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: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87171009/Reims/pratique

Gare de Reims-Maison Blanche: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87171272/Reims-Maison-Blanche/pratique

Gare de Reims-Franchet d’Esperey : https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87417444/Franchet-Desp%C3%A8rey/pratique

Gare Champagne Ardennes TGV: https://www.garesetconnexions.sncf/fr/gare/freah/champagne-ardenne-tgv

Gare d’Epernay: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87171553/Epernay/pratique

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!

Epernay

Epernay

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.

reims

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.

reims

Reims

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.

epernay

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!!!

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