23 September 2012

Reims in (less than) a day

Reims was the final stop on my Summer Holiday by train across Europe that had previously taken me to Zurich, Vaduz, Salzburg, Munich and Strasbourg. And, it only got added at the last minute because, for some reason, I could not get a direct train from Strasbourg to Paris on the final Sunday.

I arrived in Reims on the Saturday evening and the place was humming, not least because the local football team had been playing at home that day.

The main road up from the station is wide, pedestrianised and full of busy cafes and restaurants. So busy, raucous even, that I was a little worried about the prospect of any sleep. A false worry as it turned out as the revellers drifted away fairly early and my room was right at the back of the hotel.

Sunday morning was very different and many of the main streets were all but deserted. The only thing moving in this typical street scene is the modern tram heading towards me.

The cathedral is why most tourists go to Reims and that is where I headed.

I found the appearance of the building a little disappointing but that was because I had been spoilt by spending the last two weeks doing little other than looking at spectacular old buildings.

The inside was more impressive, though the opportunity to explore all the nooks and crannies was somewhat limited by there being a church service on at the time.

Stained glass always appeals to me, because of the colours not the religious imagery, and this was no exception.

Reims has the usual large round window above the entrance but the glass that I wanted to see is at the back. This is by Marc Chagall and was installed just under forty years ago.

Sadly these windows were in the part of the cathedral where the service was being held and I could get no closer that this. Even from a distance the vibrancy stands out.

Reims Cathedral is suitably tall and the bare interior emphasises this in a way that the over fussy exterior does not.

Having done the Cathedral, there was not a lot more to see. There are tourist trails that point you to the other sights and these are worth seeing but there is nothing particularly special in-between them.

Not far from the Cathedral is Place Royale and this has the grandeur that its name suggests.

The square suffers a little from traffic, as too many places do, so a quiet Sunday morning is probably the best time to be there. It certainly makes it easier to stand in the middle of the road to take photographs.

Taking a circuitous route back towards the station brought me, intentionally, to Porte de Mars. This is what is left of the 3rd century Roman city wall.

It also marks one end of a garden that runs along the north-west boundary of the old town.

It is only 50m to 100m wide but that is enough flatness and greenery to make a pleasant divide between the old and new towns. I did not venture into the new town at all.

The gardens are mostly grass bordered by trees. Interest is provided by long flower beds, statues and a few fountains. A good spot for a Sunday walk.

Reims was consistently pleasant and I managed to take around 100 photos in the few hours that I had there, always a good sign that there was plenty to see. It had some hard acts to follow after the highlights of the previous days and while it did not reach those heights it did enough to fill half a day and to provide a neat coda to what had been an exceptionally good holiday.

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