The last time I had been to Laon, before yesterday morning, was in 1994. It was September that year and Walt and I were on vacation from California, staying two weeks in an apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris. Two other Californians we knew were also staying in Paris, over by the Place Monge, at the same time. The four of us rented a car and took a driving trip one day.
We started by driving from Paris up to Beauvais, and we ended up in Laon before returning to Paris. Maybe you've been to Laon. Walt had been there when he was a student in Paris in the early 1980s. It is not far northwest of Reims and not far northeast of Soissons. At Laon, there's a huge church at the top of town, in the « cité médiévale ». If you've been to Loches and to the medieval city there, you'll get an idea of the grandeur of Laon when I say it is probably three or four times bigger and more extensive.
Laon, by the way, is pronounced with a French nasalized Ã vowel, as if the O weren't in there. It rhymes with grand, blanc, sans, and lent. And paon, which means "peacock." The town's population is about 26,000. The butte that the upper town at Laon is built on has been settled since pre-Roman times — for about 5,000 years now. The church in Laon is a cathedral and was built between 1150 and 1180. Laon has been the seat of a bishopric since about the year 500 of the current era.
The pictures in this post show the cathedral at Laon. Some of them I've left at a fairly large size so that you can see details. Besides Laon, yesterday we also walked around in two other amazing churches. One was the cathredral at Reims, which is famous as the place where many French kings were coronated over 1,000 years of history. The other was a 15th century church I had never heard of before called Notre-Dame-de-l'Epine. It's in a tiny village five miles outside the town of Châlons-en-Champagne and has some amazing gargoyles.
Another thing I did yesterday was buy some champagne. We had just driven through Epernay and were passing through a village called Mareuil-sur-Aÿ when I noticed a champagne producer's sign. I went in, asked if I could buy a few bottles, and then tasted a Blanc de Blancs (pur chardonnay) champagne I thought was very nice. I bought three bottles of that, three bottles of regular brut champagne, and three bottles of the local Mareuil-sur-Aÿ red to take home.
It's hard to travel as much as CHM and I are traveling, seeing so many places and churches, and still find time to blog. Luckily, nowadays nearly all hotels in France have wifi connections, so it's easy to get on the Internet. But I'm tired in the evening and in a hurry in the morning. I'm doing my best...