THE FRANCE TRIPTYCH
SECTION II: REIMS- DAY TRIP
GETTING AROUND: SNCF from Gare de l'Est on the 1028h and 1843h back from Gare de Reims (trains averaging 1 every 2 hours both ways); 71 euros return as of March 2015. Within Reims Central we walked around and took a cab to the Domaine Pommery a little outside of the centre.
This is a side trip for a young couple to get away from Paris for a day. Their only requirement was that it be less than 2 hours train ride away and has to be somewhere new with something interesting to offer. Avignon (breathtaking) and Bordeaux (I'd be too thirsty) are too far away and they have been to Deauville and Giverny. So Reims fit perfectly in. It is 45 minutes away by train from Paris and has an interesting angle to it- champagne, naturally.
Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims
Reims hosts 3 UNESCO Heritage sites and the most important of which and the first to be registered as a UNESCO site is this very cathedral. Besides being the cathedral that saw the baptism of Clovis in 498 which in turn gave birth to the Kingdom of Franks, this gothic masterpiece played a vital role in French monarchical history being the traditional site used for the anointing, the most important part of the coronation of the kings of France from the 12th century to Charles X in the 19th century. It has gone through a lot though and is actually entirely rebuilt in the 17th century. Look out for the statue "l'Ange au sourire" or the Smiling Angel on the western facade which is the emblem of the city of Reims. Also spot the statue of Joan of Arc on horse by Paul Dubios, on the same square of the cathedral which has been there since 1896.
Place du Cardinal Luçon; +33 3 26 47 55 34; 7½h-19½h
Palace of Tau
The second UNESCO Heritage site is right next to the Notre-Dame. It was the palace of the archbishop of Reims. It now houses tapestries, sculptures and other treasures from the cathedral. It is worth a quick tour especially the grand gothic Tau Room where the ceremony of the awakening and the dressing of the kings took place before the actual coronation. Immerse yourself in the power of the days of yore.
2 place du Cardinal Luçon | +33 2 26 47 81 79 | website | opening hours vary by seasons
A quick lunch was needed and a nifty gastropub was at our disposal at the square which has 2 UNESCO giants overlooking it. It is definitely one with character if interiors are anything to go by- chandeliers with a repainted vintage Harley, high tables with plush armchairs- you get the drift. The burgers are actually not half bad but do expect touristy service though.
2 place du Cardinal Luçon |
+33 2 26 35 84 83 | website
Domaine Vranken Pommery
As the cliche goes, no trip to Reims (or to the Champagne-Ardenne region) is complete without a trip to a champagne house. However a quick research online shows that most houses (e.g. Veuve and Ruinart) are closed on Sundays and the more prestigious ones (e.g. Krug) only conduct tours via invitation only (unless you can powermonger your way in). But Pommery is by no means a second choice, the story and the 2-hour tour we took was well-worth the trip. Since 1836, it has been the bellwether not just in leading innovations in champagne production, but also in art collection and our tour comes complete with a tour of the art on the grounds. And as a special treat, there were commissioned works by invited artists from France to Iran sprinkled all around the tour grounds, all showing ‘blue’ in their works, the marquee's livery colour.
5 place du Général Gourand | +33 2 26 61 62 56 | website | 10h-18h
Saint Remi Basilica
The last of the UNESCO Heritage sites that Reims has to offer is this abbey south of the centre is dedicated to the namesake saint who coverted Clovis to Christianity and baptised him back in 496 (which then gave birth to theCathedral of Reims introduced above). Architecturally, it is a rarity since its Romanesque style sets itself apart from the greats which are normally Gothic in style. The tomb of St. Remi within is an art piece itself. Overall, a marvellous beauty not to be missed.
Place du Chanoine Ladame ; +33 3 26 85 31 20; 8h-19h
A finishing, much-deserved glass of bubbly at Le Cafe de Reims. Tried the Demoiselle brut, cousin to Pommery in the Vranken group. And then it is back to Gare de Reims for the train back to Gare de l'Est, Paris.
85 Place Drouet d'Erlon | +33 2 26 40 16 32 |
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