I was on a weekend trip to Paris and spent one of the days on a day trip to Champagne, on a bus tour. Tours are not my cup of tea, but I found this one quite useful and satisfactory.
It was a fine day-trip out of Paris. Entering the rolling hills of Champagne with wine fields in every direction proved to be very worthwhile. The production is actually around 300 million bottles a year – that is a lot. Passing through the Marne Valley we made a stop in Châtillon-sur-Marne, a small town. In a wine cellar we were given an introduction to wine producing in general and the Champagne variety in particular.
Our next stop was in Reims. It had a pleasant city centre with pedestrian streets and all you could wish to explore in a middle-sized central European city. What makes Reims particularly interesting, indeed famous, and an integral part of the French national conscience, is its cathedral.
The cathedral of Reims (Notre Dame de Reims) is one of the largest ever built. UNESCO has enlisted the cathedral on its World Heritage List with this comment (extract): “The outstanding handling of new architectural techniques in the 13th century, and the harmonious marriage of sculptural decoration with architecture, has made Notre-Dame in Reims one of the masterpieces of Gothic art.”
You can’t argue about that statement. It was a glorious church with high vaults and lovely stained glass windows. UNESCO also includes two other architectural objects in Reims, the former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and the Palace of Tau. The abbey is actually set inside the cathedral but unfortunately I was not completely aware of that at my time of visit. Likewise I missed all but the exterior of the Tau Palace right across the street from the cathedral.
There is a statue of Joan of Arc inside. Her alleged (and at least legendary) victory over the English in the Hundred Year War culminated in the coronation of Charles VII here in Reims. Since the 1400s the Notre Dame de Reims was used for coronations. All the Kings of France came here to receive their sceptre and blessing.