Champagne,history,and a kingdom Reims/Epernay

Well this evening story is about one of my favorite cities, region,and one of the first cities that I visit in France way back in 1990. It has become a fixture ever since with many family trips and even weekend getaways. There is lot to tell here so I just cover the basics, much reading and questions to fulfill a good trip here, and you can ask me for details.

First Reims, is the city of the kingdom of France, king Clovis of the Francs chose it to have his coronation there as the story goes whether leyend or not, he was to fight a big battle with the king Lothar of the Allemani both names romanised . Clovis was married to Clothilde a wisigoth from down under southern France,northern Spain,and she was Christian he was pagan. He asked her if her God was strong, and she said yes, he asked her to teach him how to pray to her God,and if he came out victorious ,he will make his new save kingdom Christian and he will be converted to it. She did, and he won the battle. Therefore, the kingdom of the Francs became Christian, and he was baptised one at Reims . Ever after, all the kings of France have to be crowned there, and all did barring one or two. And the leyend continues….

Reims as it is Epernay is the Department of the Marne (as per the river) No 51 in the region of Champagne-Ardenne; east of Paris. You reach them on the A4 autoroute very easy on exit/sorties 23 Cathedral and 24 St Remi. You can ,also, go on the D3(old N3)  national road from porte de pantin in Paris passing by Meaux on your way to Epernay and then the D951 (old N51 ) to Reims. If coming from UK the A26 from Calais takes you here too. Parking is very easy as I had parked on the street leading to the Cathedral ,rue Liebergier. On Epernay I have parked by the train station, of course plenty more parking spaces. And there are many wonderful little towns all over the area like Hautevilliers,Avizé, Ay,Chalôns en Champagne  etc etc etc.

By train you have four stations, all served by the TER regional network of trains, these stations are Gare de Reims, principal station. Gare de Reims-Maison Blanche near the hospital or Centre Hospitalier. The new Gare de Reims-Franchet d’Esperey that will have a connection with the tramway in 2011.The Gare de Champagne-Ardenne TGV and TER trains too.  You leave Paris by the Gare de l’Est for the best connections. The TER webpage for the region is here http://www.ter-sncf.com/regions/champagne_ardenne/fr/default.aspx . for the bus and tram at Reims the official webpage is here, http://www.tur.fr/  although I have never use it, walking once in town is the best way to see the city. You can use the same train TER site for the Gare d’Epernay and come from Paris Gare de l’Est.

There is much to see, but my favorites are the Cathedrale de Notre Dame,Basilique Saint Remi,Porte de Mars, Place Royale, Palais de Tau , musée de l’Automobile, musée des Beaux-Arts, and of course the Champagne houses as many as you can ::) In Epernay, you can continue your view of the Champagne houses especially along the Avenue de Champagne.

Both cities suffered greatly during WWI and WWII with Epernay been destroyed 2/3 of it in WWI. Both were rapidly reconstructed and show lots of vitality and good life, especially maybe Epernay as it is a smaller town.

I am sure like me you will inquire about the Champagne houses, this is a must in either city. My favorites houses will be given away here, and they are not necessarily the famous names, my bottles are from Champagne G H Martel,17 rue de Créneaux, Reims ,webpage http://www.champagnemartel.com/fr/index.php . Champagne Leclerc-Briant,67 rue Claude Ruelle, Epernay, webpage http://www.leclercbriant.com/  .Champagne de Castellane, 57 rue de Verdun, Epernay, webpage http://www.castellane.com/ . Champagne Mercier, 68-70 avenue de Champagne , Epernay (my first ever taste of Champagne! and still a family staple) webpage http://www.champagnemercier.fr/ . Champagne Moet & Chandon, 20 avenue de Champagne, Epernay, webpage http://www.moet.com/ . champagne G. H. Mumm, 34 rue des Champs de Mars,Reims webpage http://www.mumm.com/ . champagne Ruinart, (claim to be the oldest champagne house) 4 rue de Crayéres, Reims,webpage http://www.ruinart.com/#//index.php . Champagne Taittinger, 9 place Saint Nicaise, Reims, webpage http://www.taittinger.com/ . Champagne Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, 1 place des Droits de l’Homme, Reims,webpage http://www.veuve-clicquot.com/ . Champagne Vranken-Pommery, 5 place du Général Gouraud, Reims, webpage http://www.pommery.com/ , and one not on these cities but that I buy a lot including tomorrow in Paris as not will be in the area is Champagne Michel Gonet, 196 avenue Jean Jaurés, Avize; webpage http://www.champagnegonet.com/ . Have a bubbly day in the Marne!

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims was built over an initial church from 401 AD, the actual Cathedral we see today is from 1211-1275 AD.  She was renovated in 1488AD and again after WWI where it was call the ‘martyr of all Cathedrals’. It is 149 meters long ( 472 ft) with the tour l’ange 87 meters high (287 ft). It is inmense and glorious inside, and the most beautiful from the front, one of  THE Cathedrals of France. Go left in French to the column “Decouvrir la Cathédrale” Webpage http://www.cathedrale-reims.com/notre-dame-saint-jacques-reims/ . The Basilique Saint Remi, keeps the grave of Saint Remi built around the year 1000 AD.A very renown evangelical priest bishop Saint Remi lived to 96 yrs old,and was He who baptised Clovis king of the Francs in between 496-506AD at the previous church in the spot.  It is 122 meters long (403 ft)The official webpage is here in French, http://stremi-reims.cef.fr/basilique.html . There is a museum , musée-abbaye Saint Remi next to the Basilique with gallo romans collection of mosaiques,and stones as well as local archeological finds. A ministry of Culture webpage in French tells you officially about it http://www.culture.gouv.fr/champagne-ardenne/2culture/saint_remi.html . Talking about museums the Musée des Beaux-Arts occupying the old building of the abbey of Saint Denis has a nice collection of portraits by Cranach l’Ancien and country scenes by Corot, flemish, Dutch,and French school of paintings. It belongs to the city so the info is at the mayors webpage of Reims here http://www.ville-reims.fr/index.php?id=895 . You will love to see the Chapelle Foujita, 33 rue du Champ de Mars,a chapel in romance style dedicated to the Virgin Mary, wonderful, webpage from the city of Reims in English http://www.ville-reims.fr/index.php?id=892 .

You have the Musée ‘Automobile Reims-Champagne,84 avenue George Clemenceau, almost 250 cars and motocycles from 1908 to present day, a marvelous place for the car lover in all of us ::) http://www.musee-automobile-reims-champagne.com/ . Musée de la Reddition or capitulation museum, whre the end of WWII was signed on May 7 1945 at 2:41AM in one hall that has been left intact. Great historical place, at 12 rue Franklin Roosevelt,Webpage http://www.ville-reims.fr/index.php?id=899

The Palais du Tau,  is the former Archbishop palace and on the UNESCO heritage site too. All the sculptures removed from the Cathedral are here, and a great stone display of old historical figures including Charlemagne talisman amongst others, never mind the website they quoted just read from the city of Reims webpage http://www.ville-reims.fr/index.php?id=901

You can make a nice promenade walk tour of Reims and visit these wonderful architecture buildings , Hôtel des comtes de Champagne 14C owned by Taittinger, rue de Tambour. Hôtel Ponsardin, townhouse before French revolution now trade chamber at rue cérés, Hôtel Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, 16C, place of birth of Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle ,founder of the Brothers of Christian Schools, Rue Docteur Jacquin, Grand Théatre built in 1873 Place Myron Herrick, Parc de la Patte d’Oie, city center park going back to the 17C, boulevard du Général Leclerc. Pavillon de Muire, built 1565, owned by Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, Rue du Temple. Place Drouet d’Erlon, the “Champs Elysées” of Reims, and the Church Saint Jacques, oldest in Reims after St Remi medieval period, Rue Marx-Dormoy.

While in Epernay, you need to walk the Avenue de Champagne with many 19C houses from renaissance to classical styles.  The Orangerie, gardens part of the estate of the house of Moêt & Chandon, its not open for visitors but you can see it from avenue de Champagne. The Porte Saint Martin, one of the oldest monument here remains of the old church of Notre Dame, at Place Hugues Plomb. Visit the Church of Notre Dame, 16C but built in 12C architecture with great decorations from the 15C and 16C, at Place Méndes France, parrish webpage in French here http://paroisse-epernay.cef.fr/les_eglises.php#3

On your way to Epernay on the D3 old N3 from porte de pantin in Paris, you passed by the town of Dormans here at the parc du chateau there is a monument call Memorial to the battle of the Marne is in French but a chilling account with each body of the events played here in World War I, all the front around my wife native town of just north of Meaux to Dormans.  the monument tomb was built in 1921. It has a crypt, chapel,and special stained glass windows, a cloister leading to the ossuary containing the remains of 1500 unknown soldiers.Go up a stairway of about 100 Steps and you will have a great view over the valley of the Marne and crosses….http://memorialdormans.free.fr/

For goodies shopping for local items, I will recommend the chocolates of Deleans, 20 rue Cérés, Reims chocolates with pink biscuits, try the pêchè du diable or devils sin!! webpage http://www.deleans.fr/ . the biscuits Fossier, just near the Cathedral ,see the stores in Reims here, http://www.fossier.fr/nos_magasins.php?osCsid=483c4be5c211cec99a8f26aafa079317 ,this is a genuine local product not to missed the cookies yummy!  Chocolates with Champagne taste, well head for La Petite Friande at 15 cours Jean Baptiste Langlet, try the bouchon marc de champagne or the cork with champagne liquor ,and of course the macarons, the webpage is here http://www.la-petite-friande.com/ . For something more kitchen use, and a local brand try the mustards and vinager of Clovis done in Reims by Charbonneaux Brabant at 5 rue de Valmy, webpage for the firm here http://www.vinaigre.com/-Clovis-?lang=en . While in Epernay just dont missed out on the chocolates of Vincent Dallet, 26 rue du Général Leclerc, webpage http://www.chocolat-vincentdallet.fr/ ,and can even teach you how to do them !

For lodging/eating  we have stayed at the beautiful gastronomic and wonderful Les Berceaux in Epernay, just sublime and romantic, as well as exquisite French food done right with a Champagne twist, you wont go wrong here,tops, webpage http://www.lesberceaux.com/ For drinks and a local chat head for the Bar des Archers, 7 rue des Archers in Epernay ;tel +33 03 26 54 53 32, no web but pool available and wifi free for guests. near ave de Champagne and ave Eugéne Mercier.

In Reims we have stayed at the Mercure Reims Centre, Cathedrale, close to all ,and my favorite chain in France, the webpage is at http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-1248-mercure-reims-centre-cathedrale/index.shtml. Our eating places over the years have been many but the best were Le Colibri,12 rue Chanzy almost in front of the Cathedral, great service, very friendly with kids, and the food is always good, piano at evenings, webpage http://www.lecolibri-reims.com/  Restaurant Cafe de la Paix, heaven on the Erlon! menus change with the season all the best from the region, webpage http://www.restaurant-cafe-de-la-paix.fr/ For history of Reims and great food try Brasserie Boulingrin, 48 rue de Mars, webpage http://www.boulingrin.fr/page2.asp?rec=99 . For drinks old chats people watching on the Erlon,the champs elysées of Reims here for Ernest Hemingway ,webpage http://www.hemingway-cocktails-reims.fr/

There is so much to see in the area, so the tourist offices will help and if you need specifics let me know. For Reims ,http://www.reims-tourisme.com/Default.aspx?base  . For Epernay, http://www.ot-epernay.fr/

You can always get some info from the city webpage and Reims has it in English too at http://www.ville-reims.fr/index.php?id=721 , and so those Epernay here http://www.ot-epernay.fr/spip.php?page=sommaire&lang=en

The region of Champagne-Ardenne tourist webpage in English  is at http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/default.aspx Have a bubbly and enjoy life at its best.  Cheers!!!

 

One Comment to “Champagne,history,and a kingdom Reims/Epernay”

  1. Great post! outstanding information, been probing for one factor like this for a brief time.

    Like

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