Our first real day in France began when the cleaning folks came into our room, because we forgot to put up the Do Not Disturb sign. After we shoo’ed them out, Rochelle muttered about them getting started pretty damn early “over here,” not realizing that it was way past her normal wake-up time of 7:00am. It was nearly noon!
When we realized we’d slept half our day away, we quickly got up, showered, dressed (me in the same clothes as yesterday, because Virgin Atlantic still hadn’t found my luggage), and fled the hotel in search of food and fun.
Getting into Reims was pretty easy, we just went a few more exits up the freeway from our hotel, and followed the signs to the cathedral. After driving around relatively aimlessly for 10 minutes, we spotted a parking space and stopped. Another 5 minutes to figure out how to use the parking “meter” (a box down the street which dispenses slips of paper with your expiration time on them — all instructions in French, of course), and we were loose.
So, the first thing we really did in France was visit the cathedral of Reims, which is a pretty impressive cathedral, as much so as the much more famous Notre Dame. However, churches get boring fast, and when we exited we spotted the Tourist Center, and popped in there.
We quickly got set up with a map to the big champagne houses in Reims, with notes on which ones require reservations and which ones you can just tour when you visit, as well as a detailed map of Reims with greater resolution (i.e., more street detail) than the one in our guidebook.
In spite of our very late start, we managed to visit that afternoon three of the champagne houses that don’t require reservations: Taittinger, Piper Heidsieck, and Maxim’s (which, if we understood correctly, actually private labels wines from the Comte de Noiron champagne house).
But that’s another post.