From the Fountain of Time
Les Andelys and its sister, Les Petit Andelys are two villages that sit along the mighty Seine only some thirty kilometers upstream from Monet’s Giverny. With its domineering medieval castle perched on an adjacent cliff like a ledge and a river-side location, this is a beautiful spot in France. Only about 1600 meters east of the Seine in Le Grand Andely is a fountain from which a great tradition springs. Located on a small intersection away from the main thoroughfare, this fountain dedicated to Saint Clotilde is a quiet haven for some self-reflection and to see an example of France’s miraculous layered history. Tradition has it that Clotilde, wife of the Merovingian King, founded a convent (L’église Notre-Dame des Andelys) nearby in 511. To quench the thirst of cathedral workers, Clotilde prayed at a local spring and the water was turned to wine. The spring, which was said to have healing powers, became a destination for pilgrims. Over time, the pilgrimage developed into a celebration on June 2 of each year, two days before Saint Clotilde’s feast day. During these festivals, throngs would gather to bathe naked in the fountain’s waters. So crowded and rowdy were such events that many died after falling into the freezing spring waters or burning themselves on the bonfires that started. The festival garnered such a crowd that in the late 1700s, police tried to end the festival by clogging the fountain, but to no avail. The fountain and its waters are much smaller today, but one can still be a pilgrim like those who flocked to this site for a millennium.
La Feuille de Dreux
It took us to Stage 8, but finally the 2018 Tour de France hit its first highly localized cheese near the start town of Dreux. Here, la Feuille de Dreux shines with local charm as evocative as the ancient town after which it is named. This soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk was traditionally the snack of field hands, although now it has taken on a sort of artisanal form. Most notably, the cheese is embellished with a chestnut leaf, which prevented the cheeses from sticking to each other when stacked. Aside from aesthetics and functionality, the chestnut leaf also imparts a chestnut scent and subtle forest flavor that pairs well with a Loire red wine like Touraine (from around Tours). It’s definitely a delicacy that is worth seeking out while in Dreux.
A Home to the Sprinters
With its grand cathedral looming over the rest of the city, Amiens is a gorgeous city in the heart of the Somme. It is also a long-time host to the Tour de France having finished in the city ten times. With its flat surroundings, a finish into Amiens is always a fast sprint to the line. Of those ten finishes, the breakaway has only succeeded twice, 11 and 13 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. While Amiens’s first introduction to the Tour de France came relatively late in the Tour’s history on Stage 20 of the 1932 race, it became a staple of the route in the 1960s and 1970s when it hosted six times. During the three 1970s Tours, the Belgians dominated, winning all three stages in 1970, 1971, and 1975. More recently, Johan Bruyneel won a daring break in 1993 (25 years ago), thirteen seconds ahead Mario Cipollini. Only three years ago, Andre Greipel led the peloton home and claimed his second (of four) wins of that Tour de France. The 2018 Tour de France will likely prove to be like many of its predecessors, with an exciting bunch sprint. Grab a place close to the finish line and enjoy the excitement.