Monday, May 21, 2012

The Beautiful Meaux, France

You can see larger versions of every picture by clicking it.

When we moved to France from Amsterdam, we were faced with the dilemma that Paris is one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Worse, flats are tiny. With three times the population density of the USA, it's understandable why many places in Europe have much smaller living areas, but damn it, I like room.

So we considered Meaux. We ultimately wound up not moving there, but we recently went to visit it. After having moved 38 times in my life, I'm not keen to move again any time soon, but I'd be seriously tempted to move to Meaux. It's gorgeous (and the delicious brie de Meaux is worth mentioning, too).

Parking outside the tourist center

When we pulled into Meaux, we parked outside the tourist center. My first thought was "damn, this is beautiful.

Walking down Rue Bossuet to get to the cathedral

Note how the pollution has been cleaned on the left.

It was a short walk to the Meaux Cathedral. Work on it started in the twelfth century and it's still not finished!

The most beautiful little girl in the world (mine).

This is the Europe I've dreamed of

We sat and had a quick drink at a café in front of the cathedral. That's when I realized that I wanted to live here. We have a lovely, nice-sized (for Paris) flat, with a back garden and quiet neighborhood, so there's no way we're going to move any time soon, but still, this is the Europe I love: the small towns more than the big cities.

Leïla in front of the cathedral.

L'Hôtel de Ville de Meaux

All of the heads are missing. I wish I knew the story behind this.

The architectural details are amazing.

Our daughter enjoying a merry-go-round in Meaux.
Some things are universal.

When we went back to Les Lilas, I found myself missing Meaux almost instantly. It's a fascinating town which has stood, apparently, for over 2,000 years. From what little information I could gather, it was the capital city of the Meldi tribe, one of the groups of Gaul who inhabited France. Obviously it bears little resemblance to 2,000 years ago, but this history is fascinating nonetheless.

If you move to another country, I would heartily recommend small towns over big cities. London is not the UK. Amsterdam is not the Netherlands. Paris is not France. Everyone wants to move to the big cities that they've heard of. When I lived in the Lace Market in Nottingham, I had an exposure to British culture that I never experienced in London.


  1. Could not agree with you more, Curtis. I've seen some drop dead gorgeous small towns just outside of Paris that look like great places to live and are much less expensive than Paris. We've lived in Suresnes, Courbevoie and now Versailles which, once you subtract the tourists and move away from the castle is made up of some very nice small communities. I really recommend an area called Porchefontaine. It's on the Viroflay side and is a "quartier pavillonnaire" - lots of little houses right next to a forest and sits smack on the RER C line so you can be right in the heart of in Paris in about 20 minutes. A mix of old and new construction. Used to be a very working-class neighborhood. A little tonier these days but you can still find reasonably prices apartments and houses. History here

  2. "Damn it, I like room."

    You can take the boy out of America...

    1. Michael, you can get the room. You either pay an arm and a leg in the big cities or you find a less populated area.

  3. Do you think a small town would work for a solitary old lady? You and your lovely wife and daughter are such a normal, wholesome family I'm guessing you fit in anywhere.

    I've thought that for someone like me a city might be better because there would at least be corners of it where people not leading orthodox lifestyles would be tolerated.

    Being alone and childless is the only way that I'm not orthodox, but even so, there are many small towns stateside where I would have to live a solitary life because there would be no social venue where a loner female would be welcome. Just wondering if Europe works the same way.

    1. It's really tough to say. Like most of the world, you'll generally find that smaller towns are more conservative than larger cities. That being said, I simply don't find the level of intolerance here in Europe that I have experienced in the US.

      One thing to remember about Europe is that the countries are small. As a result, many Europeans are quite comfortable with people from other cultures. There's a bit of a rise in "anti-foreigner" sentiment lately, but I've found that even when I encounter it, l get past it pretty quickly once people know me.

  4. i never visited France... truly love the pictures and post too. thanks

  5. Perhaps the heads were removed during the French Revolution, just as some heads from Notre Dame de Paris were taken off: