How about Reims, a lot more than Champagne !!

This time will update this older post to bring you back to another wonderful city of my belle France: Reims. It is abroad probably best known for the Champagne, while here is a mix of bubbly and traditions of yesteryear still strong ;this is where most of the kings of France were crowned! I have other posts on Reims so this will be like my introduction to the city of Champagne and the kings. This post of course will be in my black and white series, no pictures. Reims, first of all is a wonderful city, and one my favorites and earliest visit in France. My family on wife’s side used to come here to picked grapes in harvest time so they can get some job experience while studying so they know how to press the grapes lol!

We can say that Reims should be the regional capital but never asked ; instead the capital is Châlons-en-Champagne. Therefore, Reims is the biggest sub capital  of France and the biggest town not been capital of a region in France. It rather likes to be known as the city of sacred or city of kings , as it was here at Notre Dame Cathedral where Clovis king of the Franks was baptized by Saint Remi and most of the kings of France from 816 to 1825 were crowned. The city is name to the Art and History list of cities in France and has three places in the Unesco world heritage list. For the anecdote, my sons are name after the foundation of France! ….

The main shops area in city center/downtown are Place Drouet-d’Erlon with the shopping center Espace d’Erlon ,rue de Vesle, main shopping street ,  place Royale. place Myron T. Herrick where there is the Opéra de Reims  and nearby the Comédie. Other important arteries for shopping/eating etc are the rue de l’Étape, rue du Cadran-Saint-Pierre,rue des Élus, rue Condorcet, rue de Talleyrand,avenue Jean-Jaurès ,and avenue de Laon.

It is easy to come here from Paris at only 130 km or about 81 miles, and very close to the second city of Champagne, Epernay at only 25 km. The TGV from Gare de l’Est as well as local TER trains are in constancy contact with Paris as well in just 1h30 . The city is link with a canal  since 1866 call the canal de l’Aisne à la Marne allowing Reims to have direct access to the Marne river with three levies in Reims and a nautical link at boulevard Paul-Doumer. You have several roads passing by here such as the A26, also known as the motorway of the  English  as many of them, go around Paris using this road ; the famous A4 or motorway of the East linking Paris to  Strasbourg passing by Metz ; the A34,or motorway Ardennaise, that can go into Belgium along the old nationale or N51; the A344 also known as the expressway  Jean Taittinger that replace the old  A4  and link with the  A4, A26, and A34 passing by city center/Downtown. Here going into city center/Downtown you can lookup the panels in the A344 for Reims-Centre, Reims Cathédrale, Reims-Saint-Rémi and on the A4 exit/sortie 22 Reims Centre  or sortie/exit 23 Reims Sud; on the A26 you can take the sortie/exit 16.1 to Reims centre. There are four train stations here: gare de Reims, gare de Reims-Maison-Blanche, Gare de Reims-Franchet d’Esperey , and gare de Champagne-Ardenne TGV.There is no airport but the TGV from the station Champagne-Ardenne TGV,can put you here in 30 minutes from Paris CDG airport. For bus/tramway of Reims the site is Citura webpage:

As always by me, a bit of history I like. The territory of Reims stayed allied to the Romans and was part of their empire. They had many invaders since such as in 357 and 366, by Germanic tribes, in 406 by the Vandals, and in 451 by the Huns.  Saint Remi was the main follower of Christ in the area and help spread Christianity here; as bishop of Reims he made king Clovis of the Franks submit to the new religion at the current site of the Church of  Saint-Nicaise, avenue de la Marne , this was around the year 496, where he was baptized in the Cathedral. The other legend is that as Clovis was married to Clothilde a Visigoth queen already Christianized, and he had a big battle against another king of the  Alemannic (Lothar of Germans) to do over the Rhine river he promise his wife that if he prays to her God and wins he will convert to the religion and declare the religion of his kingdom. The actions were done and he won the battle, the rest is more history…During the French revolution the religious buildings were put up for sale and the Cathedral made into a stockade depot; the Holy Ampulla was destroyed and the relics of Saint Remi burned in the public square. There were massacres in 1792 by the Republican volunteers that came back to joined the army that was in campaign against the Prussians; the guillotine worked four times during this period! From the end of the 19C the city host several military installations and housing for them such as the caserne Colbert (boulevard de la Paix), caserne Jeanne-d’Arc (boulevard Pommery),  and caserne Neufchâtel  and caserne Maistre (rue de Neufchâtel). Only the caserne Colbert has been preserved today and change to commercial and lodging quarters.

During WWI the city was destroyed for the most part including the Notre Dame Cathedral that was bombed ; the Germans entered the city and occupied it for several days. At the end of the war, the city was destroyed for about 60% , and as the Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims the city became a martyr city and a symbol for France.  Again on WWII June 11 1940 the Nazis entered Reims and later began the thefts of property, acquisitions, rationing , arresting folks ,deportations and executions. On August 30 1944, the allies entered Reims and General Eisenhower  takes his HQ after the liberation of the city ; the rendition of the Nazi regime is done in the technical school ,currently the high school or lycée Roosevelt on May 7 1945 ending the war in Europe. Next day May 8 1945 upon the request of the Soviets a second signature is done at Berlin , and it is this date that is taken as the capitulation without conditions of the Nazi regime and the end of the war in Europe.

There are several religious places in Reims due to its importance in history ,in fact too numerous to mention here. The principal ones in my opinion are the Notre Dame Cathedral (b. 1211) at place du Parvis; and the Basilica of Saint Remi at place du Chanoine-Ladame. The second oldest Church in Reims after the Basilica is the Church of Saint James or Saint Jacques at rue Marx-Dormoy. One special is the Basilica Church Sainte Clotilde at Place Sainte Clothilde, built in 1896 to commemorate the 1400 anniversary of the baptism of Clovis ,done in a neo byzantine style in the form of a Greek Cross to honor the wife of Clovis, that helped in his conversion to Christianity. The Basilica Church Sainte Clotilde was to have a relic of all the saints of France that have marked its history. These relics were placed in the crypt and they are more than 120 reliquaries and 2000 relics.

Other things to see in Reims of note in my opinion are the Hôtel de Ville, Hôtel de Brimont,at 34 du boulevard Lundy ; Hôtel Werlé, aka Roederer, style Louis XVI built in 1867 at 23 du boulevard Lundy. Hôtel Mignot at 17 boulevard Lundy built in 1911 there is a plaque on the facade written « Dwight D. Eisenhower généralissime des armées alliées a résidé dans cette maison du 20 février 1945 au 25 mai 1945. La Ville de Reims a son illustre citoyen d’honneur. 8 mai 1955 ».simply in honor of Gen Eisenhower who lived here in 1945. Hôtel Lüling at 14 boulevard Lundy built in 1863 associated to the Champagne Maison Heidsieck & Cie.  There are other nice mansions along the boulevard de la Paix, rue Piper ,and the rue des Moissons.

There are several museums which I have not been to all, but the main ones visited are the Palais du Tau, former episcopal palace built under king Louis XIV and rebuilt after the fire of 1914; it is next to the Cathedral and retraces the history of the monument and its district, you will see the most important funeral stone collection in France, the royal treasury of the Cathedral and several objects used during the coronation of king Charles X, the last king of France. The museum of fine arts or musée des beaux-arts at the rue Chanzy; founded in 1794 from works taken(stolen) in the French revolution and put in the old abbey of Saint Denis in 1908; it has the works of the principal artistic movement from the 14C to the 20C. Other museums are the musée-hôtel Le Vergeur where you have the old Reims museum or musée du Vieux-Reims located at place du Forum, showing work dating from antiquity to the 20C including about 50 engravings from Albert Dürer, furniture,and Asian works from the 19C. the museum or musée Saint-Remi, locate in rue Simon in the old Benedictine abbey showing the history and archeology of Reims. And one would like to visit myself is the musée automobile Reims Champagne considered the 5th most imporant automobile museum in France with a collection that goes back to 1908 to our days. For the nature or walker lovers you have nice parks in Reims, our favorites are the Jardin des buttes Saint-Nicaise at  boulevard Diancourt), the parc de Champagne (previous parc  Pommery) at avenue du Général-Giraud, and the prettiest one the parc de la Patte d’oie at boulevard du Général Leclerc between the Vesle river and the train station of Reims city; with a congress palace  and the Circus.

Some of the delicacies you can buy here other than Champagne ok ok, are the biscuit rose or rose cookies created in 1691 when a baker had the idea of cook the paste two times and add aroma of Vanilla with the carmin that gives the rose color to hide the vanilla sticks ; the tradition is to dip in a cup of what else Champagne. The spicy bread or pain d’épices that here goes back to the 16C. Also, the mustard produce at Reims from vinegar and spices  since the 19C it had great reputation already ;today only the maison Charbonneaux-Brabant produces it under the name Clovis as well as the vinegar done from the marc thrown out from the Champagne after a second fermentation  so from wine of Champagne. The ham of Reims is werel sought after too one of the best in France , taken a shoulder of pork without bones cook in hot water than marbled and mix with breadcrumb; the pieces are then, put in a parsley jelly. Yummy!!!

The Reims tourist office on the Basilica Church Sainte Clotilde:

The Reims tourist office on the Notre Dame Cathedral:

The Reims tourist office on its heritage:

The city of Reims tourist office on its heritage:

The Champagne-Ardennes tourist office on Reims:

There you go folks, enjoy Reims, it is more than Champagne . I told you so !! We look forward to be back, eventually! So much to see in my belle France! And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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