects. This “grisaille” stained glass was very popular in the 16th century.
Tomorrow we’ll see the Cathedral. We also planned to visit the Vauluisant Museum, which concentrates on the Troyes school of stained glass and a long history of fabric manufacture. It is housed in a Renaissance building. However, two German fellows notice our license plate and we had a great conversation for about 20 minutes, mostly in French about all sorts of things but especially about how interesting Troyes is. They recommended a different museum specializing in handicrafts which they said was superb and unique in all the world. With a recommendation like that we probably will go to that, and see if we feel up to two small museums and a cathedral in one day.
As an aside, when Adelle originally wrote Take Your RV to Europe, she wrote that “no one knows what is in an andouille”. In the booklet that the Tourist Office gave us about Troyes, we found out what is in an andouille – and it is much better that you don’t know!
On our way back to the campground, we were waiting for the bus when a little French boy heard us. He asked if we were English and was very excited to hear that we come from Les Etats Unis. His school had just begun to teach the children English this year, and he says he loves it. All the time we were at the bus stop and all the way until we got off the bus, he questioned us carefully about our life in America. We were both impressed by his command of English – and when we left, we told him to try to e-mail us. How wonderful to be speaking another language while you still have the facility of youth.
First “job” this morning was to use the WI FI facility at a hamburger chain named “Quick” since the McDonalds in town didn’t offer this service. We got there earlier than they opened, and the staff told us to use the WI FI on the picnic tables outside. Which we did. We were there a long time – and Adelle suggested we buy our lunch there…so Ron went in to check it out. A plain hamburger was 4 euros 50 - which at the current rate of exchange was approximately $7.00. That is much too much for a fast food hamburger in a world of delicious baguettes.
We had walked the few blocks to this place, so we retraced our steps, ate lunch in the RV, and went into town. First stop was the cathedral – a beauty, of course. We didn’t stay too long because they were closing the building (from 12 to 2, n’est-ce pas? We walked to the one museum that didn’t close for lunch. It was quite a long way, but it gave us the chance to see more of the old buildings.
Our German informant had said this was a unique place, and he was correct. A local priest had spent his life collecting an cataloguing tools, mostly from the 17th and 18th century, many from professions which have mostly disappeared. The displays were, as Ron said, “artful” as well as interesting, and they gave us an explanation of the exhibits in English to take along. This was a huge collection – numbing, exhausting and extensive. When we finished, we were both tired. But we pushed on.
The other museum turned out to be much less exhausting. In the first place, they had a movie about the bonnetiers of Troyes, all in French. Didn’t matter to us. We needed to rest and we got the sense of most of the film. Incidentally, bonnetiers don’t make hats, they make socks and other kinds of things that require machines that make circular cloths. There were all kinds of old machines on exhibit, as well as a collection of socks and stockings, mostly dating from the last ten years of the 1800’s up to 1910. It was interesting.
Their 16th century statue collection was less so, and the promised stained glass window section was closed. Didn’t matter. We’d had enough. A cup of coffee to revive us and we’d go on home.
The sky looked like it was going to rain…so we walked back to the bus stop and were lucky enough to get on a bus and return to our home-away-from-home before the deluge. We still have a problem with a leaky roof (no air conditioner, you see), but there was very little leaking because Ron noticed that if we moved two feet forward, we would be on an angle and no water would puddle up. Let’s hear a cheer for a good idea!
We spent the evening debating whether to drive all the way to Bruges in one day – 246.7 miles – or drive even longer and break our journey with a stop in Verdun. The final decision was a practical one. If it looked as if it would be a rainy day, we’d spend the day driving. Otherwise, we’d stop at Verdun.
We’ll let you know how it turned out.
Adelle & Ron