Meaux, A brie(f) half hour from Paris

Fernand PINAL (1881-1958) Le Pont du Marché à Meaux, 1913, Musée Bossuet, Meaux

You know the typical vacation questions “Got the tee-shirt” or “Got the postcard”!? Well I can say, “Got the Brie (de Meaux)”! Brie de Meaux cheese that is. Meaux is a a 25-minute train ride from Paris.Meaux, A brie(f) half hour from Paris.
One hot August mid-afternoon I took a direct “P” train from Gare de l’Est to Meaux. Many of the Meldois (local residents) within the Gallo-Roman walls had left on vacation. I followed Annabel Simms‘s exact directions past the city hall, the Saint-Etienne of Meaux Cathedral, past the Meaux tourist office and into the Bossuet gardens. The stay was short but gave me a quick overview and a desire to return.

Spectacle Historiques historical shows every summer, Meaux

Shortly after writing a review of Annabel Simms’ book “Half Hour from Paris”, I set out on an afternoon train ride for a Meaux overview from Gare de l’Est to the episcopal city, Meaux. Annabel describes the historical ages (Celtic times to Romans to Middle Ages that jump forward to Paris’ first line of defense in the first World War) and activities of the town (cheese, beer, mustard and carrots), which all intrigued me.

Tip: first stop – tourist office

Meaux Tourist Office entrance

I recommend your first stop be at the tourist office. As a supplement to Annabel’s guide book they have brochures and a Meaux guide in English, “Welcome to the Meaux Region…. moments to share“. The tourist office has maps, open time information, activities and QR codes for audio-guided tours.

La Rose Bossuet “Aigle de Meaux”
La Rose Bossuet “Aigle de Meaux”

The roses were still blooming in Bossuet’s garden laid out in the style of straight French gardens below the windows of the episcopal bishop’s palace. Rows of hundred-year old lime trees led back to the Gallo-Roman ramparts. This is a good moment to join the seated and chatting Meldois residents and read some of the tourist office handouts.

Sculpture below the Gallo-Roman wall of Meaux
Sculpture below the Gallo-Roman wall of Meaux

Later, I read about the garden stairway, which leads to a terrace on the ramparts. This and the cheese factory will be on my next visit. What I did not miss was the hybrid Bossuet Rose (Eagle of Meaux). If the season is right, stoop down and enjoy the delicate fragrance of the bright pink or purple flower that was born in 2004.

History

Meaux is an 800-year-old city originally inhabited by the Celtic Meldis. Bishop Bossuet, confessor of Louis XIV, lived in the episcopal palace, which dates from the 1100s. Captured in Varennes, King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their children were escorted to Bossuet’s espiscopal palace for the night before their return to the Tuileries. The palace now houses paintings, some depicting Meaux in its various seasons and activities such as processions, the market and always the River Marne.

Episcopal Palace of the Bishop Bossuet, Meaux in the foreground of the cathedral
Episcopal Palace of the Bishop Bossuet, Meaux in the foreground of the cathedral

The palace dates back to the Cathedral era of the 1100s. Palace extensions and renovations were made in the 1500 Renaissance era, 1600s, 1800s. In 1905 the episcopal palace became government property. In the 1920s, restoration began to convert the palace into a museum. More interesting Wikipedia Meaux history.

Ground floor Bossuet palace 12th century
Ground floor Bossuet palace 12th century

Although it seemed that most inhabitants were on vacation and most of the shops were closed, the air was alive with the sound of music. The organist in the cathedral practiced at full volume and the bells rang to call out the time.

Tip:  additional visits

I would recommend making the visit as a day trip to continue Annabel’s walk along the river, visit the area museums, including an English language tour of the Brie cheese factory, historical quarters and the war museum.