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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reims, France: Architecture, History, Champagne!

With its 13th-century gothic cathedral, its rich historical significance, and its vast array of champagne caves, the city of Reims makes a great day trip from Paris.  Located 80 miles north-east of Paris, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, this historic city is easy to reach by car or high speed train.


Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Reims
Rising up from the cobblestone streets in the center of the city is the magnificent Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral.  Known as the coronation cathedral of France, French kings were crowned here for centuries.  The cathedral itself boasts many historical treasures including exceptional statuary, rich tapestries, and amazing stained glass windows.


I personally enjoyed my visit to this cathedral better than Notre-Dame de Paris.  It was far less crowded and touristy.  Not to mention the fact that the Chagall stained glass windows are beautiful!

Chagall Stained Glass windows Notre Dame de Reims
Chagall Stained Glass- Notre-Dame de Reims

Although Reims has a modern day feel, it is a city steeped in history.  On what was formerly a 4th century Roman chalk quarry, and later the site of The Saint Nicaise Abbey run by 13th century monks, Champagne Taittinger now makes it mark on history and wine making.

Champagne Taittinger Champagne Caves Tour
Hand-carved stairway circa 13th century
A tour of the champagne caves is well worth the trip and lasts about an hour.  As you descend into the caves, you take the same journey into the cellars the early monks did before you, as they carefully crafted their wines.  True to tradition, every bottle of champagne stored here today is still hand turned and cared for with exacting detail for a minimum of six years prior to being released for distribution. 
Taittinger Champagne Caves
Champagne Taittinger storage process
Champagne Taittinger wine caves
Champagne Taittinger caves

 Although many champagne houses in Reims offer tours, the Champagne Taittinger tour is excellent and available on a walk-in basis.  Tours are offered in English as well as French, morning and afternoon.  Check local listings for the tour schedule.