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Reims is a mini-Paris – a city of wide boulevards, grand cathedrals, elegant buildings, and a cafe culture. We really liked it. We had a day, and should have given it two.

Founded by the Gauls, Reims became a major city in the Roman Empire. Today, it is known for football and as the traditional site of the coronation of the kings of France. It has four Unesco sites, and is in the center of the Champagne wine region.

We are not sure if we like Reims Cathedral or Basilique Saint-Remi more. They’re both massive, with different personalities.

  • ***Reims Cathédrale was built in the 13th century; a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Bigger than Notre-Dame in Paris, it has housed the coronation of 25 kings of France since its creation and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s dark and feels very serious. The stained glass is impressive (including panels by Cezanne).
  • Next door, the **Palace of Tau was once the residence of the Archbishops of Reims. It’s a fine and quick museum, holding the Reims Cathedral treasury as well as numerous tapestries and sculptures. It’s worth it to get a sense of the scale of the sculptures up close.
  • **Carnegie Library of Reims: next to the Palace of Tau, this gem of a library deserves a quick stop to see the lovely Art Deco decorations.
  • ***Basilique Saint-Remi is the oldest church in Reims. Built in the 11th century and almost entirely destroyed during the First World War, it is here that you can find the relics of the Archbishop St. Remi. A bit smaller than the cathedral, Saint-Remi is still built on epic scale, and has a lot more light and color. It’s impressive and more welcoming.
  • **Basilique Sainte-Clotilde: If you’re looking for off the beaten track points of interest in Reims, try St. Clotilde de Reims Basilica. It’s quite modern in design, interesting to view, falling into disrepair. I don’t think it’s exactly abandoned, but it’s heading in that direction. Closed nearly always.
  • ***Musee de la Reddition: Eisenhower’s French HQ, where German surrender was taken in 1945. You’ll be in and out in 30 minutes, but don’t miss it – the story is interesting, and the setting quite intact.
  • We didn’t make it to Musée Automobile Reims Champagne – next time.

Food & Lodging:

  • ***Chateau de Rilly was a lovely place to stay. Cute little town, impeccable service, big comfortable rooms, good breakfast (not free), rather formal and well-executed dinner service. It’s popular with the champagne tourists – about 15 minutes outside of Reims. It was very convenient with a car, would be challenging if you’re on public transportation.
  • ***L’Epicerie Au Bon Manager for lunch was charming. I’d call it a find, but it clearly isn’t – it’s on all the usual hipster food lists. It lived up to the hype, high quality ingredients served with a high attention to detail. Cute setting, really warm staff.
  • *Le Grand Cerf: one Michelin star, seafood-focused, very expensive. My food was weird and really not good. Galen liked his more, but for $400 for dinner, skip.

l’Epine

**La Basilique de Notre-Dame-de-l’Epine is between Reims and Verdun. It’s architecturally important, in a relatively remote spot, a major  pilgrimage site. It’s imposing, and was closed during our visit.

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