Archive for May 23rd, 2020

May 23, 2020

Champagne history,and its kingdoms of Reims/Epernay!

And here I am back in the East; a wonderful region and hoping it rebounds from the virus. I have been here a lot, and family ties of old; however, even if several posts on it,feels never enough credit to the Grand Est or Champagne-Ardennes or the Marne! time to remedy that me think. Hope you enjoy the tour.

Let me tell you a bit more on Reims and Epernay, champagne country!!!!

Well this time let me update a previous old post from 2011 in my blog. 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. It is a tender family story as my dear late wife Martine used to work picking grapes here to save for schooling together with her other sisters and brothers who followed. 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 bien sûr.

First Reims, was 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 as present day Germany. 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 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 at Reims . Ever after, most of the kings of France have been crowned there, and all did barring one or two. And the leyend continues…My sons are name after the Christmas day of the coronation, and the emissary from the Pope who was there,and the bishop who baptised. It has become our history too.

Reims as it is Epernay is the Department of the Marne (as per the river) No 51 in the region now of Grand Est old Champagne-Ardenne; and the Marne dept, 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 has a connection with the tramway The Gare de Champagne-Ardenne TGV and TER trains too.  You leave Paris by the Gare de l’Est for the best connections. For the bus and tram at Reims the network is Citura , the official webpage: Citura bus tram network of Reims

Although I have never taken trains or buses here, walking once in town by car 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. The webpages for the train station in French to follow:

Gare de Reims:

Gare de Reims-Maison Blanche:

Gare de Reims-Franchet d’Esperey :

Gare Champagne Ardennes TGV:

Gare d’Epernay:

There is much to see, but my favorites are the Cathedrale de Notre Dame,Basilique Saint Remi, (see posts) Porte de Mars, Place Royale, Palais de Tau (see post) , 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 and my favorite of the two from a local point of view.

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; Champagne Leclerc-Briant,67 rue Claude Ruelle, Epernay,.Champagne de Castellane, 57 rue de Verdun, Epernay, Champagne Mercier, 68-70 avenue de Champagne , Epernay (my first ever taste of Champagne! and still a family staple! Now part of Moêt & Chandon ) Champagne Moet & Chandon, 20 avenue de Champagne, Epernay, Champagne G. H. Mumm, 34 rue des Champs de Mars,Reims ; champagne Ruinart, (claim to be the oldest champagne house) 4 rue de Crayéres, Reims, Champagne Taittinger, 9 place Saint Nicaise, Reims, Champagne Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, 1 place des Droits de l’Homme, Reims,. Champagne Vranken-Pommery, 5 place du Général Gouraud, Reims, and one not on these cities but that I buy a lot  is Champagne Michel Gonet, 196 avenue Jean Jaurés, Avize; Have a bubbly day in the Marne!



The main things to see here in my opinion are: The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims was built over an initial church from 401 , the actual Cathedral we see today is from 1211-1275 .  She was renovated in 1488 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. The Basilique Saint Remi, keeps the grave of Saint Remi built around the year 1000 .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 496-506 at the previous church in the spot.  It is 122 meters long (403 ft). 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.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 of   Reims. 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! 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 ::) . Musée de la Reddition or capitulation museum, where 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.   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.

You can make a nice promenade walk tour of Reims and visit these wonderful architecture buildings  like the  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.

On your way to Epernay on the D3 old N3 from porte de Pantin in Paris, and passing by my dear memorable town of Meaux, 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 WWI or the Great War, all the front around my wife native town of just north of Meaux to Dormans. The monument tomb was built in 1921, and 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.

For goodies shopping for local items, I will recommend the chocolates of Deléans, 20 rue Cérés, Reims chocolates with pink biscuits, try the pêchè du diable or devils sin!!; the biscuits Fossier, 25 cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet;  near the Reims Cathedral , and ,also at Epernay, 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. For something more kitchen use, and a local brand try the mustards and vinager and mustard Clovis done in Reims by Charbonneaux Brabant at 5 rue de Valmy. While in Epernay just dont missed out on the chocolates of Vincent Dallet Maison Dallet, 26 rue du Général Leclerc; also at Reims. He 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. For drinks and a local chat head for the Bar des Archers, 7 rue des Archers in Epernay ; 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 one of my favorite chains in France. Our eating places over the years have been many but the best were Le Colibri,12 rue Chanzy but unfortunately it has closed just for memories posted! It was almost in front of the Cathedral, great service, very friendly with kids, and the food was always good, piano at evenings. Restaurant Cafe de la Paix, 25 Place Drouet d’Erlon heavens on the Erlon! menus change with the season all the best from the region .For history of Reims and great food try Brasserie Boulingrin, 31 rue de Mars. For drinks old chats people watching on the Erlon,the Champs Elysées of Reims here visited Ernest Hemingway.

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: Tourist office of Reims

For EpernayTourist office of Epernay

You can always get some info from the city of Reims has it in French at: City of Reims and its heritage

And for the city of Epernay in French here: City of Epernay on its heritage

The tourist office for the Grand Est region still not fully developed so here is the Champagne-Ardenne tourist webpage in English at: tourist office Champagne Ardennes on Champagne

And voilà a wonderful spot in my belle France for all to enjoy; class and tradition the best combination. Hope you enjoy this tour of the fabolous city of Reims and the quaint picturesque city of Epernay. Both always in our house.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

May 23, 2020

Chaumont sur Loire,the castle , the Loire!!

This , well another castle in the Loire and lately in the area decided to stop by as driving along the Loire river. This is the castle city of Chaumont sur Loire. We were driving to pick up some wines and decided to come here before getting to the wines in Limeray near Amboise.  This is in the valley of the kings but really in department 41 Loir et Cher in the region of  Centre-Val de Loire.

chaumont sur Loire

Really to get here from the usual Paris you can do the route on the autoroute A10 to direction Bordeaux. Take exit 17 direction Amboise  you will be on the D952A pass Blois over the Loire river on the road D174 once on the other side of the Loire take right into the D951/D751 direction Amboise and soon see on the panels Chaumont S/Loire. Once entering town take the first traffic light left into the castle parking about 1000 meters (1 km).  You can come by train on the line Paris Gare d’Austerlitz-Orléans-Tours stopping at Orzain/Chaumont sur Loire, but never done it by train.

chaumont sur Loire

We were already hungry by the time we arrive, so we stop at a créperie La Bolée just across the street and the lady very friendly told us we were Lucky she was about to close as no guests so far in the day! Well they came after us ,we gave her some luck lol! The Créperie is at 33 rue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny. We had the usual galette mine with scallops, and other varieties along a bottle of cider brut from the region and plenty of ice cream like mine banana split. all for about 17€ per person. Very well done and talkative friendly owner server ! Something to remember always when in the region again. , it  has a Facebook page here: Facebook page of Créperie la Bolée Chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

And now was time to hit the castle. We took the car to climb to the parking lot nearest the entrance, there was security checking the bags, and ticket office, all very easy and in we were. The castle of Chaumont sur Loire is very old having been founded around the year 1000 by Odo I Count of  Blois. The history as you can tell is long and easy found in official brochures as many Kings and nobles took part in its history  including the reluctant resident Diane de Poitiers and it is to her that most of the castle appereance is credited from 1562-1566 period. Many more owners after her again Marie-Charlotte-Constance  who married Prince Henri-Amédée de Broglie and was the last private owner of the castle until 1938. At this time the Govt of France took possession. The princess Broglie spent her last days in the luxury hôtels of Paris  like the Ritz and George V as well as her Paris apartment at rue de Grenelle; she finally passed away in 1943.

The castle has a great arts community at its entrance with several modern building showing works of arts (like the Mexican Gabriel Orozco) , and a wonderful winter garden (jardin d’hiver) all very well landscape starting in 1880  at the request of prince Broglie. It has a wonderful stables (écuries) building apart from the castle with a nice water tower (château d’Eau) in the garden. You can, also see a dogs cementary  (ciméntiere des chiens) with an elephant as well all very well care by the Prince:ss Broglie. The park was for renovation but we got in because were given a reduction in the ticket!

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

Inside the castle, you will see the beautiful dining room with the coat of arms of Cardinal Georges d’Amboise and historical tapestries from the 16C. You move on to the Library with 19C bookcases , tapestries from the 17C done at Aubusson showing the life of Alexander the Great. Then, the Little  Living Room, with empire period clock in marble with gilded in bronze;continue to the Billiards room,  with a ceilings painting of different scènes of the castle, more tapestries of the 16C on the life of Hannibal. You reach the Great Salon on the inspiration style of the castle of Blois many things there goes back to Napoleon III or late 19C. You leave into the courtyard and visit the Chapel restored in 1886. It shows the history of Chaumont from its origins to the Broglie family’s  days. Paintings from the 15C and do go down to the Kitchen but still was under renovation.

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

The stables or écuries were order by Prince de  Broglie in 1877, the larger used by the Castle owners and the smaller one for the guests.  You see carriages houses and carriages with Tools of the times with kitchen and working saddlery and next the gala saddlery unchanged since the 19C; you have also, a small riding arena of about 12meters and then the pony stables!

chaumont sur Loire

chaumont sur Loire

The Festival International des Jardins (international gardens festival from April to November. More on the Festival here:

In all a nice visit of another wonderful Loire castle at Chaumont sur Loire, you will need a lifetime to see them all. We passed by many not famous or even known but equally impressive properties some still private. Come and enjoy the Loire, oh this is region Centre-Val de Loire, where the main famous castles are, not to be confused with other region of castles Pays de la Loire.

Some webpages as usual by me to help you plan your trip here and its worth the detour are:

The city of Chaumont sur Loire on the castle in French: City of Chaumont sur Loire on the castle

The official castle of Chaumont sur Loire in English: Official castle of Chaumont sur Loire

The regional tourist office of Blois-Chambord on the castle of Chaumont sur Loire in English: Tourist office Blois Chambord on the castle

And there you go another dandy in my valley of the kings not far and nice, another jewel in my belle France. Hope you enjoy it and do visit Chaumont sur Loire ,all worth it.

And remember, happy travels, good heatlh, and many cheers to all!!!

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May 23, 2020

Tour Montparnasse!!

Well , what can I say, not a good photographer for sure but coming up with sites in my eternal Paris is a nightmare. There are so many and so many photos hard to choose and worse write about them. But I got my external hard drive running and giving me back lots of photos. I need to match them with a post. Therefore, one of them is on the Tour Montparnasse.

Yes, have several posts on Montparnasse but dealing with the history side and the train station, so will tell a bit more on the neighborhood and the Tour Montparnasse.  This should be easy, after all a major monument in Paris seen by millions! However, I worked across the street and went in for eating and business meetings several times over the years, bear with me please.

Tour Montparnasse, is front of  the train station, transport hub of Montparnasse. Amazing again my office was across the street, been here ,but need to tell you more ::)


It is located in the quartier Necker in the 15éme arrondissement., the 6éme is surrounded it as well as the 14éme fittingly call the quartier Montparnasse of which the tower takes its name. It is separated by the train station by simple place Raoul Doutry, and has many transportation lines including a TGV, regular SNCF trains, metro station Montparnasse-Bienvenue on lines 4,6;12;and 13. Many bus lines criss cross it like lines 92,94,96, and 28,58, 82 and others. parking by car is best at Maine TGV parking garage or Océane parking.

The tour Montparnasse entrance is at 33 avenue du Maine. There is also a cafe both (resto ciel de paris)  are claiming to be the highest in Europe. The 56 floor is all enclosed heated and cool yeararound convenient to see the best sights in Paris, and the view is superb! However, it is also framed by the rue de Départ , rue de l’Arrivée , boulevard du Montparnasse and the place of 18-Juin-1940. It is separated from the Gare-Montparnasse by the place Raoul-Dautry. You have all the latest information in its official webpage in English: Official Tour Montparnasse

Some numbers at you, work finally began end of 1969 and lasted until end of 1972. It took the destruction of the old train station, and foundation work took away much of the concrete around it with the construction of 56 pillars or columns of 70 meters deep ( 231 ft). All needed to support a weigh of 115K tons! The metro structures were surrounded by walls of concrete in the middle of 2,3 hectares or 5.7 acres. The tower is 209 meters high (690 ft) and has 58 floors of 2,000 m2 each. It is capped by a terrace on the 59th floor with a magnificent view of Paris. It , also, count with a shopping center of 5 floors located between the tower and rue de Rennes ; the basement has an excellent underground parking space. Right off my street Rue de Départs you go into the Montparnasse rive gauche shopping center, info here in French: Montparnasse rive gauche shopping center

The above is great shopping not to mention plenty of cinemas, museums, gardens all around this historical area wonderful walks all day. On the other side of the above on Rue de l’Arrivée you have more stores not to mention those inside the Gare Montparnasse. The whole area was undergoing new design the Maine Montparnasse area ,stay tune.


Some observation , the best times are between opening 9h30 and before lunch or mornings to see clear, the most romantic times are just before closing by 22h-23h (10-11 pm). Try to avoid the Friday afternoons evenings as for happy hour on the tower it is very popular especially if coming with family.

As I sometime been on it, if you are on business or plan business meetings in Paris, try to get a room here for it or convince your company to hold it here, the views are superb ,very private, and great service pros to attend you, the site for that is Espace56  here : Espace56 at Tour Montparnasse

The only spaces open to the public are floor 56 and the terrace at floor 59. In the 56 floor there is a wonderful restaurant call Ciel de Paris which you entered it by 23 avenue du Maine, of course is good food but the view is better in my opinion; webpage  :   Restaurant Ciel de Paris Montparnasse

The area around has plenty of eateries, and bars, too numerous really as over the years it has been my second home. I have written on them before so just will give the names here.

The area around has plenty of eateries, and bars, too numerous really as over the years it has been my second home. I have written on them before so just will give the names here. For italian and pizzas try Pizza Pino , If you want the original breton crepes then head for Creperie de Josselin, 67 rue du Montparnasse, metro edgar quinet line 6. menus from 10€ and deco a la Breton, very popular its always full. Some exotic try a cigar and mojito ,and salsa at Cubana Cafe, 47 rue Vavin, metro Vavin, line 4. Very reasonable formules are proposed at Millesime 62, 13 place de Catalogne,For ambiance Jazz and great nights of mine for several years ; try Jazz Café Montparnasse (old Le Petit Journal) , 13, rue du Commandant Rene Mouchotte, Café Montparnasse, 8 pl du 18 juin 1940  great selection of beers for a happy hour or just chat with friends, good views of the plaza in front. Also , the well known Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse, at 59 bd de Montparnasse. All across from the train station. And right around the corner you have a wonderful marché Edgar Quinet at Bd Edgar Quinet and 36 rue du Départ


Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The tourist office of Paris on the tour Montparnasse in English: Tourist office of Paris on Tour Montparnasse

And not to repeat but to reiterate….on the 56th floor, you can enjoy an impressive view of the city, protected by huge windows. In addition to the breathtaking view, you can also learn more about Paris through interactive multimedia installations, or immerse yourself in the city’s past by discovering the exhibition of old photos of Paris. On the 59th floor ,from the top of this observatory, it is possible to enjoy the view without any glass that would spoil the quality of your photos. the Tour Montparnasse Tower has another significant advantage: that of being able to observe the Tour Eiffel Tower from the top of its terrace on the top floor.  And not only that but wonderful views of the  Champs-de-Mars, Montmartre afar and its Sacré-Coeur,  Louvre museum, and the wonderful cupola or Dôme des Invalides, and the still memorable Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the jardin du Luxembourg, and the towers of la Défense business district with its Arche de la Défense. A visit that is a must and recommended.

And on the same program by the city of Paris, by 2024, the Tour Montparnasse promises to become lighter, greener, more open to Parisians and less energy-hungry. Stay tune.

Hope you enjoy the tour oh well, yes and do see the Tour Montparnasse a wonderful place to be in Paris. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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