France: Paris and Reims

Thursday 23 April to Sunday 26 April 2015

travellingross rating = 8/10

We arrived at Salzburg train station half an hour ahead of our 8 am train to Paris to find it cancelled. What! Another reason not to book train tickets in advance (dig dig). The train info centre helped us get on a train to Munich where we could connect but would need to check with the German info desk as their trains were on strike and the cause of the issue. At least we were heading off and in the right direction. After a long time at the Munich station we were rebooked onto several more trains to Paris arriving 3 hrs later than originally planned. All comfortable and modern trains unlike one’s I’ve taken in Italy. We spent 1 night in Paris near the train station, then rented a car and drove north to the centre of the champagne region. Paris highlights:

  • My 3rd time to Paris. I like the culture of this city, but each time I’ve found it increasingly dirty and full of tourists. We seemed to stay in immigrant’s quarter and not a very comfortable feeling walking around.
  • The height of the Eiffel Tower compared to the rest of the city is still amazing.
  • Mum visited Sainte-Chapelle with the stained glass windows that she didn’t get to last visit and I went to the Conciergerie, a former palace and then prison during the revolution. Mum really enjoyed hers. Mine was not v good, with only highlight being a re-enactment of Queen Marie Antoinette cell where she was held for months prior to her execution. Interestingly, I learned in Vienna that Marie Antoinette was a daughter of the Austrian Queen (she was one of 16 kids married off to the European monarchies!).
  • Montparnasse – never been to top of this office tower that has great views. Unfortunately it was a bit hazy but still a different viewpoint of Paris.
  • Driving out of Paris. Survived the chaos and happy to have an automatic in this traffic.

Reims highlights:

  • The cathedral was the coronation place for all French kings and queens. Destroyed in WW1, it has been rebuilt. Not much to see on the inside though.
  • The German surrender to end WW2 was first signed here 7 May 1945 and then re-signed in Berlin a day later at the insistence of Stalin. Fascinating museum in Eisenhower’s war rooms with original maps etc still in place.
  • Veuve Clicquot. Lucky to get a walk in tour of this champagne house and their caves where all the bottles are stored. The 50 euro tour was best of the two we did and finished with 2 full glass sized tastings of my current favourite champagne. Veuve means widow.
  • Day trip to Epernay. It was a Sunday so I get that not a lot is open but I thought that the Avenue de Champagne would be the epicentre of tastings but it was hard to find more than a couple places. And cost 15-18 euro to taste 3 half glasses. But it was still awesome to drive through the picturesque Champagne Region and I had a couple of champagne breakfasts, lunches, and dinner.
  • ANZAC Day centenary. A momentous occasion in Australian history, we struggled to find a war memorial in Reims but would make up for this in coming days across the Somme battlefields…