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Reims The city of Kings has treasures above, and below, ground. Reims train station is in the centre of town making it easy to walk to all the sites and there are many. UNESCO heritage sites abound here, perhaps the most well-known is the iconic Cathedral of Notre Dame. 33 Kings were crowned in Reims from 816 to 1825 including Charles VII in 1429, accompanied by Joan of Arc. It comes as a shock to many visitors to discover that many of the sculptures featured on its façade are copies or casts. Damaged badly by bombing in World War I, the Cathedral was rebuilt. It says much about the integrity of the work carried out that this Cathedral is still considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. Statues of 63 kings, 3m high and weighing 6 tonnes each adorn the façade. It’s no less impressive inside where stained-glass windows dating to the 13th century vie for attention along-side the magnificent stainedglass windows designed by Marc Chagall. Next door, visit the Palais du Tau, the former Bishops’ Palace, and residence of Kings whilst awaiting coronation, is now a museum dedicated to the Cathedral. The St Remi Basilica which was mostly built in the 12th century is named after the Bishop of Reims who baptised Clovis, the King of the Franks in 496. Even older is the Roman legacy, the huge Port de Mars which stands majestically at the end of a busy road, it is quite simply astonishing. A huge area of Champagne itself has UNESCO status, including Reims, granted in 2015 in recognition of its Paysages de Champagne.
You can't go to Reims and not try Champagne - you're spoiled for choice. The city is built on top of miles of secret passages that contain millions of bottles of Champagne. Nicholas Ruinart started the trend for maturing Champagne in the chalky caves, the digging out of which was begun in the Gallo Roman period. There are several big Champagne makers including Mumm, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot, Taittinger, Lanson and Drappier, who make the biggest bottles of Champagne known as a Melchizedekis. they hold 400 glasses of bubbles! If you want to try Champagne from smaller producers and artisans head to the Champagne Treasures Boutique, where you can take a tasting - with more than 160 different cuvées each week, you're sure to find one you absolutely love. When you’ve had your fill of history, take a break in one of the many restaurants and bars - one of the best reasons to visit. Locals love: Café du Palais is a 4th generation family run restaurant that has been pleasing the punters since 1930. Dishes on the menu pair perfectly with bubbles. 3 course menu €39.00 includes a glass of Champagne (14, Place Myron Herrick). Wine and dine: The Brasserie Excelsior near the train station has oodles of old school glamour, think chandeliers and banquettes and a style reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties. 2 course lunch menu from €28.50 (96 place Drouet d’Erlon). Make Tracks in Champagne From Reims, the capital of Champagne the region, you can take the train direct to Epernay the capital of Champagne the drink. But why not see a bit more of this glorious region and stop off en route... (see over) Champagne Champagne the drink, can only be called Champagne if it is produced from designated vineyards on the chalkland south of Reims. Other regions may produce sparkling wine but they can't call it Champagne. Vines have been cultivated on the steep slopes of the Marne since at least Roman times. It was the Romans who dug under Reims for chalk almost 2000 years ago, creating underground passages which have become the grandest cellars in the world, holding millions of bottles of Champagne, maturing in perfect conditions. Champagne is the world’s favourite festive drink - Cole Porter must be one of the few people who don't get a kick from it! Serve it chilled in a tall flute and never, say the experts, a coupe, those shallow round glasses allegedly modelled on the breast of Marie-Antoinette, or Madame Pompadour – depending on who you believe. Whatever, I think you should use whichever glass you like! Visit a Champagne House in Reims Enjoy a Champagne tasting either above or below ground via Champagne-Booking.com. They list cellar visits and Champagne tasting sessions including free tastings, with the famous domaines and with artisan producers. They can even tell you where to book a sabrage session (opening a Champagne bottle with a sword) in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, as well as master classes and a whole lot more.
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