A Winter Escape in Reims, France
While it was certainly difficult to turn down spending Valentine’s Weekend in Paris, reaching towards a new French destination proved to be the right choice. Reims, capital of the Champagne region in northeastern France is best known for its Champagne Houses and its historic position in French history.
Meeting Filippo in Brussels, Reims was an easy 2.5 hours away by car. The ride left plenty of time to get a bit more sleep to combat my jetlag, as challenging as it was to miss a moment of the passing French countryside.
We settled in to the city quite nicely and quickly found Au Bureau, the pub and brasserie that would serve as our home base. My complimentary smiles towards the food and elegant ambience matched with Filippo’s command of French quickly caught the attention of the lovely manager. She soon became a familiar face to us foreigners and warmed us up to the town even more.
Directly outside the pub, proudly stands Notre-Dame de Reims, the 13th century gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage site. It was in this prestigious cathedral where the coronation ceremonies of French kings took place, notably Charles VII, whom Joan of Arc helped lead in battle against the English to Reims in 1429.
As if the stained glass of the cathedral wasn’t stunning enough, our grand entrance into the Saint Remi Basilica on the other side of town left me wide-eyed. The light played against the cold, commanding walls as if paint to canvas, bright for but a moment before it vanished.
Our private tour through Taittinger, was the icing on the cake to this lovely French city. Our graceful guide shared with us the art and science of Champagne production, taking us below the surface to where the wine goes through the characteristic second fermentation, ages, and bottles are hand rotated to gently ease the sediment out.
The temperature dropped as we descended into the vaults, which house thousands of bottles going through the strict Champagne process. We were now standing in a 4th century Roman chalk quarry, later the cellars of the Saint Nicaise Abbey which was destroyed in the French Revolution. The old staircases were still intact and as we passed, I could imagine the monks gracing down the steps to check on their aging wine.
As our guide spoke of the history of the vault, so too did the walls speak with its carvings etched in the soft chalk.
Resurfacing, we indulged in a glass of the bubbles earned through our newly acquired Champagne education. I could taste the beauty of it all so much more now.