Subterranean Bubbly in Reims

Nestled in the Champagne region 80 miles northeast of Paris, visitors flock to Reims for two reasons: centuries-old cathedrals and decades-old bubbly. Kristi, our friend Anne, and I rented a car and took an overnight trip to experience both.

Notre-Dame de Reims is the flagship cathedral in this city of 188,000. Over the course of a thousand years (9th to 19th centuries), 34 coronations of French monarchs took place at this location. This gothic cathedral, which celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2011, was built to replace the previous church that was burned to the ground. These images were taken at night.

The following morning, we stumbled across the champagne house of G.H. Martel, founded in 1869. We quickly signed up for a tour (with tasting) of the Gallo-Roman chalk cellars that burrow nearly 70 feet underneath the building and date to as early as the 4th century. While this was mostly a museum demonstrating how champagne was once made, bottled champagne is aged in subterranean cellars to maintain constant cool temperatures; nearly 200 million bottles are aging in  over 60 miles of underground cellars underneath the nearby town of Épernay.

Above ground, we drove through miles of vineyards during harvest on our way to Épernay.