Friday, September 23, 2016

Chemin des Dames, Medieval Laon and the Saint-Quentin Basilica 22 September

Our last full day with Richard and Pauline found the four of us driving from Saint-Quentin to the bucolic countryside known today as Chemin des Dames. During World War 1 this was the scene of horrific fighting between French and German forces (and later American and British as well). According to Wikipedia:

the Chemin des Dames (literally, the "ladies' path") is part of the D18 and runs east and west in the département of Aisne, between in the west, the Route Nationale 2, (Laon to Soissons) and in the east, the D1044 at Corbeny. It is some thirty kilometres long and runs along a ridge between the valleys of the rivers Aisne and Ailette. It acquired the name in the 18th century, as it was the route taken by the two daughters ofLouis XV, Adélaïde and Victoire, who were known as Ladies of France. At the time, it was scarcely a carriage road, but it was the most direct route between Paris and the Château de Boves, near Vauclair, on the far side of the Ailette. The château belonged to Françoise de Châlus, former mistress of Louis XV, Countess of Narbonne-Lara and former lady of honor to Adélaïde, whom the two ladies visited frequently. To make the way easier, the count had the road surfaced, and it gained its new name. The ridge's strategic importance first became evident in 1814 when Napoleon's young recruits beat an army of Prussians and Russians at the Battle of Craonne.

In fact, there is a statue of Napoleon just off the roadway. He stands on the base of the old mill and is looking toward the Prussian lines. The original village of Caronne is long gone, utterly destroyed during the war. There is anew village just a short distance away.

After leaving the ridge held by the Germans and visiting Napoleon and the Basques we attempted to tour the caverne du dragon, a warren of caves just off the chemin des dames used by both the French and Germans. Unfortunately they only ran guided tours twice a day and so we pushed on to Laon for a late lunch in this stunning medieval hill town.

After lunch we strolled the city before heading back to Saint-Quentin and to our hotel. Later that evening we found a place for an aperitif just off the main city square, toured the basilica and then headed off for a rather mediocre dinner at Chez Mario.

from the carpark up to the observatory

picture this as completely denuded of vegetation and nothing but rolling acres of mud and dead, year after year after year

small memorial to the 18th infantry regiment from Pau

Napoleon statue - the ridge held by the Germans and the location of the observatory is to far left rear behind the trees
memorial to the Basque regiments
entrance to the la caverne du Dragon

cathedral entrance in the medieval center of Laon

leaving Laon, in a manner of speaking
Like the church in Laon the basilica in Saint-quentin has also made serious strides in preserving many of the memorial and burial stones inside the church.

basilica at Saint-Quentin - effigy to Charles Florimond Tavernier

Pierre d'Estournel (1481-1528) and his daughter Adrienne

Mathilde Patrelott (d. 1272)

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