Reims part two! I thought I'd better do this today because my friend Amber is visiting this weekend and I'll have that to blog about next. As I think I've said before, it is easy to lose the motivation to blog about "part two" of a trip - there are usually tons of photos to go through, you feel like you're rehashing stuff and/or just presenting a mundane list of things you saw and did - and that only increases the more time that passes between the event and the blog. That's why I made a real effort to blog in "real time" as it were in Ukraine.
Anyway, on Saturday Jess wanted to go and watch the France-New Zealand rugby match. I am not *at all* a rugby fan, and to be fair Jess isn't really either, but she thought it would be fun and a cool atmosphere to experience seeing a game in France. After all, it's not very often that the French remember we exist. The game started at around 10.30, but I was up and ready a bit before that, so I decided to head out early to see some sights and meet Jess at the pub we had scoped out the night before.
I headed to the cathedral, which was pretty much empty at that time of day - which was nice, it was already starting to fill up with coachloads of tourists by the time I left. To be honest, it's not the most impressive inside of all the cathedrals I've been to (a lot!), most probably because it was gutted by fire in WWI. Reims was the coronation cathedral for the French monarchy, dating back, as we know, 800 years. It was built on the site of the basilica where Saint Rémi baptised Clovis, the first Catholic French king, in 496.
Bizarre camp dinosaur-looking gargoyle on the cathedral
This statue looks like a right moody so-and-so. Pretty sure she'd punch you if she wasn't missing her hands
A chap who lost his head (and got some sort of weird neck growth in return?)
Allegedly famous "smiling angel" statue. Kind of creepy. Also kind of inspecting his/her nails
Inside the cathedral
Stained glass windows by Chagall
When I got to the pub, I found Jess sitting with two strangers, one of whom was in an All Blacks shirt and thus presumably Kiwi. They turned out to be a couple who were roadtripping around Europe before planning to do a year working in London - very typical Kiwi stuff. They were really nice & it was fun to watch the game with them. Much more knowledgeable about rugby than us, especially the guy! I didn't pay all that much attention to the game, but it was good that we won! There seemed to be some All Blacks supporters somewhere in the back of the pub at first, but then I think they left for some reason, and you would just get silence punctuated by some "woohoos" from our table (at which everyone turned round and stared, every time) when the All Blacks scored a try. After the game, we moved outside into absolutely blazing sunshine and had a pub lunch with the Kiwi couple. I got to have some proper fish and chips for the first time in a long time, yum!
Jess wanted to head back to the hotel for a rest after lunch, and I wanted to find somewhere to watch the F1 qualifying - the pub where we watched the rugby was showing a replay of the same game. I found a different pub but they told me the qualifying was on in the middle of the night, which it wasn't, and explained to me that Singapore was in a different time zone, like I was an idiot. Yes, Singapore is in a different time zone, but Singapore is a night race! Anyway, thwarted in the attempt, I wandered out of town to the basilica of the aforementioned St. Remi, where he is buried. Again, it was nice enough, but not particularly interesting to blog about.
Tomb of St Rémi
I thought these unusual late 13th/early 14th century lead engravings were pretty cool
I finished off the afternoon by visiting some Roman ruins - a 'cryptoportique', the subterranean remains of a grain storage markety thing. Basically just a big underground room, but it was free! I always forget how far the Romans got and that they actually had real, functioning settlements all over the place.
When I got back to the hotel room, I found a bottle of Dom Perignon chilling in the bathroom sink, packed in with a couple of packets of frozen potato bites (cheaper than ice, apparently). We enjoyed our champagne out of the plastic cups they leave on the side of the sink, which is probably such sacrilege that we would have been run out of town had we been caught in the act. Jess had also bought a packet of the allegedly famous pink biscuits of Reims, which my friend Liz had insisted we try (never having had them herself, mind you). We tried eating them straight out of the packet, only to find they were hard and dry. I read the back, and you're supposed to dip them in champagne or a sweet wine like port, kind of like biscotti and coffee I suppose. We gingerly tried it out with a small amount of champagne. Turns out they're even worse dipped in something - mine instantly turned to complete sugary mush, thankfully not in the champagne glass though, that would have been even more criminal!
On Saturday night, we had our Michelin meal, which has already been blogged in loving detail. After that, we just went back to the hotel room to bed.
I forget the exact sequence of what we did on Sunday... We had lunch at the same pub where we watched the rugby (chicken burger for me this time, and flammenkeuche for Jess) and just enjoyed the sun. Ah, I miss the sun already! It really was fabulous, hot weather, we were really lucky. We visited the Palace of Tau, the old bishops' residence adjoining the cathedral, where its "treasures" are kept. This was a bit disappointing, since the vast majority of said treasures seem to have disappeared in the Revolution - no crowns or sceptres to be found. There were some nice tapestries and some of the original statues from the cathedral, and that was about it. One really cool thing was some gargoyles that looked like they had metal tongues - turned out that during the fire, the lead pipes had melted and run out of the gargoyles' mouths and then cooled in place, so it looks like the gargoyles are spitting out lead.
A necklace supposedly taken from Charlemagne's tomb
There was a display of pieces made by people training to be master carpenters or something. Some of them were actually pretty good, but with all due respect to this guy, you do kind of look at this and think "300 hours' work, REALLY?"
A sort of storage room for bits and pieces of statues. Just kind of liked this photo
Later on, we went to the art gallery, which was okay. I was disappointed that only 2 out of their collection of Cranach engravings were on display at any one time, but oh well, preservation and all that.
We had time for a glass of wine or two before the train, then a smooth journey back home & Jess went back to London the next day, while I went to a workshop on copyrights and the ethical diffusion of information (thought rather than taking the day off I may as well get paid to sit around doing nothing and get a free lunch into the bargain. Plus it's good for the old CV).