Now here is a city I never expected to see again. Built sometime in the third century, Langres is literally a city on a hill, surrounded on all sides by massive stone walls. Its fortifications and 360 degree views made it a powerful military stronghold against invading troops for many centuries, and today it enjoys the distinction of being named “the most beautiful fortified town in France.” (See the runners up here.)
Many of the buildings in Langres and even the streets themselves are centuries-old, relics of medieval times. The first time I visited Langres, back in 2014, I was enchanted by the narrow maze of streets and beautifully-aged homes. I loved the views from the wall, the colorful front doors, and of course, peering down the winding streets and cramped pedestrian passageways. By the time we left, my only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time getting lost! With so much of the world left to explore, the likelihood of ever returning to Langres was pretty low.
You can imagine my surprise when I found myself in Langres once again this past May, accompanied this time by my grandparents and my boyfriend Dan. I thought the streets were tiny the first time we visited, but watching my grandpa squeeze his vehicle between cramped rows of parked cars on a shared single-lane road was something else entirely. I don’t think I would ever want to drive here, and I’m very grateful that my grandparents were up for the challenge.
We drove through Langres, a simple introductory look in which I internally squealed at the Medieval vibes of the squat brown buildings and teeny tiny roadways. It was almost like visiting a movie set, sans the peasants dumping their waste out the window. I thought my grandparents were scouting out a convenient parking spot, but then we drove right out of Langres and just kept on going!
I was momentarily confused and disappointed, wondering if that was it. The countryside rolled by on either side of the windows, Langres vanishing behind us, Dan and I not really sure what was happening. My disappointment faded when I realized we were headed to lunch at Le Petit Charme, a lakeside restaurant in nearby Bannes. We enjoyed a delicious lunch here, complete with escargots and champagne. The awkward silence of the first night was almost entirely gone now, replaced with jokes, laughter, and plenty of tasty food.
Post-lunch, we headed back to Langres and Dan and I did a little exploring on our own. It was cold and a little bit blustery, the wind nipping through our sweaters and keeping us on our toes as we moved along.
The wind picked up as we came around to the fortifications. Dan lingered in one of the towers, slinging imaginary arrows and looking our across the valley. We continued along the wall, stopping every so often to admire the views or photograph an especially lovely door. I think Dan was getting a bit annoyed with me, to be honest, though he would never admit it.
Cold and sleepy, we decided to visit one more spot and head home for the day. We circled around to our starting point and sought warmth inside Cathédrale Saint-Mammès, its entry marked by two enormous towers and a trio of carved red doors.
On one side of the cathedral is what I like to call “the Middle Earth door,” because it reminds me of the door to Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring. I couldn’t resist snapping one more shot of that gorgeous door before entering the cathedral.
We didn’t spend too long inside, but the little time we had was more than enough to take in the stunning architectural details and beautifully-colored stained glass creations.
Langres took its toll on Dan, or I should say, the chilly air and a diet in which wine practically replaced water took its toll on Dan. The sniffles had already begun as we made our way home, and erupted overnight into full-blown sickness. It may not have been the best introduction to a beautiful city, but with a little luck, maybe we will find ourselves back there someday.
We visited on a cold, cloudy day, and I think it shows in our photos. To see the sun shining on Langres, and really get a feel for its beauty, head on over to my initial Langres post, published in March 2015.