Once we had arrived in downtown Reims and parked the car, we headed past the busting outdoor market to a lively brasserie called le Boulingrin (the Green, like a lawn). Established in 1925, the art deco style, creamy walls and large windows were very pleasing to the eye.
For an appetizer, I had oeufs cocottes (soft boiled eggs) with broccoli cream, while my husband enjoyed a little pot of foie gras with toasts. For the main course, he had lamb with white beans and I ordered sea bass with pink lentils from Champagne. Finally, for dessert, I had mango custard with clementines on a shortbread cookie, but I should have gone for the regional specialty which my husband aptly chose: a creamy soufflé glacé made with pink cookies from Reims.
After our appetites were satiated, we visited Notre Dame de Reims, an impressively large cathedral where all of the kings of France were crowned. Trong, who also happened to be an official guide for the cathedral, explained everything to us.
On the outside of the church, pockmarks in the stone revealed remnants of gunfire from World War II. At the entrance, there was a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. If you looked closely, or even not so closely, you could see that baby Jesus’ face had been redone after the damage of World War II.
Inside, the windows let in so much light that no electric lighting was necessary even to read. This was impressive, as cathedrals in France tend to be quite dark.
Our last stop was the prestigious Mumm champagne house. Marble covered floor and ceiling in the reception room, and several red leather couches held waiting guests. It was amazing to experience the contrast of this very corporate, high-production tour as compared to the personal, intimate style of the morning visit at the independent producer.
We were brought through endless rooms by a docent who spoke very good English. We were presented with light-up maps, rows of giant barrels and mysterious contraptions. We followed our guide blindly down the dark halls with the rest of the photo-snapping group.
The volume of the bottles stored down in their cellar was astounding. They must have been sitting on hundreds of millions of euros. The most fascinating thing to me was that they are able to make floor to ceiling rows of bottles for aging with no slats in between, just bottle upon bottle. A locked area stored special vintages from 1895 through the 1960’s. The fact that the bottles were completely covered in cobwebs assured me they’d been there for quite a long time.
At the end of the tour, we each tasted a glass of their Red Label champagne, which is supposed to be some of Mumm’s best. It was good, but it didn’t taste that special to me. Trong said this was because we had just eaten, so our palates were not clean.
We didn’t buy a bottle from Mumm because it is available practically everywhere, and I was perfectly happy with our bottle of exceptional Grand Cru from Jean-Claude Mouzon.
On the drive home, most of the group fell asleep. It had been a long day for us, and even longer for our driver who must have been up around 5am in order to take the train from Reims to Paris to come and pick us up that morning. The aroma of the coffee he was drinking wafted back and awakened me. When he dropped us off, we thanked him warmly for such a wonderful day. It truly was delicious in so many ways.
I enthusiastically recommend this day trip to Champagne! Please visit their website for more information:
© 2012 Pasa’s Paris