This article covers our superficial familiarity with Reims and Strasbourg, two of the major destinations in the region of Grand Est.
Reims ♥♥ is renowned the world over for its countless champagne labels, as well as for its magnificent Gothic cathedral. The town center is largely pedestrian and quite charming, even though its architecture is less than coherent (an unfortunate after-effect of the WWII bombing). Still, there are many attractive buildings in the near vicinity of the Notre-Dame, as well as many arcaded shopping alleys for those inclined to browse. The area stays rather active at night, with many restaurants and bars filling up.
The magnificent Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame ♥♥ (which closely resembles its Parisian namesake when viewed from out front) served as the stage for coronations for almost every monarch in French history. It is quite somber on the inside. There is plenty of statues and some stained-glass windows, including those by Marc Chagall. The overall harmony and monumentality of the cathedral are nonetheless very impressive, especially its west façade, decorated with over 2,300 statues. The nearby Palais du Tau, the archbishop’s palace, has a couple of notable rooms and houses an exposition of statuary and tapestry from the cathedral, but is not very remarkable. The cathedral and the palace are featured together on the Reims’ World Heritage inscription.
Musée des Beaux-Arts must be worth visiting for its cache of Corot landscapes, as well as some impressionists and modern masters, alongside its collection of 15th- and 16th-century paintings. A couple of sights – Ancien Collège des Jésuites and Basilique and Musée St-Remi – are located in a modern quarter 15-20 minutes away from the cathedral.
And of course, there are plenty of opportunities for exploring champagne, but on a visit with two young children, we did not take advantage of that. Champaign enjoys its separate World Heritage designation.
One place worthy of a specific recommendation is L’Apostrophe (on the broad pedestrian Place Drouet d’Erlon), a large and happening place serving excellent French food with an Oriental slant.
Strasbourg ♥♥ is the cosmopolitan capital of Alsace – and one of the European Union capitals.
Unfortunately, all I can say about it is that I think it would be very much worth a visit lasting a couple of days. Alas, our familiarity with Strasbourg is limited to a single nighttime stroll on an overnight stay. The Notre Dame cathedral ♥♥ earns its marks just because of its exterior – no doubt the third heart would be appropriate with a full interior visit. The German influences in the Alsatian culture resulted in a propensity for half-timbered buildings on the central streets of the town – the look that I always find attractive. A number of museums await our someday return to this city, such as Palais des Rohan, Petite France, Ponts-Couverts, or Musée Alsacien, as well as boat excursions around the town center.
That single night produced a memorable meal at A la tête de lard (on Rue Hannong), a family-run restaurant that is popular with locals and visitors alike.