CHAMPAGNE ARDENNE reims intérieur de la cathédrale de reims

First impressions of Reims (pronounced Rance, with a rolled R) can be less than inspiring, as most of the city was levelled by heavy artillery during World War II. However if either quaffing champagne or catching sight of one of the more impressive Gothic cathedrals sets your pulse racing, Reims is the spot.

The feature of the Cathedrale is its west front, with its series of  battle scarred statuary - gargoyles and angels - still impressive despite the ravages of the war. Inside are housed the accoutrements from the coronation of Charles X, and, lifting the soul to more elevated heights, the breathtaking stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.

Also worth a visit is the Basilique St-Rémi, Reims oldest building. A former Benedictine abbey built in the 11th century, it was the burial site for most of the early kings. Massive in size, the Basilique contains well preserved Romanesque choir and ambulatory chapels.

Place des Droits-des-Hommes and place St Niçaise are the centres for the Reims champagne tasting maisons, which you can tour for a small fee. Perhaps the best and least pretentious is the Maison Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin, 1 place des Droits-des-Hommes (by appointment only). The ancient Gallo-Roman caves are worth a visit just for the spectacular fungi. Maison Tattinger at 9 place St-Niçaise (March-Nov Mon-Fri 9.30am-noon & 2-4pm, Sat & Sun 9-11am & 2-5 pm; other months Mon-Fri only) is also recommended for its caves, featuring statues of St Vincent (patron saint of vignerons) and St Jean.





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REIMS 1. Hôtel de Ville  2. Tourist office  3. Train station  4. Cathédrale Notre Dame  5. Basilique St-Rémi  6. Place des Droits-des-Hommes  7. Place St Niçaise