There are two types of people in the world: those who love looking at ancient cathedrals and those who would much rather tour a champagne cave. But I learned, surprisingly, that I like both! Today we took the high speed train from Paris to Reims, one of the two main champagne regions of France, with the intent of touring the G.H. Martel Champagne Cave. But we arrived at 10:30 a.m.with time to explore the town of Reims (pronounced “rance” which rhymes with France, go figure) before sampling the bubbly.
Reims is a spectacular town where 26 kings were crowned, where champagne was invented, and where the Germans officially surrendered in WWII. It’s known for the spectacular cathedral in the city center where Clovis, the first King of the Franks, was baptized at a church on this site in 496.
Ken and I wondered through town, unable to locate the proper bus stop to the cathedral. We meandered from block to block and finally asked a bus driver. “Ou est l’autobus pour Cathedral.”
“Cathedral?” he asked, then pointed “A gauche.” (to the left.) We had to laugh, we were a block away from the cathedral—no need to take a bus.
The cathedral is impossible to miss–it is the heart of the city. Construction on Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims began in 1211 and it’s mind boggling to imagine the workers who built this masterpiece. Many of the stained glass windows were destroyed in WWI and have been replaced by local Champagne makers—the windows show scenes portraying the tending of the vines, the harvest, and the fermentation process.
Next, we look for a bus to the Martel Champagne Cave. In Paris, everyone speaks some English and I’ve never had a problem communicating. Outside of Paris, however, not everyone speaks English, especially not bus drivers. When we asked our bus driver “Ou est la Martel Champagne Cave?” He gave me a blank look and then I pointed at the name in the guide book. He said his bus didn’t’ stop there but he would show us. We drove through town and at a top of a hill he stopped and set the brake, with a full bus no less, got out of the bus and walked down the block with us to show us the correct bus stop. But as we waited for the bus, we looked up and saw a sign down the street G.H. Martel Champagne Caves. We had arrived and didn’t realize it.
The Caves were closed for lunch so we explored the neighborhood and discovered another spectacular Cathedral, the Saint Remi Basillica. We walked around the grounds and took photos—it was a quiet, lovely place with an ancient forrest of moss covered trees beside it.
Finally at 2 PM we arrived at the Champagne caves for our tour. Stay tuned for Part II of the Champagne Cave Tour in a future post.