Oh, boy, a road trip! Last Sunday we took off with Mary and Gilles on a road trip to the city of Reims and a tiny town in the middle of a World War I battle site. We wanted to return to Reims because we loved the city when we were there two years ago and wanted to see it again. Also, Reims is the big city in the region that produces champagne and we can always use some more champagne. We wanted to visit some World War I sites because, well, that’s been kind of a forgotten war in the United States and as I read about World War II, I realized that I knew nothing about its predecessor.
I’ll post about Reims first because that’s where we went first and also because I’ve got to let the WW I stuff sink in a bit; it was pretty moving and powerful.
So…Reims and Champagne
Let’s start with the Cathedral. I’ve written about this before (Reims, 2013), but a few words. All the kings of France, save two, were crowned here, starting with Clovis in 496 and ending with Charles X in 1825. The cathedral was damaged badly during World War I, as was all of Reims, but has been mostly re-constructed. Our favorite part is the modern stained-glass windows installed over the last ten years. Laurie and I spent a long time looking at these, and then returned the last morning we were in Reims for another look.
This is the iconic “Smiling Angel” on the facade of the Cathedral, probably the most famous church carving anywhere. We said, “Au revoir” to her, as we certainly will return to this Cathedral.
Reims Automobile Museum
Yep, we went to a great car museum in Reims. This is a private collection, and it’s mostly French cars, starting at the turn of the century. Gilles and I enjoyed it greatly, and Mary and Laurie were gracious enough to say they enjoyed it, too.
I know that most of you – well, the car enthusiasts, anyway – are saying, “But John, did the museum have any Rosengarts?” Well, of course it did; for those who have always wanted to know more about Rosengart automobiles, here are the ones in the museum:
The next day, to recover from the excitement of the Automobile Museum, we went to the heart of the Champagne region to buy some champagne, of course! Now, you may recall my rant from a couple years ago about the “showing off” nature of many wineries in the U.S. of A, where you can buy logo hats, logo coats, logo shirts, logo wine-openers, logo mukluks, and oh, yeah, wine. So here’s some pictures of the champagne maker we visited.
First, we had to find the place, and fortunately Mary and Gilles had been there before. Note the lack of signage:
The Patronne greeted us and took us into the beautiful tasting room (which also doubles as the company office).
The Patronne, who, with her husband, has been making champagne for a loooooong time, asked us what we’d like to try. She then went out, got a bottle of it, uncorked it and proceeded to pour five (one for herself, of course) full-sized glasses of her champagne. No tiny sips here.
When we’d tasted her amazingly good champagne, she poured us all another glass and left to get our order. It was a good thing we’d already decided what to buy, because after a couple glasses we might have ordered ten or twelve cases each.
A word about champagne: in the United States we think of champagne as a drink reserved for special occasions. Here in France it’s usually the same: champagne served on a special occasion, except that almost anything qualifies as a special occasion: friends over for dinner, getting together for a drink, a sunny day. It’s not at all unusual to have champagne here, a custom we really like.
Another word about champagne: there really are three types. Most champagne contains juice from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Then there is blanc de noirs, which is made entirely of pinot noir juice. Finally, and new to us, is blanc de blanc, which is 100% chardonnay. I’m sure wine stores in the States have blanc de blanc, but it’s not common and we’d never had it until early in our trip this year. We love it. It seems softer than the other two types; purer, maybe. Anyway, after our trip to the champagne country we have a bunch of it. Can’t wait for a special occasion. Oh, look, it’s a sunny day…