Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reims and Champage

The last weekend in August (yes, I am that behind!) our family took off for a marathon car day trip to Reims and the Champagne region in France. Sweet champagne, an epic cathedral and a whirlwind day flitting from one major European wonder to another....that's my kind of Sunday!
We parked first in the city of Reims (pronounced "rance," which rhymes with "France").
This is where 26 French kings were coronated, where Champagne first bubbled, where WWI devastation met miraculous reconstruction, and where the Germans officially surrendered in 1945, bringing WWII to a close in Europe.
You can see why it was an important spot on our family travel list!
The cathedral of Reims, begun in 1211, is a glorious example of Gothic architecture, and one of Europe's greatest churches. I walked up and down the magnificent aisles in awe and with my head craned up, up, up. Kirk tends to take 'Connor duty' in the churches while I mosey around and photograph. I had been to Reims on a high school French exchange but I was much more focused on boys, clothes, and being cool then to fully appreciate this place. It was terrific to return and to feel some of the divine majesty that must have inspired those who created this church.
My favorite part was 120 niche statues around the rose window at the main entrance. It was different decor than I had grown accustomed to seeing. Definitely made me do a double take!
The Reims cathedral is a WOWer for sure. As we walked the main square after the cathedral, this was my view....
...I just had to laugh and capture the moment. This is my most prominent European memory - Kirk navigating both stroller and guidebook. He has quite the knack. Our books have become constant accessories; Kirk certainly wears them well!!!

We headed to the Museum of the Surrender. Here we visited the historic room where Germans signed the document of surrender of all German forces in the early morning of May 7, 1945. The news was announced the next day, turning May 8 into Victory in Europe (V-E) Day.
The memorabilia was impressive, but I especially loved all the WWII photos. They made me miss my Meme and Apa. My grandfather was a captain in the war and my grandmother worked for the Red Cross organizing social clubs over there. Definitely a much different time and place. Their Europe and the land I see today were and are so drastically different.
I wonder what Connor's Europe will be like one day?!?!
Eisenhower was quite the man!
I bet there was incredible relief with the V-E headline. Can you even imagine just looking around at the destruction and realizing it was over - after so much sacrifice? And thinking about the job ahead to reconstruct?
We did an about face and headed to the nearby Champagne caves. We first visited the Martel Champagne operation. Joining in on a French tour we descended down, down, down to the cool caves. Only 20 percent of the Martel product is exported (mostly to Europe). The tour came with a generous tasting of 3 full glasses of champagne.
This is pretty much what the caves looked like to us. Everyone and everything else static while Connor was a big blur! Thankfully she was still and cooperative for the tasting. Even without having even a sip of her own.
The drive from Reims to Epernay was fantastic. Vineyards as far as the eye could see with grapes ready for harvest.
The second champagne house we toured was Mercier. I enjoyed the contrast between a small, family-run place like Martel to the big, shiny, fancy spot of Mercier. It proved a great contrast. The first thing we noticed was the tremendous wine barrel in the lobby. Carved for the Parisian World's Fair - it proved a worthwhile distraction from the brand new Eiffel Tower!
Mercier caves are viewed by a moving roller cart - kinda like at Disney. The automated car takes tracks all through the miles and miles of chilly caves. The champagne was picturesque as it fermented away.
Kirk taught me while there that the only drinks that can be called "champagne" are those created right in this region of France. No others. Nowhere else. And now we can say we have been there and tried it!
Well, at least Kirk and I can say it. Connor, my sweet little girl, you have to wait a few more years til your time for tasting! At least you can say you have been there though.

1 comment:

Dallas said...

Interesting photos. We only stopped in Reims for lunch on our Champagne trip. Mercier did remind me of Disney, but I did learn a lot. We just happened to show up as they were starting an English tour.