Reims France: Beyond the Bubbles

Z1 Street Art in Reims.
Z1 Street Art in Reims.
The smiling angel of Reims.
The smiling angel of Reims.

Reims is famous for being the capital of Champagne and has been honored this year to be one of the top cities in France, which is a distinction held by 28 other cities.

It is a city that is surrounded by the vines of the grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that are used to make the great trademarked bubbly.

At Domaine Vranken Pommery Champagne we found a cellar devoted to art, going back to Madame Pommery in the 19th century who commissioned great sculptures to be engraved into the walls of the caves.

They have more than 22 million bottles in these vast caves, 110 feet down, and they rotate out interesting modern sculptures that await the champagne lovers who are taking the cave tour.

Scary art installation down in Pommery's champagne caves.
Scary art installation down in Pommery’s champagne caves.

It’s not the kind of art you understand, but it is the kind you will remember. One piece is a scattering of 22,000 bullet casings, another is a mega-sized set of aluminum tubes that arch skyward into the airshaft 110 feet up.

A final exhibit is a terrifying collection of monsters who attack innocent citizens. I guess you’ll have to descend down the groovy stairs with the fast-moving light flickering all the way down then up again.

We boarded a city bus, and took it for about ten blocks, to an industrial area that we learned has become a magnet for street artists.

Gothic glory of Notre Dame of Reims
Gothic glory of Notre Dame of Reims

Reims is finding places for a wide range of street art with a project called Z1 Artistes Street Art, starting with a fence that runs hundreds of feet beside an SNCF railroad track.  Here names are given to graffiti writers, err, street artists.

Well, they do have a wide range of talents, but they all got their start putting their marks on places they shouldn’t have.

A patron with horns joins diners at the Cafe du Palais, in Reims.
A patron with horns joins diners at the Cafe du Palais, in Reims.

Each of the panels follows a theme, such as industry, and yards and yards of creativity has brightened up a boring white concrete fence.  Another place where street murals are in bloom are in the hallways of a downtown parking garage. Two artists pieces grace the entrance and a few other choice spots in upstairs hallways.

Salad with chicken at Cafe du Palais.
Salad with chicken at Cafe du Palais.

Dining in Reims

We visited the Cafe du Palais, for an old school high-class lunch, with entrees like rabbit cooked with cider, and beef tartare.

This busy brasserie is as authentic as they come, and the hearty food is served by the usual professional career waiters who do it all so breezily and with such charm.

Street art in a parking garage in Reims, Champagne, France.
Street art in a parking garage in Reims.
Cafe de la Paix, Reims: modern, clean lines.
Cafe de la Paix, Reims: modern, clean lines.

Cafe de la Paix is a very modern restaurant attached to the hotel of the same name, in downtown Reims.

Much different from the traditional lunch spot, this places sparkles with cool, with round tables, clean white sightlines, and delicious food in larger portions than you expect.

Find out more about Reims

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