Reims, a lovely city just north-east of Paris in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. The name says everything, you can guess what this area is famous for. And I can tell you, locals are really proud of their Champagne!
Oh something else very important to say, the city’s name is pronounced “rans“. It took me a while to get it right and the French won’t understand where you’ve been if you don’t pronounce it perfectly right with the rolled/groaned “rgr” for the R.
After a couple of days spent in Lille I thought it could have been nice to go to Reims. It’s two hours from Lille but less than one hour distance from Paris if you take the high-speed train.
I have to say people in Paris, in Lille and in Reims itself were all surprised about my choice of visiting this city and to be honest I didn’t have a proper reason, I only knew about the Cathedral and Champagne. These sound good enough reasons to visit a city for a day and a half. I’ve actually learnt a lot of things in my short stay here.
THE GOTHIC CATHEDRAL
Notre-Dame de Reims is an impressive example of Gothic architecture. In the past Reims was a major city in France as it was the site of the crowning of the French monarchy. Basically Reims Cathedral is to France what Westminster Abbey is to England. If you’re curious to know, 33 kings were crowned here.
The interior of this Cathedral is absolutely majestic, the space is vast and airy and the way light comes in makes the whole interior feeling very spiritual. This was the purpose of Gothic architecture indeed and Reims Cathedral is known to be one of its best examples.
POMMERY CHAMPAGNE HOUSE
We all know that France considers its wine a national treasure and Champagne is its most precious gem. So if you go to Reims you cannot skip a visit in at least one of its many Champagne Houses.
Vranken Pommery, really kindly, had me as a guest. I joined the English guided tour which was extremely interesting, highly informative and entertaining too. It is about one hour long and with a tasting at the end.
First thing to know is that Champagne is ONLY created in the Champagne region of France. Every sparkling wine produced elsewhere cannot use this name. There’s a law that states that.
Madame Louise Pommery built the Domaine Pommery Estate taking over her husband’s champagne business after his death. She was a very clever business woman and she was the one who introduced guided tours in the cellars. She was also a great patron of the arts, that’s why you’ll see different artworks in the caves.
Oh and interesting fact: Champagne bottles literally used to explode! In fact when Madame Pommery herself used to guide her guests down the cellars they all needed to wear protective masks made of iron because the bottles could randomly explode. This happened because of the high pressure generated during the fermentation process. So during the 18th century, working in a Champagne cellar was considered a very dangerous job.
The guide explained in depth the process of making Champagne, from the harvesting of the grapes to the aging process, removal of sediments and the long aging period. In a nutshell, a Champagne is a blend of different wines, then fermented for even more than two years with yeast and sugar. To have a good Champagne this has to age in its bottle for at least 12 years.
I don’t know about the others Champagne Houses since I haven’t visited them but I highly recommend a visit at the Pommery House, the guided tour is really awesome and I can easily say it has been the highlight here in Reims.
Generally speaking I really enjoyed my short time spent in Reims, I think one or two days are enough to see everything in a relaxed peace and actually I would have loved to visit even more Champagne Houses since this is what this entire region is famous for. Next time maybe.