Monday, 14 February 2011

Weekend in Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims
Last weekend I went to visit my friend Samir.  He's an assistant who lives in Reims in the Champagne-Ardennes region of France.  He has a blog which you can read here

Reims is the largest town in the Champagne-Ardennes region in eastern France.  Many champagne houses have their headquarters in and around the city.  It's famous for its magnificent cathedral which was where many French kings were crowned from the Middle Ages onwards.  It also has a long history of confusing English speakers with the peculiar pronounciation of its name: in English it's pronounced "Reems" but in French it's something like "Rinz".

I got up far too early to catch the train from Gare de l'Est.  Bizarrely the cheapest fare for that train when I booked it was in first class, so I enjoyed the comfier chair and extra leg-room that brought as the TGV made its way through the countryside. 

After meeting Samir and two other friends we went to look around the cathedral.  It was almost deserted as it was early last Saturday.  A few dozen people were wandering around while recorded organ music played gently.  It was all very peaceful.
Looking towards the altar
After that, we made our way to the Pommery champagne house for a tour.  We went down into the cellars where there are thousands of dusty bottles being left to age.  The guide explained to us the painstaking process of making the wine while we walked through various cellars marked "Manchester", "Hanover" and even "Bristol" - a "hangover" from the days when they tailor-made their blends to suit the customers in a particular city. 

I wonder how much all that's worth?
I asked the tour guide what he thought of Formula One drivers and FA Cup winners spraying champagne around.  He told me that often they cheat and use bottles that haven't matured properly so they can't actually be drunk. 

"They can waste their champagne, we drink ours," he said, cheerfully pouring a glass for the taster session at the end.

After that we went to a party, jointly hosted by Samir and a friend of his, which was a lot of fun.

Finally, another early start to catch a slower train back to Paris. 

Well done if you're still reading by this point, as this is probably the longest blog post I've ever done and it's completely off-topic.  That's all though, until next time.  Ciao.

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