#920123 by pjh
17 Apr 2016, 18:31
This starts with the offspring somehow getting the idea that MrsPJH and I are not averse to a champagne lifestyle. Possibly this is because when we have champagne, be it in a CH or elsewhere we tend to send them a picture of a glass of the stuff but who can tell what motivates the young? So when looking at something to buy me for my 60th, having abandoned the idea of having a Muppet designed in my image they settled on a booking to visit the Ruinart house in Reims. Naturally this ended up costing us a fortune in travel and accommodation, but hey ho it got me out of the house.

We'd scheduled a pick up for the start of the journey but the location wasn't exactly high tone and can you believe it the only vehicle they could find looked exactly like a Stagecoach double decker bus.

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Though access to the relevant lounge was straightforward, the drinks offerings were limited in range...

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..but enlivened by the choice of postcards (why an El Al jet in Huntingdon train station?)

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We were soon whisked away on one of Great Northern's finest vintage carriages (those that the previous operator had promised were gone forever) down to Kings Cross. A final decent, honest, British lunch was purchased in M&S (as we suspected there would be nothing for us to eat in France given the lack of imagination associated with their cuisine) before moving into the Eurostar terminal. I took no photos of either the journey down or the Eurostar terminal as frankly they are far too despressing; the latter makes me yearn for Stansted Airport's public areas.

Still, the wifi was solid and free and the train on time. It transpired that we were on one of the new Eurostar trains (the blue one in the picture)

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which features wifi and some in train entertainment...

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The journey was fine, no delays, and we were in Paris just in time for the heavens to open and to completely soak us in the short walk from Gare du Nord to Gare de L'Est. After a pit stop for a refreshing beer, we were then on the upper deck of the TGV headed out to Reims.

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Again this was fine. Once out of the Parisian suburbs we were motoring along, covering the 90 miles in 45 minutes. (XIZ is not the code for Reims by the way. It's another TGV station close to Reims, Gare de Champagne-Ardenne, more of which later.

Rain had followed us from Paris, but after a short squelchy walk we were in the apartment we had booked.

Next day the weather did not improve much. In fact it got worse. Our demeanour wasn't helped by the fact that two of Reims outstanding landmarks appeared to us thusly

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The Cathedral Notre Dame had some Marc Chagall stained glass

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and some wonderful stone work including this chap bearing the weight of the world

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Reims is also where the German Army signed the first declaration of surrender at the close of WW2, in a rather unassuming schoolroom.

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We had intended to get the train out to Epernay the next morning to visit one of the Champagne houses out there, but the words "replacement bus service" hove into view when we were checking the times so instead we decided to visit Lanson. Which, to be honest, is in one of the less preposessing parts of town (an attempt to find a bijou cafe for some lunch morphed into a large packet of crisps in a park).

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The tour was good though and we did get to see lots

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and lots

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and lots

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of champagne and to learn about the method.

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Ruinart was the day following, and to fill the time in the morning we visited the Basilique Saint-Remi where we got to ponder about all the stories captured in stained glass windows you can never get to

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and to find out that Quasimodo was a son of Reims..

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Anyhow, then to Ruinart. The experience was different from Lanson, as where the latter's cellars are built into a hill, Ruinart's are in the chalk pits. This makes the experience feel different


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with some interesting carvings in the chalk walls.

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Train based disaster almost struck again on the way home when our TGV direct to Paris was cancelled and we had to get a little shuttle train to Gare de Champagne-Ardenne. This journey's highlights were a distinctly European design of seat.

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followed by a fight between a TGV driver and someone on the platform. The TGV we then caught back to Paris was horribly overcrowded, and we were steeled for standing up for 45 minutes (no biggie, done it lots of time when commuting) but two young men offered us their seats. Great, but mortifying as we thought there other couples standing up who were far older than us....

Edited to add: does anyone know how to get rid of the white space at the start of this message? I don't see it in Preview mode...
#920205 by pjh
19 Apr 2016, 09:36
Sealink wrote:Great TR! Any pics of the interior of the new Eurostar train?


Unfortunately not from me. By the time we got on every seat was taken and I get a little nervous about taking pictures when lots of people are in frame. I did find this though...

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We had a compare and contrast in that we returned on the old style train which felt quite dull and battered in comparison though the space felt much the same in Economy.

ps thanks for the tip on how to get pictures into the TR from Flickr.
#920206 by marshy11
19 Apr 2016, 10:50
Entertaining TR, thank you for posting and a belated Happy Birthday!
#920208 by slinky09
19 Apr 2016, 11:42
Great TR, love Reims, always found the Taittinger visit among the better ones although Moet is impressive. Getting out to some of the lesser houses in the country is great too. We're planning on another visit in September!
#920211 by sungod
19 Apr 2016, 15:23
great TR , we've been meaning to do a champagne visit, this could spur me to arrange it!

never occurred to me to do a TR for eurostar, so i'll just tack this on here...

i found the new eurostar trains a bit of a mixed bag:

good: wifi, extra power points, and aircon that isn't permanently set to be just a bit too warm

less so: in 'standard premier' carriage i find the old seats more comfy than the new ones, also a bit more private, not tried the new 'standard' seats yet, still not enough solo 'aircraft' layout seats (as a tall person this is my main gripe, three hours face to face with a stranger and no legroom is no fun); the food is no better

bad: the toilets in the new train we were on were already nasty, given all the extra space/weight available vs. an aircraft, it's baffling that they can get it so wrong, virgin west coast trains are way better, i hope it was just a one-off, but in many years of travelling eurostar this was the first time i actually complained

tbh, ever since they stopped the all you can drink champagne service in premier it's been downhill, i still remember the time i was on the early train to paris and asked if there was any chance of a glass, they opened a bottle for me :)
#920245 by Bretty
19 Apr 2016, 22:01
Thanks for this Paul, very interesting although some of the journey highlights sound dire! However, the champagne tours look very interesting and were you enticed with any free samples?
#920278 by pjh
20 Apr 2016, 23:40
Bretty wrote:Thanks for this Paul, very interesting although some of the journey highlights sound dire! However, the champagne tours look very interesting and were you enticed with any free samples?


The tours usually involve a glass or two at the end. Interestingly those we went on made between very little and zero attempt to sell you anything....
#920374 by Maximus
23 Apr 2016, 12:39
Thanks for the TR, an enoyable and amusing read.
having abandoned the idea of having a Muppet designed in my image


I thought they had already done that? ;-) :D

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew or Dr pjh?
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#920375 by pjh
23 Apr 2016, 12:55
Maximus wrote:Thanks for the TR, an enoyable and amusing read.
having abandoned the idea of having a Muppet designed in my image


I thought they had already done that? ;-) :D

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:) Uncanny!

MrsPJH swears I looked more like this in my youth

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And my work colleagues have me pegged as one of this two (at least in my attitude to new "management initiatives"

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