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Exploring Northern France: Reims

I was invited on a trip to Northern France (along with Jordan, Carol, and Dave) by the the French board of tourism. Initially, I was going to sum up the trip to Reims, Dijon, and Poitiers in one post, but I found myself wanting to include more photos — particularly of the Reims Cathedral — and decided to split things up a bit so I could go into more detail.

Reims, France

Reims is 45 minutes from Paris by high-speed train, and the city had an interesting feel to it. It’s charming and the buildings look aged, but much of the town was destroyed in the World War I, with additional damage taken in World War II. Most of what you see is (relative to the rest of France) newer construction.

Reims, France

Reims, France

Fossier in Reims, France

Reims, France

If you like champagne, you probably already know this, but true champagne can only come from this region in France. The rest is ‘sparkling wine.’ It’s my favorite drink, so it was a bit of a bummer to be pregnant for this part of the trip. (“Non merci, je suis enceinte.”)

Champagne in Reims, France

I did enjoy learning about the process of making champagne (our time in the Taittinger cellar and on a tour went over everything from the grapes grown, the mixing of new and reserve juices, freezing the neck of the bottle to remove sediment, the aging process, and more), but I do wish I could have fully enjoyed the copious amount of champagne we were served while in the region. Champagne as an apertif! Champagne with dessert! In the dessert! Champagne with breakfast! You can even have champagne high up among the trees at Perching Bar.

Perching Bar in Reims, France

And then of course, if you’re looking for more to do in the area, there is the Reims Cathedral. I fell in love with it as a college student studying architectural history and had always dreamed of visiting.

Reims Cathedral, France

Along with the rest of the city, the Reims Cathedral suffered extensive damage during the first World War. The original roof was made of lead, and when the church burned, molten lead poured from the mouths of gargoyles situated high above along the perimeter. The horrific imagery was used as German propaganda supporting their cause, but the church survived and went on to be repaired in subsequent years. We were able to climb to the top, but getting there via a stone spiral staircase in one of the towers was not an easy feat. I’m so glad I did it, but at six months pregnant (and stupidly carrying my heavy camera equipment), I wasn’t sure I could make it! Every so often, you’re tricked into seeing light and thinking you might be done, but it turns out to be another window. The views were an amazing reward though, and it was fascinating to see the buttresses from above.

View from the Top of the Reims Cathedral, France

Reims Cathedral, France

Beneath the Roof of the Reims Cathedral, France

Only the cathedral in Chartres boasts more sculptural figures, and its beauty befit its importance as the site where many French kings were crowned. There is a statue of Joan of Arc, occupying the place she stood during the Coronation of Charles VII.

Reims Cathedral, France

Joan of Arc in the Reims Cathedral, France

Joseph Campbell said this, on being in the Chartres Cathedral, and I felt it in Reims as well.

I’m back in the Middle Ages. I’m back in the world that I was brought up in as a child, the Roman Catholic spiritual-image world, and it is magnificent … That cathedral talks to me about the spiritual information of the world. It’s a place for meditation, just walking around, just sitting, just looking at those beautiful things.

I myself no longer identify as Catholic, but what I felt in the church was an overwhelming sense of beauty and awe. I wept.

Reims Cathedral, France

A Good Travel Camera?

I just got back from my trip to France and Morocco! I’m so eager to tell you about it, but I need to get over jetlag, go through and edit my photos, and of course cobble together a few cohesive thoughts on the whole thing. So today, can I ask for a recommendation? I’d love a good camera for traveling. Something between my iPhone and my DSLR.

I brought my Canon 7D with two lenses (a wide angle 10-22mm, and my favorite, the 35mm f/1.4L prime) in a leather camera bag from ONA. Altogether, my camera gear was at least 10 pounds which I’m normally happy to carry for the sake of better quality photos. While six months pregnant though? I was jealous of my travelmates with small lightweight cameras. And really, I’ve been looking for a good travel camera for a couple of years now — it just took this trip to really make it seem like I ought to finally find something.

Traveling With My Camera Bag

I’m aware of a few options… Jordan bought a Sony NEX on the recommendation of a friend, and coincidentally it was the same model that both Carol and Dave were using, though theirs were provided to them by Sony. I was sent a Samsung Galaxy Camera to review for Babble in 2012, and I had high hopes for it but it was buggy and not as great as I’d hoped. I liked the quality of the Canon G10 that I used to own (I gave it to my sister a couple of years ago, but it looks like the new G16 might work for me now), and I’ve heard great things about the Fujifilm X100S, but I worry that the fixed lens is limiting and it’s expensive.

Since I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t need to carry all of my heavy, expensive gear with me, I’m still looking for the magic camera I was two years ago. Good in low-level light, wifi or bluetooth connection with my iPhone (or maybe just Eyefi compatibility?), manual and a variety of automatic modes (shutter or aperture priority), nice depth of field, a wide optical zoom range, and of course, something that can take good quality photos. Do you have any recommendations, or an impartial review site to check out? Thanks in advance for your help!

Eiffel Tower

Transitional Kitchen
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