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Is a trip to Reims worth it in March, or should we stay with Epernay?

Is a trip to Reims worth it in March, or should we stay with Epernay?

Old Jan 25th, 2008, 12:25 PM
  #1  
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Is a trip to Reims worth it in March, or should we stay with Epernay?

OK, I am really re-phrasing my earlier question. I posted this under another heading which generated zero feedback. So, trying again in hopes that it will be more successful...

Visiting Paris in March, we want to do a day trip to Reims, visiting champagne caves as well as the cathedral. We are there the week of March 3 - 10.

Today we were informed by Piper-Heidsieck that they have decided to permanently close their visitors' center. Earlier we learned Veuve Clicquot is closed until March 30, and Cunard-Duchene until the 20th. This leaves Mumm and Tattinger as the most prominent houses in Reims.

With these developments, would we be better doing a day in Epernay, where I understand there may be more choices of champagne caves, as well as a lovely little village to visit? We recognize this alternative would eliminate a visit to the cathedral, so that has to be considered.

Subjective, I know, but input based on your experience will make our decision easier.

Many thanks.

Jim
JimF is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2008, 12:46 PM
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Jim, I can only answer part of your question, as I haven't been to Épernay, nor did I visit any champagne producers while in Reims last fall.

I did, however, spend several hours in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Reims and loved every minute of it. It is magnificently proportioned, far more pleasing to eye than Notre-Dame in Paris. The stained glass is fascinating, ranging from some remarkably preserved 13th-century glass to the beautiful 20th-century work of Marc Chagall in the east end of the church.

If that appeals to you, it's well worth a visit. Perhaps others can help with information on the champagne cellars.

Anselm
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Old Jan 25th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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I visited Reims for as a day trip, at the end of a January. Easy ride by train from Paris. Yes, the fields are gray and dead, but I felt I had at least seen them. The walk from the train station goes past some roman ruins, an interesting area of older buildings (town hall,etc..) and then the cathedral...really worth a visit (look for the smiling angel). Across the street, a good champagne and wine store. After lunch near cathedral, walked to Taittinger champagne cellars (about 15 minutes). Interesting cellars, under ruins of old abbey, in cellars originally carved by the Romans. Some samples, a taxi ride back to train station, Paris for dinner. Weather was cool, bit moist.With a bit of planning, we could have added some more things to see, but it was still a good visit.

So I'd think that March is not a bad time, apart from the fields maybe not being green and bountiful.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Hi Jim,

i was going to wax lyrical about the cathedral but Anselm got there first.

I've happened to be in Reims 3 times now, and each time it's blown me away. the rose window by itself is worth the trip.

regards, ann
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Old Jan 25th, 2008, 03:00 PM
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I'm not really interested in champagne, so my opinion probably isn't going to be relevant to someone who is thinking of not going just because of that -- but I enjoyed a day trip to Reims for completely other reasons, including the cathedral and some other museums. It's just a pleasant city, in any case. One of the things I enjoyed most was touring the recapitulation museum (not sure what they really call it -- Eisenhower's headquarters where the Germans surrendered in WWII).

If you are in a champagne cave and some are open, I don't see what difference it makes if it is March or not, as you will be below ground. Mumm and Taittinger are wellknown names and seem like more than enough, anyway. I doubt if you could go to that many, anyway, aren't two enough?

It makes more sense to visit Reims in March than a small village, to me.
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Old Jan 25th, 2008, 03:29 PM
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Christina, I think it's called the Musée de la Reddition. I was planning to visit when I was there in October but it is unfortunately closed on Tuesdays.

Jim, I forgot to mention that I had a wonderful moules frites lunch at Le Grand Café on place Drouet-d'Erlon. A friend recommended the Café du Palais, 14 place Myron-Herrick (I think it's also in the Michelin guide), but I didn't have time to go. Both places offer champagne by the glass, of course. No wonder I love France.

AA
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Old Jan 25th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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As the driver and navigator on both stops in Reims en route to Alsace, I never had a chance to visit the caves; however, I love both the town and the cathedral. You know that it's only about 1/2 hour to Epernay from Reims? The cathedral is a short visit ... could you squeeze in a stop on the way to Epernay?

I would love to read your reviews of whichever champagne caves that you visit as it's still on my wish list of things to see/do.

Have fun!
Chicago_Heather is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2008, 05:17 PM
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Reims for all the reasons that people who have posted before.
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Old Jan 25th, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Have been to Epernay and it's definitely worth it if you're interested in the Champagne process. (Didn't find the village especially cute though.) We also stopped in Reims to see the cathedral - and that was definitely worth it.

We were on a road trip though - so time was our own.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Jan 27th, 2008, 07:16 PM
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Excellent feedback, and I am appreciative.

I think we will stay with Reims.

Thanks again,

Jim
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 08:45 PM
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Jim,

It's been 10 years, but we thoroughly enjoyed the tour at Pommery in Reims, a house not as well known in the states as Piper and others.

The chalk caves are below the beautiful mansion that is just out of the city center (cab ride, or a long walk as we did). Approx 80 steps down into the cellars, then there's the climb back up, but a very informative tour. From their website:

"Welcome to the Pommery Estate

The visitors Department and the Boutique are open:
- from beginning of April until mid-November, every day, week-ends and Bank Holidays included from 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- from mid-November until the end of March every day, week-ends included from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- close between the 24/12/2008 to the 01/01/2009 included.

General public tours starting at €10.
Various possibilities for private tours. For an estimate, please contact our Booking service:

Telephone: +33 (0) 26 61 62 55
Fax: +33 (0)3 26 61 62 96
E-mail: [email protected]"

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 11:06 PM
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We stopped in Epernay a few years ago but didn't find anything very endearing about the town. Interesting enough if you want to visit one of the champagne houses but the town itself was a let-down for us. I don't think I'd want to spend an entire day there.
We found plenty to keep us amused in Reims, however.
What we enjoyed most though was visiting some of the independent champagne makers out in the countryside. (Who won't charge you to taste their champagnes like the "big names" do!). So if you have a car I'd definitely recommend getting out of the towns and investigating some of the smaller producers.
hanl is offline  
Old Jan 28th, 2008, 06:21 AM
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If you had a car and could arrange to visit a smaller winery in the countryside it would be worth it. Typically you're shown through the winery by an owner, often one of several generations who have owned the winery. Tastings are always a part of it. The only recommendation is that as a courtesy by at least one bottle. These are champagnes that are not often available in the states.
You can see both Reims and Epernay in a day actually, if you don't spend all of your time visiting champagne houses. Of the big houses, the tours are pretty much the same and once you understand the process of champagne making the tours themselves are redundant. Of the big houses, I prefered Veuve Cliquot over Tattinger and Moet in Epernay was my favorite over all. The caves of Reims are very interesting as all of the houses' caves are connected. Finally...in the winter you can usually visit a house (such as Veuve) by appointment which can be arranged by your hotel or the town's TI. I prefer Epernay but then I've seen the Reims cathedral and if you haven't had the opportunity it would be hard to say which town is better.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 07:30 AM
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I honestly don't know why you can't do both. We took a fairly early morning train to Reims, visited the cathedral, and did a champagne cellar. We had planned on Tattinger, but they were closed for a special tour so did Maxim's instead. Late morning we took the train back to Epernay -- very short trip, had lunch there and did two more champagne cellars there. About 5 PM we took the train back to Paris. It was a great day, and I wouldn't have been nearly so happy only doing one of the two.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 07:46 AM
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After one or two tours of the bigger houses its hard to tell the difference. What you could do is contact one of the smaller houses and get a personal tour which they are often very happy to do.

MY husband and I have had great tours with the smaller marques - for free and lasting a couple of hours and really going into detail.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 12:13 PM
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My daughter and I had an excellent visit to Mumm in Reims last year - I suspect that the cave portion of these tours is much the same from one house to another. My only tip was that the tour is priced based on how many champagnes you want to drink - my daughter noticed that there was now overlap, so we ordered two different tickets with 5 champagnes and the hostess poured an additional. We had a very congenial time drinking and talking with her about the champagnes, and their different styles - learned a lot and felt we had a much better deal than the folks who drank down their single glass and left.

Across the street from Mumm is an extremely interesting chapel (Le NOtre Dame de la Paix) completely decorated inside by a Japanese modern artist Leonard Foujita.

the Cathedral is magnificent and the town is prosperous with many interesting buildings in Art Noveau and older styles as you walk around.

Highly recommend a visit - definitely more than just a wine village stop.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 12:24 PM
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ps - we noticed there was NO OVERLAP between the wines tasted on our two tickets - sorry for any confusion.
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Old Feb 10th, 2008, 09:12 AM
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Bookmarking- doing same day trip end of March (sometime betwenen March 22-30), so will be curious to hear how the trip went! We're more invested in seeing the champagne cellars than sites, so any tips you have re. cellars/caves that are open or booking in advance are welcome.

Oh, the hours I've lost to Fodor's online ... such great stories to read!
EmilyMB is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2008, 06:37 AM
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Any suggestions on the smaller champagne houses?
Cposey is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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also interested in "smaller houses" experiences and reccomendations
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