Last Monday, I woke up the earliest that I have since school has ended to head on over to Gare de l’Est to catch my 9AM train to Reims (~50€ round trip). Funny that the first-class tickets were about 5€ cheaper than the regular second-class ones. There isn’t much difference between the two degrees, except for larger seats and a free magazine in first class. After skimming through several articles, including one about the infiltration of the NY hipster style in Paris, I took a short nap and found myself in the city forty-five minutes later.
Stepping out of the TGV with no NYU tour group to guide my way was a little uncomfortable, but also exciting. I hurried quickly to the tourism office by the train station for a map of the city. Walking through the city, one becomes quick to realize that everything is rather walkable since Reims isn’t that large.
First on the agenda was to check out the Reims Cathedral, which is celebrating its 800th “birthday” and was the site of coronation of past kings and Napoléon I. The cathedral in itself is magnificent, what with its tall pillars, and colourful light shining through the stained glass windows.
From there, I started the 1 to 2 kilometre walk to where the bulk of the champagne houses resided. Along the way, I ran into the Abbey of Saint-Remi. The basilica is like all the others, except for the fact that I entered alone and was treated to a personal concert of organ melodies. I would have loved to sat and enjoyed the music longer than I did, but a group of children filed in, and I decided it would be time to leave.
Arriving at the Taittinger champagne house, I entered the lobby to find out that I had just missed the French tour. Not wanting to stay around in the neighbourhood, which was quite bare, for the next French one (starting after their lunch break), I opted to go along with the English tour and tasting (14€). The guide was quite knowledgeable and patient in explaining everything, but for me, it was a bit of a rehash of what I already knew since reading Tilar J. Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot. I was quite fascinated, however, with the galloroman chalk ruins; unfortunately, they weren’t discussed as much. And even more unfortunate was the fact that the Cryptoportique in the city center, which is a gallery of galloroman ruins, is closed until June 1st.
I headed back to the city center, hoping to catch some lunch. But as I sat down in the busy city forum, it soon became clear that they had stopped serving lunch at 2PM (highly unusual for the French). As hungry as I was, I needed to give my feet a rest, so I stayed seated for a café crème and some downtime with a book I had recently purchased, Apologie du carnivore by Dominique Lestel.
Fifty pages later, I left to check out the Musée Beaux-Arts. This particular Beaux-Arts houses, apparently, the second largest collection of Corot’s works; the first being the Louvre.
Afterward, with pretty much everything that I found to be interesting in the city was completed, I headed back to the station so as to change my ticket for an earlier ride back. Admittedly, Reims could’ve been a lot more exciting had I rented a car, but not having the funds or a valid driver’s license tends to make that a bit difficult. In any case, there is much more to explore in the area, and I will surely be back.