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Last Tuesday I got home from a wonderful 12-day trip to France for a family wedding. It was my first trip back in 4 years, and the first trip I’ve made to France with many of my family members.
It was also the first trip I’ve ever made to France that I didn’t get to do all of my favorite things in Paris!* Despite that, we had a wonderful time and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from our trip including a day-trip to the cathedral town of Chartres, a visit to la ville préférée des Français (the favorite town of the French) Rochefort-en-Terre, and more.
I may not have done everything I wanted, but we were really in France to celebrate the wedding of Anne-Laure (my former step-daughter) and Ronan. And it was a wonderful wedding. We stayed, ma famille et moi (my family and I) in a charming French country house in the campagne bretonne (the Brittany countryside). The location was perfect for a restful week, but also well situated to allow us to make day trips to some of the great local sights.
The wedding took place over two days! Like all French weddings**, it started with a civil service at the local Marie (town/city hall). Following the official marriage (conducted by Monsieur le Maire (“Mr. Mayor”)), we all walked around the corner to l’église for the church wedding. Each service in its own unique way was equally special as both le maire (the mayor) and le curé (the priest) shared personal stories about les mariés (the couple getting married, the bride and groom).
As lovely as the wedding itself, the party after was equally amazing! Les mariés chose to hold their reception at what was once the summer home of the Marquis de Lafayette . The location was lovely enough, but was made even more lovely by the many flowers – especially the hydrangeas which came from Anne-Laure and Ronan’s very own pépinière (nursery) Les Hortensias de Haut Bois*** (The Hydrangea of Haut-Bois). The festivities began with a cocktail ‘hour’ from 5 – 8 pm, followed by a fabulous dinner during which – in addition to eating – we played games, sang songs, and generally enjoyed the wonderful company . . . until midnight!
Despite the fact that I’ve always preferred Notre Dame from the back or side (the views are so much more interesting than the façade), I’ve apparently never paid that much attention to the details! This was the first time I noticed the series of statutes that adorn the roof around the central flèche (spire). Added during late 19th century renovation of the cathedral, the formerly bronze-now-verdigris statutes represent the douze apôtres (12 Apostles) in 4 groups of three and include the architect Viollet-le-Duc who had the statue of Saint Thomas designed with his very own traits!
* One new thing we did in Paris was to take advantage of a (relatively) new way to get around and see the city. Paris like many world cities now has a series of hop-on-hop-off bus options for zipping from sight to sight by land, but if you want to see the city from a different angle, you can take advantage of the Batobus. A Batobus ticket is good for 24 hours and lets you board and disembark as many times as you want travelling up and down the Seine with stops at the Eiffle Tower, Musée d’Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Près, Notre Dame, the Hôtel de Ville, Louvre, and the Champs-Élysées.
** In order to be legally married in France, couples must have an official civil marriage at the town/city hall. Unlike in the US and some other countries, French priests cannot ‘stand it’ as an official of the state and certify a marriage for legal purposes. In today’s more secular France, many couples opt only for a civil marriage (if they even get married; many more couples today are opting to simply live together), but others – like Anne-Laure and Ronan – will have both the civil service and a church wedding service.
*** If you ever find yourself in the area, you can visit la pépinière where you can tour the more than 20 acres of hydrangeas (over 750 espèces / species), enjoy the salon de thé / tea room, and shop in the boutique (or buy your own hydrangeas!).