This sparking golden beverage is used to celebrate weddings, graduations, birthdays, and even the New Year. Only the bubbly wine that comes from this Northeastern region of France is even legally allowed to be called Champagne. What makes this libration so special? This type of drink didn’t even originate in Champagne! The Blanquette de Limoux in Southwestern France dates back to Roman occupation of the area. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Champagne became a popular drink of choice.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t like champagne. Maybe it’s because I have a sweet tooth and pucker my lips when taking a bitter sip of brut. Or perhaps it’s the bubbles! I wasn’t allowed to have soda at home as a kid, so it could be that I never acquired a taste for carbonated drinks. It wasn’t until I visited the Champagne region myself and tasted a high quality cuvée that I actually enjoyed a glass of Champagne. Just a 45-minute high speed train ride from Paris is the city of Reims, where you too can experience the best Champagne of your life. What’s even more special about Reims is its Cathedral and other historical sites visitable within one day trip!
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims
When you first gaze upon the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims, you will think you are looking at a doppelgänger of Notre Dame de Paris! Like its Parisian twin, the Reims Cathedral also caught on fire. The damage done to this gothic masterpiece was a result from a German bombing in WWI. While touring the cathedral, I learned that it was restored thanks to donations from the Rockefeller family. It turns out I’m not the only American passionate about French culture and heritage! This cathedral is definitely one of the most impressive that I’ve visited in France. In my French Renaissance history class during my Master’s last year, I learned that this cathedral was a popular spot for Kings’ coronations. If you visit, you will see why French royalty chose this spot for their ceremonies.
Tours de la Cathédrale
My favorite part of the visit was exploring the Tours de la Cathédrale. After climbing up the winding staircase you can see the city from a new perspective. Check out the giant statues of the kings of France up-close and personal. They look much smaller when you’re looking up from the ground! It was also interesting to see the inside and see the wooden beams supporting the roof. If you visit the cathedral, make sure to ask about going up the towers for an unforgettable experience!
Palais de Tau
Next to the cathedral you will find the Palais de Tau. This palace was once the home of the Archbishop of Reims. Today, it’s a museum where you can admire statues, tapestries, and treasures used in the Kings’ coronations! The name “Tau”, comes from the Greek letter becuase the palace itself resembles a T. If you are a history buff, be sure to stop by this museum when visiting Reims.
This medieval church finished in the 11th century is another beautiful historical site to visit on a day trip to Reims. After living and traveling in France I’ve seen my fair share of cathedrals, basilicas and churches. Back home in the US, we don’t have authentic Gothic architecture so it’s always fascinating to see what each city here has to offer.
Touring the Champagne Pommery House and Cellars
The best and last part of my visit in Reims included touring the Pommery Champagne House and cellars. There were quite a few Champagne houses to choose from when planning my visit, but I chose Pommery because of its adorable blue and red château! That and it’s notoriety! If you don’t like Champagne, this domain is still worth visiting just to see the Tudor style Elizabethan architecture.
For about 20€ I booked a guided tour that included a tasting of the Brut Royal vintage. If you visit the cellars, make sure to bring a jacket or sweater becuase temperatures can reach 10°C/50°F. During the tour we learned about the history of the Champagne house and the beverage’s production. Pommery was founded in 1858 and taken over by widow Madame Louise Pommery in 1860 after her husband’s death. Madame Pommery is also known for commercialiszing brut champagne becuase her English customers preferred its taste over the original sweet champagne.
After the tour we were able to have a dégustation of one glass of champagne. My ticket included a glass of the Brut Royal, which was the best champagne I have ever tasted! It was dry, but not too bitter and the amount of bubbles was perfect. Drinking that glass of champagne, I realized that it’s more rewarding to have a little bit of a good thing rather than have a lot of a mediocre thing. Champagne is meant for special occasions, and when those occasions arise I will reach for a bottle of Pommery.
Thanks so much for reading and let me know in the comments if you are a fan of champagne!
À la prochaine,
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