Monday, July 27, 2009
Champagne without the Bubbly
Call me crazy but I went to Champagne on Saturday and didn't drink any. In our last ditch effort to have grownup fun while the kids were at camp, my husband and I took a day trip to Reims, the heart of Champagne, but we had other things in mind. And to tell you the truth, while I like wine just fine, having visited vineyards in France and California, the whole tasting thing kinda leaves me cold. But even minus champagne, our day in Reims was really special. We enjoyed strolling around town, stopping for coffee and later lunch, and touring the cathedral, the basilica of St. Remi, and the Palais de Tau, home for many years to the region's archbishops. Reims is full on Gothic but gets a special place in history as being the site where Clovis, the first king of the Franks was baptized, and it subsequently became the official site for French coronations. Heavily damaged by fire and war throughout the centuries, the cathedral remains a work in progress. New windows were created after the Second World War, including a lovely set by Marc Chagall, and new technology is now permitting 21st century artisans to create perfect replicas of existing statuary so the authentic pieces can be brought inside, away from the degrading effects of weather and pollution.
How is it that a Russian Jew ended up making windows for a French Catholic church? Who cares? These windows are spectacular.
The contrast between the restored sections and those still in need of work was stark. Blame the missing body parts on the Germans, the French Revolution, and the passage of around 800 years
Reims is an easy 40 minutes from Gare de l'Est by TGV. If you want to visit the vineyards, a car makes more sense. There are half a dozen other sights to see in the area including a museum at the site where General Eisenhower accepted the surrender of the German forces in 1945 and another one devoted to vintage cars. You could easily make a weekend of it.