Today we have left our town of hotel in Reims and are heading to the Champagne region of France. We are on the final full day of the tour commemorating the 100th/442nd RCT 75th Anniversary. My blogs from this day forward will most likely be a bit shorter.
We have learned that the soil in the Reims area is very chalky and below the surface of the earth there are hundreds of miles of tunnels used to store and age the champagne. The gentle slopping hills of the region create for a short growing season and more sugar in the fruit which attributes for the bubbles. Like scotch, to be called champagne it must be produced in this area of France. Dom Perignon a Benedictine monk is credited as the first to make champagne in the 17th Century.
As we enter Mercier we can see the many small and large producers of champagne. We have arrived at the Mercier champagne producer where we will tour the caves and taste the champagne. The tour is on a small train that takes through the underground caves and gives us a history and educational presentation into the process of making champagne. After the train ride we were treated to a tasting. First a 2 year old brut. Brute champagne has been aged and then a small amount of sugar is added to each bottle. We then had a 4 year old brut followed with a pink champagne.
We then traveled back to Reims and visited the museum where the surrender of Germany took place on May 7, 1945. The building had housed a university before the Germans occupied Reims. After the liberation the 101st Airborne used it as their headquarters and eventually gave it to the Allied command for their headquarters. After the war a ceremony was held where they returned the keys to the mayor of Reims.
Inside the museum today are artifacts of the war and it’s participants. Most remarkable is the room where the Germans signed their surrender and the actual document of surrender.
We left Reims now knowing it’s important place in history. Returning to Paris in the late afternoon, Larry, Anne Jane and I took the train to the Arc de Triomphe. It was Napoleon who had the Arch of Triumph built to the glory of the Great Army. It is an imposing monument sitting at the end of the Champs-Elysees’ opposite the Palais des Tuileries the residence of the Emperor. The arc was under construction from 1806 to 1836.
Jane and I climbed the spiral staircase to the top, stopping frequently to catch our breath. The climb takes us 50 meters up about 170 feet. From the top we had a sweeping view of the city and the many roads that lead to the huge roundabout surrounding the Arc.
Returning below we saw the many markers honoring the soliders who fought for France over the years including those during WWII. In January 1920 a ceremony was held burying the body of an unknown solider. An eternal flame was lit on November 11, 1923.
After taking pictures we walked down the Champs-Elyses a wide street with many familiar stores like Luis Vuitton where a line to get in had formed. We stopped at Charles V diner on the avenue and had a very nice dinner.