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Adventure Parks, Champagne & Paris

FRANCE | Monday, 18 May 2009 | Views [782]

Finally we are in Paris and I am writing this from our apartment overlooking the roof tops of Paris from The Marais. This week of our trip has been a range of varied experiences. We started last Monday with a trip to Europa Park, the German Equivalent to EuroDisney and now we agree it is better. There were a range of rides in each land from the Swiss Matterhorn, to the Russian aerospace ride to the spinning English Bus and the twisting Spanish Galleons. Paul went on most of the fastest and highest roller coaster rides. The 6 year old twins, Emma & Max were impressed that he braved the 'Silver Star' roller coaster, the biggest of the roller coasters in the park as well as the new 'Blue Flame' which is like riding 'through space' and twisting and turning, including upside down. Sebastian  and Beate are keen to have us back next time, when the twins are older so we can go on all the rides that make their parents sick. As you can see by our photos I am not sure if it was as fun for us as it was the twins.

We left finally for our destination of France on Tuesday. Another series of fast European trains including the TGV in France with four connections from Germany to get there. We were most impressed with the conductor on the train from Freiburg to Offenbach who made a special announcement for us, in English, to change trains and which platform the train left from. The French trains are very stylish and we were impressed with the 5 minute trip we made from Champagne to Reims. Paul wants to mention that the toilet on the train was bigger than the bathroom of our hotel in Reims.

Reims is the largest champagne producing city in the world. It was in some ways not quite what we expected. It is not a village nestling in a valley of vineyards but quite a large regional city. It was an interesting first view of France. There is a large tram-way under construction in the city, which has been underway for some years and I think it will be some time away yet. It is taking so long because we worked out that the whole of Reims shuts down for 2 hours from 12 – 2pm for lunch. It was here we also had our first experience of French hospitality at the 'very friendly' tour office in Reims. It took some time to get an answer about tours in English (to which the response was 'Non'). However, after visiting the main cathedral we discovered that there were audio tours in English. Just the wrong question to ask to receive a 'right answer'. The same applied for our quite small hotel room which had a great view of the city square. In true French fashion the plumbing was not working when we arrived and then the elevator broke down on the second day and it never worked again, and we were on the fourth floor. The only response was it was 'En Panne'. We also discovered in talking in limited French with our helpful hotelier that the 'Bold & the Beautiful' is very popular in France and he watches it at breakfast every morning.

Reims has a beautiful cathedral and also a Basillica. It is the first place that a king was crowned in France and was the place of coronation for many subsequent French kings. Clovis features in many of the artworks and tapestries in museums around the city. The main cathedral 'Notre Dame' is a prime example of French medieval architecture and the facade and buttresses of the cathedral are adorned with sculptures. The symbol of the city is the 'smiling angel' who hovers above the portal of the main door. The cathedral was one of the only buildings left standing after the German bombings in the second world war and the angel is a symbol of hope. The Basilica of St. Remi is the other main church which also has similar architecture and was well worth a visit. The main art museum had an exhibition of the work of the French artist Corot with many of his influences. This included many artworks by Monet, Renoir and other great impressionists. This was a rare treat as you would normally have to queue for long hours to get a glimpse of such works in Australia.

However, our reason for visiting Reims was to visit the champagne houses. We visited two varied champagne houses Mumm and Veuve Cliquot. The tour at Mumm was exactly to the hour and was parroted out by the English speaking guide. We learnt that the grape juice is crushed outside of Reims and then it is shipped into the champagnery for 'distilling'. We actually didn't see any grapes, or champagne production, which was very surprising. We did get to see the bottles stored in the 'caves' and the end product in the tasting.  Veuve Cliquot was very special for Paul and the whole experience was very elegant and stylish. The history was informative and their chalk caves are impressive. They were started during Roman times and are as large as cathedrals. We think that their champagne tasted the best anyway.

On Friday we took another very fast TGV, for 45 minutes to arrive in Paris. We got to our apartment and worked out the complicated locking system. The apartment is at the top of the building under the eaves. It is light and airy and is well appointed with a kitchen, bathroom and most importantly for Paul, a washing machine. The area has lots of fresh food shops; groceries, boulangeries and restaurants. Cecile & Ian arrived safely from Japan via Helsinki and we went out to a local restaurant for our first Parisian meal.

The last 2 days we have been exploring Paris by foot. We have travelled from The Marais up to Place D'Opera and Galeries Lafeyette. Then through the Tullieries up the Champs Elysees to the Arc De Triomphe and down through the Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower. Today we visited the Bastille Market to buy our produce for our dinner tonight. The range of fruit and vegetables are  excellent. The market stores have everything from chickens, to fish, to crepes, clothing and meat. We then walked over to Ile de la Cite and past the very busy Notre Dame. We decided to avoid it as there was a large crowd queuing to go in. We finished walking through the Latin Quartier up to the Parthenon. The  building has been restored in the last few years and the interior is magnificent with murals and sculptures that are significant to Paris; the revolution and the crowning of their kings: Clovis  gets another mention here! The crypt is filled with famous people including Madame Curie, Rousseau, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. We have also visited the Place des Voyages where Victor Hugo is said to have lived.

By the time I have finished this I have exhausted the power of the computer and myself. I will write again with our news from the 'City of Light' next week when we will have visited many museums and had some excellent meals. Yesterday I tried Guinea Fowl for the first time, which we discovered was a 'Pintade' by our friendly seafood grocer in the MonoPrix supermarket. Until many more meals and experiences next week.

Kathryn & Paul

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