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"I never had a bad day that started with champagne," - Mike T Dark
Everyone knows that Paris is overflowing with awe-worthy architecture, a Michelin-starred food scene, and enough fabulous French wine to keep you in a permanent state of glee. But what many people don't know is that just 45 minutes outside of Paris lies the small city of Reims-the epicenter of the Champagne-Ardenne region of France and home to the world's most prestigious Champagne houses.
For an optimum Champagne tasting experience, you could easily spend a week in Reims and the surrounding region. But even just 36 hours in Reims is enough time to pop open the bubbly and learn a thing or two about Champagne.
36 Hours in Reims, France
2 p.m. It's time to begin your champagne education! Take one of the numerous TGVs (fast trains) from Paris to Reims.
3 p.m. Check into your hotel. If you're only staying one night, why not splurge on a stay at the elegant Chateau Les Crayeres? Built in 1901, this sweeping estate is the definition of luxury.
3:30 p.m. Make your way to the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral. Often considered to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of France, the Reims Cathedral is not only a gothic masterpiece, but also where the kings of France were once crowned. Its stained glass windows and intricate façade are particularly noteworthy. We recommend signing up for the daily 4 p.m. tours of the Reims Cathedral Towers. Available between March 15 - Oct. 31, the tour is a great value at only €7.50. (Note that the tour is completely in French and you'll need to tackle all 200+ stairs to reach the top of the towers).
PHOTO: The dramatic towers of the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral. (Courtesy of Chi King via Flickr)
5 p.m. Grab a pre-dinner drink at the piano, wine and cocktail bar: Bar le Colibri. Conveniently located right in front of the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, you can continue to admire the view as twilight sweeps in.
7 p.m. For a typical French fine dining experience, head to the popular Le Millenaire. There are a variety of set menus to suit different budgets, each featuring fresh, local ingredients and traditional-but stylish-French cuisine. The unique architecture and contemporary design of the restaurant ensure a relaxed but memorable ambience.
9 p.m. Call it an early night and enjoy your hotel-you've got a full day of drinking ahead!
8 a.m. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel before getting the blood pumping with a brisk walk (or short taxi ride) to the Pommery Mansion and Champagne House. Be sure to arrive early to admire the architecture and design of the mansion and grounds, which date back to 1836.
9: 30 a.m. Start your Pommery tour of the underground Roman caves and art nouveau tasting rooms. Upon the completion of the tour, enjoy sampling the house champagne! Try a few different varieties to appreciate each of their unique attributes.
PHOTO: The steps leading down to the caves of Pommery Champagne. (Courtesy of CpaKmoi via Flickr)
12 p.m. Make your way over to Veuve Clicquot, just a block away from Pommery, for a quick tasting of this party bubbly. Veuve Clicquot is known more for its iconic orange label than its vintage or rose labels, but all are worth a try.
2 p.m. Admire the less frequented Basilique Saint Remi, a quiet and serene church just outside the city center. If you're hungry, the small park adjacent to the Basilique makes the perfect place to stop for a picnic and sober up a bit before arriving at your next tasting.
PHOTO: The intricate interior of the Basilique Saint Remi. (Courtesy of Jean Lemoine via Flickr)
4 p.m. Continue across the river to the Lanson Champagne House. One of the oldest champagne houses in Reims, Lanson dates all the way back to 1760. A tour of this winery starts in the vineyards and takes you through the modern champagne-making process.
6 p.m. Make your way back into town for dinner at the authentic Brasserie le Boulingrin, a French restaurant that dates all the way back to 1925. Put that new champagne knowledge to good use and enjoy choosing a drink from their extensive champagne list.
After the sun goes down: Head over to Place d'Erlon. This pedestrian walkway is a popular University student hangout spot and features plenty of bars, shops and cafes. Twenty-somethings spill out of the bars and onto the streets, but the area manages to retain a slightly sophisticated feel to it. If you can't handle drinking any more champagne, there's also plenty of beer to be found here.
PHOTO: Place d'Erlon is a popular place to grab a drink. (Courtesy of Reims Tourisme via Flickr)
10:00am: Nurse that hangover, grab some breakfast and get back to Paris in time for lunch to continue your adventure in the City of Lights!
• To make the most out of your 36 Hours in Reims, don't feel the need to drink all of the champagne that is given to you. You want to remember all the knowledge you gain!
• Reservations are required for all of the Champagne Houses. Make sure you book ahead to secure your spot, especially if visiting during high season.
• If you prefer a more local, less-touristy experience, consider getting off the beaten track and visiting any of the hundreds of small, family-run champagneries in the nearby area. Often you'll find great quality champagnes at much cheaper prices.
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