In addition to being known for Champagne, Reims is also famous for its spectacular cathedral and it was also the location for the signing of the surrender documents ending World War II. First, a bit about the town. Nestled amongst the wine vineyards, Reims is a bustling city. The old section, which has much charm is still quite bustling and busy. We arrived mid-morning, quickly found our hotel and were directed to the Marche Couvert (the recently, re-opened Covered Market). While the structure was interesting, the market itself was a bit disappointing. The Marche Couvert in Metz is far more spectacular and luckily, closer to us. After a quick tour, we headed to the Cathedral. Wow, what a spectacular site.
The cathedral in Reims was initially begun around the year 1200. It is an incredible structure, both inside and out. It truly takes your breath away. What was equally impressive was that the cathedral served as the venue for the crowning of the French kings. As you walked through the center of the church, you could just imagine the ceremony taking place. The stained glass windows were magnificent and, once again, Marc Chagall created some beautiful pieces. During World War I, the town of Reims was under bombardment for over three years. During that time, the cathedral was hit by bombs over 300 times. Luckily, through the generosity of donors (and specifically, John D. Rockefeller who donated over 16,000,000 francs), the cathedral was bought back to its original glory. While many statutes and the facade of the building were damaged, the city kept these pieces of glory and they are housed in the Archbishop's Palace next door. It took your breath away to see these statues dating back from the 1200's.
Back out on the street, we encountered another French spectacle that could not be ignored. While the Germans may have their beer tents, the French in this part of the world, have Champagne tents. So of course, we had to take a sample. Speaking of Champagne, we will have to visit the region again. We were a bit dismayed that many of the champagnes in the stores, were ones that we could buy back in the States. The prices were not dramatically different either. In our other wine travels, when we have shopped in a certain region, we have returned with absolute bargains. Not this time around...but perhaps we need to get out into the countryside and explore the area in greater depth. This; however, did not keep us from purchasing a few "unknown" bottles to sample over the holiday.
Our last stop of the day was the Musee de la Reddition or the Surrender Museum. It was here in 1945 that the documents ending World War II were signed. The museum was small and the major attraction was the map room, where the signing took place. For the second time that day, we were a bit blown by what we were experiencing and what had happened in the past.
After a wonderful, fun and slightly upscale dinner, we settled in for the night and were back home early enough on Sunday to enjoy the afternoon. Monday brought a welcome surprise as Jamie had the day off, courtesy of the President (of course, had we known about it on Friday when the order was signed, our weekend would have been very different. There are a lot of places you can get to on a four day weekend.) Nevertheless, we settled in on Christmas Eve and had a wonderful evening.
I had an idea. First, we calculated how many places we had visited in 2012 and how many miles we had travelled. We determined that we visited 30 towns/cities/areas and had travelled in excess of 17,000 miles (round trip and not including our trips back to the States). Then I asked both Dear Husband and Dear Daughter to list five places they wanted to visit in 2013. We placed those slips of paper in a cup and during dinner, Dear Daughter selected a slip. Five locations were discussed during our first course (small servings of potato chips served with Cremant); 5 with the second course (foie gras served with onion confit and toast and of course, Champagne) and 5 during the main course (cheese fondue). As each location was selected, the owner had to explain why this should be included in the 2013 list. At the end, we had one location that was unanimous...Portugal. But we also had a starting point for 2013 and the lively conversation was great fun. Another memory to sock away!
Christmas was great even if we were missing our family. We enjoyed speaking with everyone via phone or FaceTime. We had a wonderful Christmas Brunch and an eclectic Christmas Dinner, which we all participated in making.
So, "On to France" has concluded for now. We enter 2013 going back to Austria - leaving tomorrow to ski near Salzburg. "The hills are alive..." let's hope the mountains are alive...with snow".
We hope that you have had a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for a spectacular 2013. Dear Daughter and I celebrate our one year anniversary as ex-pats tomorrow. It has been a wonderful year and I truly believe that this move has been a good one for all of us.
Now...for that cheese fondue...so easy and so, so good!
Cubes of day old bread
Slices of apple
5 cups total of cheese. I used equal parts of Gruyere and Emmentaler and a bit of Alpenzeller. Normally, I just use Gruyer and Emmentaler but I found that the addition of this third cheese gives it a bit more depth.
1 T Kirschwasser (This is Cherry brandy... good luck finding it. I never did in the States and thus, did not use it but I have to say that it is so much better with it.)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
2 T flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 T lemon juice
Dry mustard and nutmeg.
Take the clove of garlic and rub it all over the bottom and sides of your fondue pot.
Grate all of the cheeses and place in a ziploc bag. Add the flour and mix thoroughly.
Add wine and lemon juice to fondue pot and simmer over medium heat. You do not want the heat too high. Slowly add the cheeses - just a bit at a time and stir until just melted. Keep adding the cheese and stir in a zigzag pattern until melted. Add the Kirschwasser, a pinch of nutmeg and 1/4 tsp dry mustard.
I have an electric fondue pot so once it has cooked on the stove, I add it back to the base and keep the temp at a slight slimmer. Dip using bread and apple or any other nibbles.