Every summer my father drives down to our house in Italy and plans the route using the Michelin Guide for cultural pitstops and of course excellent food.
First stop after exiting the channel tunnel was the Notre Dame de l'Epine.
This huge cathedral is in a absolutely god forsaken town (please excuse the blasphemy) that originally lived off its status as a pilgrim town. The impressive gothic church was begun in around 1405-6 and finished 1527.
You'll notice that the right spire is higher than the left. This is because the left one was levelled in 1798 to install the first ever telegraph pole - pretty interesting huh? It was then later rebuilt in 1868.
You can see this in the back of one of the modern (pretty ugly) stain glass windows. (Top left)
Here are some more of the interiors:
The guide book also told us to focus on the Gargoyles around he outside, so I'm thinking I should show you too…
And just an example of how tiny this town was (and, really, still is). One building for both the school and the town hall.
Next we decided we had to stop at one of the many World War I battle sights. The legendary city of Verdun definitely fit the bill.
We (probably quite rudely) decided that their legendary victory almost one hundred years ago was the only reason this town wa still well known. It's not the most beautiful nor interesting place I have ever been. That said, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Episcopal Palace, now the World Peace Centre. In commemoration for the many soldiers who gave their life, this plaque, in the shape of the cross of Lorraine, has incredibly moving extracts from German and French soldiers' letters home.
Two extracts in particular stood out to me:
"Lieber Schunke, wenn ich wieder nach hause komme brauchst du nichts mehr zu machen, kann alles jetzt, Bett machen, waschen und flicken, stopfen …"
(Dear Schunke, when I come back home you won't have to do anything for me anymore, can do everything myself now, make my bed, wash, darn, mend …)
This shows just how young many of the soldiers sent to the front line, who gave their lives for us, really were.
We then made our way to the L'ossuaire de Douaumont where the remnants of soldiers who fell in Verdun are kept. We even arrived as they were etching more names into the walls/ceiling.
130,000 crosses adorn the fields around the ossuary. Only a fraction of the number of crosses all over that part of France.
When we arrived here we came across what looked like a little military parade. In the end we worked out that it was a retirement parade for a veteran. There was trumpeting, speeches, soldiers shouting orders (all in French so I can be much more detailed than that).
That was that on the cultural front, and we made a bee line for Strasbourg, where my mother was waiting for us.
The city is just so idyllic. It has that interesting mix of a cute small town with cobbled streets as well as being an important (relatively) cosmopolitan city since it (as well as Brugge) is home to the European court.
We had dinner at an incredible place recommended by the Michelin guide of course, tucked around a little corner.
Seafood with a Japanese touch, which meant lots of ginger and lime, my favourite! The interior was even designed to be in keeping with the seafood menu:
First the crab tartar and then salmon sashimi
And my mother had this amazingly packages fish, wrapped up in a banana leaf
My father made the error (in his eyes only) of accidentally ordering a white wine that was 14% - who even knew that existed! We had a wander around the moonlight town and then retired to our rooms.