Reims (pop. 185,000) sparkles with the champagne of its famed caves, the beauty of its architectural masterpieces, and the excitement of its nightlife. The Cathedrale de Notre-Dame, built with golden limestone quarried in the Champagne caves, features sea-blue stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall. ( 03 26 77 45 25. Open daily 7:30am-7:30pm. 6, students 3.50.) Enter the adjacent Palais du Tau, at pi. du Cardinal Lugon, for dazzling 16th-century tapestries. (03 26 47 81 79. Open May-Aug. Su and Tu-Sa 9:30am-6:30pm; Sept.-Apr. reduced hours. 6.10, students 4.10.) The firm of Champagne Pommery, 5 pi. du General Gouraud, boasts the largest tonneau (vat) in the world, and the best tour of the Champagne caves in Reims. ( 03 26 61 62 56. Tours by reservation. 7, students 3.50.) For good deals on champagne, look for sales on local brands and check prices at supermarkets. Good bottles start at 9.50. The small schoolroom where Germany surrendered to the Allies during WWII is now the Musee de la Reddition, 12 r. Franklin Roosevelt, a potent time capsule for the momentous event it witnessed. At night, people congregate in the cafes and bars of place Drouet d’Erlon.
Trains (03 26 88 11 65) leave bd. Joffre for Epernay (25min. 16 per day, 5.20). Paris (l’Mir. 11 per day, 21). To get from the train station to the tourist office, 2 r. Guillaume de Machault, follow the right-hand curve of the rotary to pi. Drouet d’Erlon, turn left onto r. de Vesle, turn right on r. du Tresor, and it’s on the left before the cathedral. (03 26 77 45 00; www.tourisme.frreims. Open mid-Apr. to mid-Oct. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10am-6pm; mid-Oct. to mid-Apr. M-F 9am-noon and 2-6pm, Sa 9am-6pm, Su 10am-5pm.) The HCentre International de SejourAuberge de Jeunesse (HI) , on chaussee Bocquaine, has bright, comfortable rooms. Cross the park in front of the station, following the right-hand side of the traffic circle. Turn right onto bd. General Leclerc, follow it to the canal and cross the first bridge (pont de Vesle) on your left. Bocquaine is the first left. (03 26 40 52 60; fax 03 26 47 35 70. Dorms 10; singles 15, with shower 26; doubles 2230; triples with shower 36. Nonmembers add 2. AmExMCA.) The sunny and spotless Au Bon Accueil , 31 r. Thillois, is just off the central pi. d’Erlon. (03 26 88 55 74; fax 03 26 05 12 38. Breakfast 4.50. Singles 18-27; doubles 30-39. MCA.) Place Drouet d’Erlon is crowded with cafes, restaurants, and bars. Monoprix supermarket is at r. de Vesle and r. de Talleyrand. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-9pm.) Postal Code: 51100.
Epemay (pop. 30,000), at the juncture of three wealthy grape-growing regions, is appropriately ritzy. The aptly named avenue de Champagne is distinguished by its palatial mansions, lush gardens, and swanky champagne companies. Moet & Chan-don, 20 av. de Champagne, produces the king of all wines: Dorn Perignon. ( 03 26 51 20 20. Open late Mar.-early Nov. daily 9:30-ll:30am and 2-4:30pm; early Nov. to late Mar. M-F 9:30-ll:30am and 2-4:30pm. lhr. tour with one glass 7.50.) Ten minutes away is Mercier, 70 av. de Champagne, the self-proclaimed “most popular champagne in France,” which gives tours in rollercoaster-like cars. (03 26 51 22 22. Open Mar.-Nov. daily 9:30-ll:30am and 2-5pm; Dec. 1-19 and Jan. 13-Mar. Su-M and Th-Sa 9:30-ll:30am and 2-4:30pm. 30min. tours 6.)
Trains leave cour de la Gare for Paris (lVihr. 18 per day, 18) and Reims (25min.
16 per day, 5.20). From the station, walk straight ahead through pl. Mendes France, go one block up r. Gambetta to the central place de la Republique, and turn left on av. de Champagne to reach the tourist office, 7 av. de Champagne. (03 26 53 33 00. Open Easter-Oct. 15 M-Sa 9:30am-noon and l:30-7pm, Su llam-4pm; Oct.
16-Easter M-Sa 9:30am-5:30pm.) Epemay caters to the champagne set budget hotels are rare. HHotel St-Pierre 0, 14 av. Paul-Chandon, is the best budget bet, with spacious, antique-furnished rooms, ( 03 26 54 40 80; fax 03 26 57 88 68. Breakfast 5. Reception 7am-10pm. Singles and doubles 21, with shower 25-32. MCA.) Rue Gambetta has ethnic eateries, while the area around place des Arcades and place Hugues Plomb is dotted with delis and bakeries. Postal Code: 51200.