The travel agency at the Alliance, my French school, has some tours by bus that finally coincided with my schedule, so I decided to take one.  It would take me back to Champagne and I’d be able to see a couple of things that I did not see the first trip over.  They call traveling coaches autocars here in France and it’s an economical way to take a tour.  They don’t hold your hand, which I like, but you do still have to stick to a schedule.  Our schedule began at 8:30am about a mile from my place.  They had 2 busses almost full of people, almost all French.  They gave us a little commentary and history of the places we were going to visit but the “tour guide” doesn’t walk you through the places giving you any commentary.  When you reach a place, she just lets you know how much time you have and when the bus will leave for the next destination.  I like that.  Although, if you like a place and it’s time to go, well then, it’s time to go.  You’ll just have to note that you loved it and try to go back sometime in your life on your own.

Chateau Thierry

Our first stop was Chateau Thierry.  That is the name of the town as well as the name of the fortress that stands above the town.  It’s a medieval fortress surrounded by a wall.  We were given an hour to hang out and that was plenty as just the shell of the fortress remains.  I noticed on the way there that there are a couple of American memorial cemeteries nearby as well in case anyone is interested.

St. Remy

Next stop was the Cathedral of St. Remy in the town of Reims.  When I was here in February, we didn’t get a chance to go to St. Remy and it’s a shame.  I found this Cathedral more beautiful than the more famous Reims Cathedral.  They only gave us 1/2 hour here and I would have preferred an hour, but I was glad to see it nonetheless.

It was time for lunch and they dropped us off at the Reims Cathedral at just about 1p.  We had until 3:00p to do dinner and check out the cathedral.  I took my time at lunch and gave another look at the cathedral and was also able to peruse some of the tourist shops that were open, despite it being Sunday, because the weather was nice and there were a lot of people in town.  We were told that starting in May, the town will be open 7 days a week and things will not close during the lunch break.  That will be the high season and it normally runs May through October.  I tried to find a different establishment to eat from the one I went to last time but I was told at two different establishments, that they didn’t serve lunch on Sundays, so I went back to the Belgian style pub in front of the Cathedral.  Most people were sitting outside but I saw there were too many pigeons around trying to steal food, so I sat inside.  I still had a great view of the cathedral.  This time I tried something that looked like a pizza with a very nice thin crispy crust.  It went down well with the blonde beer I ordered.

Carnegie Library – Reims

On some of the commentary, we were told that Carnegie and Rockafeller donated quite a bit of money to the rebuilding of the Reims cathedral after WWI.  As I was walking around town, ran into the Carnegie library which is in the Art Deco style and right next tot he Reims cathedral.

Mercier tasting!

Our last stop was the champagne house of Mercier in the town of Épernay.  Épernay is just about 20 minutes south of Reims and is more quaint.  We had a 4pm tasting tour.  This place was a little more Disney than the Pommery house in Reims.  Mercier had a film they showed us before we boarded an elevator that took us down 30 meters (I don’t know what that is in feet).  It seemed to be about 3 or four stories of a buildings worth and when we exited we were in the caves.  We then boarded a train that was electronically guided through a route of the caves with an audio commentary we heard through personal walkie talkies.  We turned those in when we got back upstairs to the tasting area.  I was able to try the regular Brut and the Rose Brut varieties.  Although I preferred the Pommery champagne, Mercier seemed to be a better value for the money.  It was tasty and it was less than 20 euros a bottle.  I did bring one back to share with my French class.

We left Épernay at 5:30p and, even with the traffic as we approached Paris, they still managed to drop us off at our starting point by 8pm.  It was a long day and that tour, which included the wine tasting and tour, was only 38 euros.  Great deal.

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