The first stop on our trip was to be Reims. Thank goodness blogging is primarily about the written word and I don't have to pronounce 'Reims' for you; it's like 'rice' with an 'N' in it and then a hiss at the end. I will never be able to pronounce it properly, I just sound like I have a nasty cold.
The city of Reims is very grand and very gorgeous, and while delightful to stroll around, it's quite a large city and you don't really get the the feeling you're in the Champagne country side. That is until you venture just outside the city limits and huge champagne production houses greet you on every block. Even if you don't drink or like champagne the production houses and their cellars are really worth a visit. Two years ago Mr M and I visited the city and the Taittinger cellars so this time we'd made arrangements to visit one of the other major houses, Pommery.
Bequeathed the family company when her husband died too young, Madame Pommery, mother to not-yet-one-years-old Louise, eschewed tradition of handing the company back to her husband's family and rolled her sleeves up to transform the champagne house from the small business it was 1858 to one of the most successful in her time, giving it the grounding to become one of the most well-known and beautiful in the world. She purchased 18 kilometres of chalk pits underneath the estate and surrounding area and transformed them into the cellars still housing her champagne today.
To conform to the regulations of champagne appellation which dictates where and how champagne is produced, most cave tours will tell you the same thing: the types of grapes used in the production of champagne - Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the length of time it takes to produce a bottle from vine growth to store (about five years) and the fact that no human influence can shape the growth of the vines. This in particular blows my mind; there are no irrigation systems in Champagne, the vines receive all their water from the sky.
In our thirty minute tour all of this was explained in beautiful, succinct detail. However, this visit to Pommery was extra special. Since its acquisition of the Pommery brand a decade ago, parent company Vranken Pommery Monopole has used the site to annually showcase artists of all backgrounds to make visits more unique and to share their love of the arts. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of these exhibits the house entrusted Bernard Blistène, director of cultural development at the Centre Pompidou, to imagine Expérience Pommery, an original exhibition of a selection of formerly featured artists with works displayed in the chalk caves below and the surrounding grounds above.
Pascale Marthine Tayou, 'L’arbre à palabres', 2012
Philippe Ramette, 'Lévitation de chaise', 2005
There are currently forty artworks scattered all over the estate, including a dozen installed amongst the aging bottles that are highlighted in the cave tour, which of course, ends with a glass of Pommery bubbles.
Our first night on the road was also the opening night of Rêve de Couleurs - 'Dream of Colours' - a 3D mapping light and images performance by prolific Paris-based group skertzò, projected onto the front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims with an accompanying soundtrack emitted from speakers installed surrounding the cathedral's forecourt. Commissioned by the Mairie de Reims, Rêve de Couleurs brings to life all the creatures and characters that inhibit the façade of the cathedral and takes a walk through the cathedral and the city's history to delight the town's inhabitants and visitors.
I'd seen 3D projection mapping at work previously, but this show, with its attention to the intricate detail in the stonework on the cathedral's exterior, was just gasp-out-aloud spectacular. The photos below and above do not in anyway do this magnificent piece justice.
I left Reims feeling a little light-headed and giddy - not from an excess of champagne consumption like I imagined I would but from the incredible talent and creativity that this city is more than willing to share and celebrate. The short but sweet visit made me see the city in a new, flashing fluorescent, light.