MMF’s Reims visit
It all began at a London Meet when it was suggested to SuperFrenchie, (henceforth SF for ease of typing) that an h2g2 Meet in Reims would be a good idea. And after this had been mentioned on a number of occasions, the event was planned.
So here was MMF, bags packed, green light lit, and the first quandary. To sleep or not to sleep. The reason being that his train left St Pancras at 05.40, and the taxi was booked for 04.00. A decision was taken. No sleep. The taxi duly arrived and the usual one hour journey did not transpire, and MMF was at St Pancras 15 minutes later.
Unfortunately nothing stirred at that time and, eventually, the station came to life and a coffee could be purchased. Next was to arrange assisted travel, not something Eurostar does well. Maybe because he was the first there, or it was so early, this part of the trip went smoothly, and the transfer from concourse to seat went smoothly. Eurostar left on time and MMF was in for a surprise. His ticket included Breakfast. Helped keep him awake. On Arrival at Paris Gare du Nord, a porter was waiting and he was whisked to the taxi stand, and the front of the queue. When the system works, it is superb. The journey was quick, for Paris, and again, assistance was secured and he was decanted onto the TGV and was Reims bound. 40 minutes later, at a journey speed of up to 320 kmh, he arrived in Reims at 11:40. He’d sent a text to SF to meet at the hotel at 13:00 to enable unpacking, refreshing and getting his bearings.
On exiting the station he found the taxi stand and asked to be taken to Ibis Central, to be told it was 20 metres around the corner. Doh!!! Next time check Google Maps? Registration was quick, and conducted in French, which was good practice. Once in the room, (which was very, erm, Bijou?) it was a quick unpack, wash, coffee and time to meet SF who, herself, was having fun finding the hotel.
They wandered into Reims main road, which housed a plethora of eateries on either side of the road, all specializing in Al Fresco dining and it was decided to dine at Boeuf et Salade (Beef and Salad) for lunch, and then walked back to the hotel that Wand'rin Star (WS) was booked into to meet her, and then a gentle stroll into Reims and the Supermarket. MMF was pleased he wasn’t booked into that hotel as the stairs would really have been his undoing!
The ladies appeared and we headed back into Reims and an unusual pub, The Sherlock, to await Trillian’s Child (TC), TRiG, LoftySkywalker (Lofty) and Beatrice who was also bringing Flat Abby! They duly arrived and it was noted that what was meant to be an English Pub, was a strange mix, with Sherlock Holmes memorabilia representing the English, Guinness for the Irish, and the staff dressed in strange black, blue and white kilts representing the Scots. Strangely there was no Welsh representation, so no dodgy singing. (2Legs couldn’t make it either!)
After the usual introductions, present exchanges and aperitifs, it was time to head to Latino Café and supper. After an enjoyable repast and convivial conversation it was decided to head back to The Sherlock and await DragonQueen (DQ). The reason for this was that a trio called “The Velvet Froggies” were performing, who they’d seen unloading their gear and what an amount of gear. The Rolling Stones would not have been disappointed. DQ eventually arrived. The band were interesting, but loud, although Beatrice was in her element. Eventually the travel arrangements were catching up and it was time to retire. The Decision was made to meet up at 10:00, enabling a short lie-in.
Om Saturday morning, all met up at the Pain et Cie (translating as Bread and Company) for Brunch, with Lofty arriving first, followed by MMF, and then the Ladies and TRiG. A few of SF’s English-speaking were due to attend but unfortunately only one made it.
And what a Brunch. It included 2 hot drinks, yoghurt and home-made granola, orange or apple juice, a soft-boiled egg, croissants or pain au chocolat, followed by a selection of breads with cheese, ham and smoked salmon, and a variety of jams and chocolate spreads. A veritable feast, but with the best intentions, there was still a fair amount left. Lofty did seem inclined to take a doggie-bag of the meats and cheeses but decided to leave them.
There was now an hour to kill so some returned to their hotel, while Lofty, TRiG, SF and MMF decided to go wandering, arriving at the Art-Deco Cinema, built in 1922, but in desperate need of repair. There was also an intriguing metal sculpture that was a cross between Predator and a spider, outside the Kidnapped Boutique. The group met up again at 13:45 to head off, in two cars, to learn about Champagne at the the Caves (or cellars) of Taittinger, (pronounced Tete – on – Jher) for a tour which was conducted by a pleasant, young English Woman but the crowd were a trifle disorganized, so MMF, SF and Lofty were bringing up the rear, but it did allow for better photographic opportunities.
Then Horror! STEPS! Albeit only 15, it was enough to send shivers down MMF’s spine. However he made it to the bottom. Then those dreaded words “Now back the way we came”! It appears there was a deep puddle on the next section which the group would normally take, but the guide decided on a detour. After explaining that climbing the stairs was a major concern she advised that, if MMF was happy to wade through the deep puddle, she’d take us through. Having a spare pair of shoes at the hotel, it was decided to wade. The puddle was less than 1cm deep and the shoes were dry. MMF was so pleased. At the conclusion of the tour, came the tasting presided over by the Guide who, MMF found out, spoke fluent French, German and, of course, English. SF’s friend kindly took a few photos of the group before they all headed to Reims Cathedral. There was a slight delay with the arrival of SF’s group, which allowed for more photo opportunities, before a visit of the Palais du Tau, or Archbishop’s Palace, which held some of the original parts of the cathedral which had been replaced with its renovation, and a history of the cathedral as well as the Crown Jewels and other Royal Regalia. Afterwards MMF went for a rejuvenating coffee while the rest went for a fleeting tour of the Cathedral, with an hour left before closing.
Time for a gentle stroll back into town and L’Apostrophe and Supper. This was very leisurely, with Flat Abby and Elton in attendance. The waiter was very attentive, remembering all the orders and not writing one down. And getting them all right. The meal was exceptional and surprisingly filling. And not just their stomachs but also time. Which was now very pressing as it was time to leave for the Rêve de Couleurs (or Dream of Colours) at 23:00. MMF, having partaken a little too much of the food, delayed SF and Lofty, and so on arrival at the Cathedral, the streets were in darkness. This was very disorientating, and MMF used the last of his phonebattery to illuminate the route. But it was truly worth it. And was, as SF stated, the highlight.
It was a son et lumiere, using the frontage of the Cathedral as the backdrop.
It showed the carpenters building the framework of the Cathedral, followed by the Stonemasons. Then came a Coronation, as Reims has been the Cathedral used for all coronations of France’s Kings since Clovis, in 498.
Next came a wonderful illumination showing how the Cathedral probably looked in the 1400’s, with all the statues painted in really bright colours. This was followed by a close-up of the ‘Ange du Sourire’ or the Smiling Angel, a famous feature of the Cathedral. The sculpture portrays an angel smiling, but with such a smile it is compared to La Giaconda, or Mona Lisa, and is a famous symbol of Reims.
The event took around 15 minutes when the street lights were switched on, and the group headed back, for a nightcap. Except for TRiG and Beatrice who decided to perform ‘Bunnies’ on the illuminations, before watching it again. They joined the group at Le Lion, before one of the group was feeling the chill and it was time to retire. MMF, unfortunately, had overdone it hurrying to the show, so was tentatively and slowly bringing up the rear.
On Sunday morning, the Group had arranged to meet at the Statue of ‘De L’Ange de la Fontaine Subé’ (The Statue of the Subé Angel, Subé being the Patron of the fountain) at 12:00, with WS and TC having departed earlier, and Beatrice opting for an early morning run.
SF then took the group to a Café that specialized in pastries, but did not do meals on Sundays. The weather for the weekend had been fantastic, and MMF remarked that he’d only attended one really inclement meet, with most being glorious sunshine, and this was no exception but was now proving too warm, with the complimentary chocolate melting before the coffee was drunk.
The remains of the group transferred to a café that had shade and it was noted it was 28C!!! True Summer? Unfortunately, as with all meets, time had flown and it was time to make tracks to the station. (Apologies for the awful pun). Both MMF and Beatrice were on the same train. SF used her Gallic guile to get MMF onto the front carriage of the train to make it easier to exit at Paris. After the usual farewells the train pulled out and 40 minutes, and 80 km later, pulled into Paris, where a porter helped him to a cab. On arrival at Gare du Nord another panic. No Purse! The purse with all his euros was missing. PANIC!!! Thankfully, the cabbie was really good and waived the fare. However he was constantly pestered by a female beggar, despite MMF’s protestations that he’d been robbed. He’d lost his wallet etc. Maybe his French is not as good as he thinks!
Once in the Station, and booked into Assisted travel, he asked if someone could contact Gare de l’Est to find his purse, which they did, but to no avail. The Porter was very friendly and spoke perfect English, but explained there was a delay due to an earlier suicide. So a pleasant period was spent chatting in a mix of French and English. Eventually the train was ready and boarded 40 minutes late. The penultimate leg was smooth, and MMF was able to postpone his taxi home. On arrival at St Pancras, not surprising, there was no assistance waiting. Again!!! Thankfully he was helped by fellow passengers and finally reached the exit only to be told he’d advised the cabbie he’d arrive at 22:00, not 21:00. Doh!!! Luckily he was only 20 minutes away and soon turned up. The last leg was trouble-free, quick and pleasant.
He didn’t unpack immediately but did empty his backpack, as it contained his power leads, only to find his Euro purse at the bottom of the bag. It must have fallen in while finding his Sterling wallet and passport.
But everyone appeared to have had a truly wonderful time, and SuperFrenchie is a really good Meet Organiser. Hopefully this will not be the only one held in Reims, but MMF realizes it is not easy to plan these Meets to everyone’s satisfaction but he, for one, is looking forward to visiting again.
And it was really pleasant to meet researchers old and new, especially Lofty, who he’d not met before.
Bring on the next Meet!!!