Saturday, January 2, 2010

This is Frank writing the evening post.  Dick has taken the night off!

Today's adventure took us from religious intrigue, to a heartfelt reunion, onwards to a journey to a land of bubbly loving monks, and finally, a night under an Art Nouveau pleasure dome!

The intrigue came into play as we visited the St. Sulpice Cathedral before we checked out of our Left Bank hotel.  As readers of Dan Brown's the "Da Vinci Code" well know (I'm not proud, I read it!), St. Sulpice figures prominently into the novel's storyline of the internecine attempts by the forces of religious orthodoxy to suppress a mysterious revelation by an enlightened secret society known as the Priory of Sion.  Real artifacts associated with the church, such as the Gnomon (an obelisk that denotes the winter solstice), and a stained glass window with the letters "P" and "S" (for the "Priory of Sion"), take on an added meaning to their true historical significance.  A bit of history and fun at the same time!

From the Left Bank, we cabbed it to our new hotel on the Right Bank.  In 1993, on our first trip to Paris, we stayed in the Hotel des Chevaliers.  And now, years later, a reunion of sorts as we acquaint ourselves with the hotel once again.  Things have changed, though.  In '93, the decor was decidedly feminine, with blue and white toile wallpaper and linens, "telephone" shower handles and tiny rooms.  Now, the style is cool and modern, with taupe walls and clean crisp white duvets, lots of black wood and chrome accents.  The rooms are still small, though. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" (the more things change, the more things stay the same).

On to the train station for our journey.  With plenty of time to spare, we ordered our tickets at the electronic kiosk, and...the machine wouldn't take our credit cards.  Merde! (don't ask).  So, in a bit of irony, we got into the slowest ticket line in France in order to catch the fastest train in the country.  With just 5 minutes left before our departure time, the attendant handed us our tickets, and we hustled down past 26 platforms to land our seat on the TGV bullet train to Reims (we made it because we were the little engines that could!).

Reims is about 45 minutes from Paris by the fast train.  It has two claims to fame, a fabulous cathedral, and CHAMPAGNE.  The cathedral at Reims is a Gothic masterpiece, with tons of medieval sculpture, soaring pointed arches, and an amazing sense of space.  Most appealing to me, though, were the gorgeous Marc Chagall stained glass windows in the apse.  Created in 1971, the deep blue of the background glass was specifically designed to mimic the style of medieval glass makers, and served as an serene backdrop for Chagall's intensely colored and moving scenes of the life of Christ and of significant scenes from French history.

Of course, Reims is also where Brother Dom Perignon added yeast to white wine and, upon drinking his concoction, ran to his fellow monks and yelled "brothers, I am drinking stars!".  And champagne was born.  Alas, Dick and I tried to take a tour at the Mumm facility for a look at their cellars and a chance for a tasting, but their bookings were all full.  A note to anyone visiting Reims, this isn't Napa.  Booking several days ahead is essential, and you can't just drop in at a tasting room.  Maybe next time.

Back to Paris.  With our day trip behind us, we ventured on to our dining option for the night, Brasserie Bofinger.  Since 1864, this restaurant has been serving brasserie fare to Parisians and tourists alike.  The interior is a classic Art Nouveau beauty, with curvy dark woods, brass fixtures, and a lovely lighted stained glass dome.  The food is a mixture of Alsatian cuisine and typical bistro fare.  Dick had a fragrant and flavorful appetizer of escargot, followed by chicken cooked in Riesling wine.  I had a serving of the house pate de foie gras, and an entree of beef stew in red wine.  Dessert consisted of macaroons with caramel ice cream, and an apple clafoutis (a sort of moist cake).  Delicieux!

A short walk along the Right Bank after dinner to take in the City of Lights, and we are back in the hotel.  

We will be returning to your regularly scheduled blog host tomorrow.  In the meantime, thank you Dick for letting me take over the post for an entry.  A teute a l'huere (see you later, folks!).


Piglet's Buddy said...

Frank, you are a worthy companion for our friend Richard. Well done...

Paul said...

Excellent post, Frank. You're a very good writer! You should blog more often.