31 January 2019

Churches, and some history

I think most of these photos are scanned slides. That would mean that Walt took most of them with a film camera. This first one, of the cathedral at Laon in eastern France, dates back to September 1994. We were staying in Paris in an apartment on the Île Saint-Louis, and some people we knew in California were also on vacation in Paris, staying over near the Place Monge in the Latin Quarter. We all decided to rent a car together and do a day trip up to several places with large churches north and northeast of Paris. We were pretty ambitious, drove too far, and were exhausted when we got back to Paris that evening. But it was fun. In 1994, I was 45 years old.

I've been back to Laon at least once since then. Here's a 2011 post to prove it.

On that same day trip, we stopped in the town of Noyon to see the church there. It was CHM (I've known him since 1983) who suggested we go there, and we enjoyed it. If I remember correctly, we had packed a picnic lunch and we found a spot in the gardens of the Cathédrale de Noyon where we could have the picnic. We didn't want to spend a lot of time in a restaurant that day, because we had a long drive planned. We left Paris early, drove up to Beauvais (I can't locate photos we took there), then continued on to Noyon and Laon. Three cathedrals in one day...

There are three 2010 posts about Noyon here.

Skip ahead nearly three years. It was 1997, and I was in Paris with my mother and my 15-year-old niece Charleigh. After a week in Paris, we went to Rouen to stay with friends there. And we went to one of the big sights to see in Normandy — the ruins of the abbey church at Jumièges, on the Seine between Rouen and Le Havre. My niece took this picture of me with my friend Jeanine, whom I've known since 1972. I lost touch with here about 15 years ago — she'd be 85 now, if she's still living. I met her because her son was in one of the English classes I taught at the Lycée Corneille in Rouen in 1972-73. Jumièges must have been quite impressive before it fell into ruin and was pillaged by local people who needed the stones it was built of to build their own houses, barns, and walls.

This isn't actually a church, but it was supposed to be one when it was built. It's the Panthéon and has been called that since the time of the French Revolution. In the mid-1970s, I worked in the neighborhood around the Panthéon, which is in the center of the Latin Quarter. I took French language classes at the Sorbonne (it's in the center of this photo) and I taught English classes at what was called La Sorbonne-Nouvelle, part of the greater Université de Paris.

Finally, here's another photo of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. I think these photos are scans of slides that Walt took with a film camera back in 1994. He and I met in Paris in 1981, ended up both living and working in Washington DC for several years and then moving to San Francisco in 1986. We didn't come back to France for six years, but we started traveling and coming to France on vacations in 1988. After 17+ years in SF, we re-located to Saint-Aignan in 2003.


  1. I stumbled upon Laon during a spontaneous weekend road trip not long after you were there. It supposedly was capital of France for a couple hundred years (Charlemagne and later) but I just tried to check that and it's disputed (but on the site of the mairie).
    On the same trip, I went to Guise, attracted in part by the name and in part by the inventive billboards. (As I remember, considering the decades past: first: See the Château of Guise! next: the Château of Guise is amazing! Turn coming up! next: Hope you're slowing down or you're going to miss the Château of Guise and your life will be poorer for it!)

    1. I know that Laon is worth the trip. Walt had gone there in the early 80s, and we returned in '94. Then I went back with CHM in 2011. Was Guise worth the stop? I don't know it.

    2. The name of Guise is certainly much more famous than the chateau! It seems that only a big ruined tower is what's left of the original ruined fortress! Coucy is another matter!

  2. I don't think I've ever seen Notre Dame from that perspective. I like it! My daughter is 45 now- it's quite different from being 73 lol.

  3. The west front towers at Laon are beautiful and quite different in style. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love Laon. The house where Abèlard lived is still there; yes, the 12th century Abelard and Heloise!


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