This week I am

thinking hard about the legacies of war. In Reims, the city that has renewed itself miraculously www.reimstourism.com  In the cathedral where every French king was crowned, there is a photographic exhibition showing the damage done to the cathedral during the First World War. The cathedral was shelled endlessly, so was the whole city. There were 1051 days of shelling. In 1914, there were 13,806 houses. In 1918, only 17 were intact. More than 8600 houses were totally destroyed. 

Its reconstruction is a tribute to the people of the city, the Rockefeller Foundation (which supplied a huge amount of money), and to a tenacity and optimism I can only imagine. But times change – and now there are tours to show off the splendours of art deco architecture in the city.

Then came the Second World War. All over the city there are plaques on houses, in memory of someone who lived there who was killed/deported and killed.

Is this a gloomy city? Not at all. It makes me thoughtful, but its robustness is very cheering. It’s a fine modern city, with a wonderful public transport system (trams too), some excellent restaurants, monuments like the cathedral and basilica of Saint Remi, and all the champagne I can drink, plus some.

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