Beth Scott - A Wedding in Angers

In 2009, through the Alliance Française two young French students, Thibaut Cador and Sandy Bensoussan contacted us seeking accommodation for their stay in Rockhampton while they did research at the CSIRO, then located in North Rockhampton but now based in Townsville.  Sandy and Thibaut proved to be perfect guests and really appreciated the „countryside of Rockhampton and its surrounds.  We spent many weekends together visiting places of interest such as the Caves, the Crocodile Farm, Byfield, Cooberrie Park, Blackdown Tableland, Carnarvon Gorge, the gemfields, 1770, Yeppoon, Moura and Biloela.

On his return to Paris, Thibaut became engaged and invited us to attend his wedding in Angers – a city of about 200,000 people located 300 km south west of Paris. After lots of thought we decided to attend the wedding and on July 20th  2011, accompanied by four friends, we landed in Paris.  We had booked Broca Apartments – Rue Broca in the Latin Quarter close to Rue Mouffetard, famous for its market and those little specialty shops we longed to see such as boulangeries, chocolateries, charcuteries, pâtisseries and endless cafés and restaurants.

That night we were the guests of Thibaut?s parents who live in an apartment at the Hôtel des Invalides. Thibaut?s father was previously an army general and surgeon but his current job as Director of Les Invalides entails mostly administration duties. Les Invalides is a hospital built by Louis XIV to house and care for soldiers from the royal armies. Most of the returned soldiers living there now are mainly amputees and victims of war. The hospital is their home and provides rehabilitation and prosthetic services. It is now a training hospital for student doctors but also serves as a war museum (after 5 hours there was still more to see) and houses the tomb of Napoléon, an impressive sight.  Ceremonies such as a recent memorial service for soldiers killed in Iraq are still held in its courtyard .

Before attending the wedding we toured the Champagne region, visiting Reims (its cathedral famous as the place where the French kings were crowned), Epernay and the home of Moët and Chandon Champagne as well as a private producer of Champagne – Dauby.  We preferred the taste of the Dauby Champagne to that of Moët & Chandon.  We also toured the Paris Catacombs created at the end of the 18th century.  In 1785, because many cemeteries at that time had become overcrowded and were posing health risks, the Council of State arranged for the removal of human remains and for their storage in the large underground quarry system below Paris. The number of people resting there would be in the millions.

On the day of the wedding (23 July) we caught the TGV train to Angers. It travelled the 300km journey in 90 minutes passing through fields of wheat, maize, cattle and modern wind generators. We were met by Thibaut?s cousin, Thomas, who was our host for the night. The wedding mass took place at 2.30 pm in the Catholic church of Sainte-Gemmes-sur-Loire, and the reception was held about 5km from the church – a little out of town in a lovely rural setting.  There we spent the next few hours enjoying petit fours, champagne and socialising in the relative warmth of the afternoon.  We were amazed at spending such a long time outside – maybe the French don?t get to do that very often. At about 9 pm we moved indoors to begin the meal.  Dessert was served at midnight followed by dancing to American Rock?n Roll. They joked about this and said they hoped we weren?t disappointed that we were not dancing to French music. I?m sure I?ve danced to the same music at weddings here.

On Sunday, after a nice sleep in, we walked around Angers visiting the Chateau d’Angers, which was built in the 13th century and is home of the famous apocalypse tapestries. These tapestries depict quite detailed scenes from the book of Revelation in the Bible.  We did a town tour on Le Petit Train, a good way to rest our sore feet.  Compared to Paris, Angers was a much quieter and more relaxing place to be. Cafes and restaurants are more welcoming and more comfortable.  We especially liked our galettes in Angers – one of the best meals we had. Thibaut and Charlotte?s wedding was the highlight of our French holiday and we really enjoyed the experience.  Since Thibaut and Sandy?s stay with us, we have had other French students at our home.  The benefits are reciprocal.  We help them with their English and they help me with my French.  We also have a lot of fun showing them our part of the world.