Reims, the capital of Champagne, is the sort of city where you can indulge yourself, it’s small enough to walk everywhere, big enough to offer something to suit just about everyone. And, of course, it’s a place where the bubbles pop!
Stellar Cellars in Reims
You can’t go to Reims and not visit a Champagne house and the biggest and best in town (in my opinion) is Champagne GH Mumm & Co. (pronounced “moom” as in “took”). Walk through their hallowed doors and you’ll enter the world of myth, celebrity and champagne glory.
Just a ten minute walk from the station or three minutes in a taxi and you’re at one of the greatest champagne houses, known all over the world. It began in 1827, a company of three brothers whose legacy is a legend. George Hermann, the son of one of the brothers, gave the company his name: ‘GH’, and its motto “only the best”. GH may be long dead but his philosophy lives on.
Take a tour to discover the history of the company and of Champagne. You’ll learn fascinating facts and of course get to taste the results of hundreds of years of perfecting the drink that has become synonymous with luxury, celebration, love and happiness. I was lucky enough to try several delicious Mumm champagnes including the very special Cuvée René Lalou (an influential director of the company in the early 20th century). I have never before appreciated the many different tastes of Champagne. I mean Champagne is Champagne right? No, wrong! There are thousands of different flavours and some might only be subtle but others are really widely different. It depends on the blend, the terroir, that impossible to explain French word that means soil, climate, and a few other things. It depends on the ageing and the cellar master and experts who decide how much sugar, yeast and wine to add. It’s complicated and rigorously controlled for the hundreds of Champagne houses who produce around 320 million bottles each year. (Book a tour here: www.mumm.com)
Raise your glass in Reims
At the Boutique Tresors de Champagne, artisan Champagne producers club together to provide the most delicious fizz, more than 170 varieties. It’s the perfect place for a Champagne tasting, workshop. to buy bottles to take home and to discover more about the bubbles and the provenance of the production.
The best place to start is in the old town, with its streets clustered around the centre of attention, the UNESCO listed Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims. You can’t overestimate the importance of this gothic masterpiece, it’s a truly symbolic emblem of France and a place of enormous history. This is the place where Christian France is said to have begun. A plaque inside the church marks the spot where on Christmas Day in 496 AD bishop Remi baptised Clovis, King of the Franks.
Chic Eats in Reims
Brasserie Excelsior (formerly Brasserie Flo) is a great restaurant, authentic, delicious and welcoming. It’s an historic French-style brasserie where the products’ quality and freshness can be measured in each mouthful.
Foodies should head to rue Porte du Champ de Mars (a nod to the city’s Roman past and the huge Roman triumphal arch which remains, an incredible monument) for fabulous gourmet food shops and the covered market Halles du Boulingrin (open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings). You’ll also find lots of fabulous restaurants in this area including the Brasserie Boulingrin where for 4 Euros they’ll drive you home after lunch!
Champagne is enjoyed with lunch, dinner, supper, as an aperitif and a digestif! (Check out some fab Champagne cocktail recipes here).
Bake my Day: Don’t miss Waïda (3-5 place Drouet d’Erlon) a gorgeous art deco patisserie and café right by the Cathedral, be warned, the mouth-watering display of cakes, breads and other goodies are irresistible!
Take home: World famous pink Reims biscuits to go with the Champagne. Try Maison Fossier (20 rue Maurice Prévoteau) where they’ve been making these delicate delectables since 1756.
Stay: There are plenty of hotels in this city. I stayed at the Best Western Hotel de la Paix – superb! It’s right in the centre, easy to walk to the sites and the rooms are lovely. See the tourist office website below for more details of where to stay.
Get there by train: Paris to Reims is just 45 minutes by high speed train, go from London with Eurostar and you can be in Reims in around 4 hours, leave after breakfast and be there for lunch!