Reims is close enough to Paris in both distance and lifestyle that the town empties for vacation in the summer. My friend and I went in July but the residents had already left, so I imagine August is even more of a ghost town with many places closed for les vacances and the places that are open usually have seasonal staff, e.g., students working summer jobs, who are both inexperienced and have no interest in gaining any expertise before they go back to school.
The center of town is the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, which serves as the central transportation hub for trams and buses.
The number of people you see here are the maximum we saw during our entire stay.
Just two blocks away there are some very nice pedestrian streets, with attractions like this fountain sculpture and chain stores like Galeries Lafayette and Sephora.
We saw this crêperie downtown and the nice terrace tempted us to try it for lunch.
The decor of Louise was cute and it’s a lovely place for some wine
or water with delicate bubbles (most French people will not drink regular Perrier with a meal because “the bubbles are too big”).
Although we were tempted to come for crêpes, my friend ordered a ham and cheese sandwich,
and I ordered a gésier (gizzard) salad. We both enjoyed our choices and decided to split a dessert crêpe.
The lemon juice dessert crêpe was undercooked and we left about half of it on the plate, but for a lovely light lunch at a reasonable 20 Euros ($23 USD) each with wine, we were quite content with our choice.
For dinner we decided to try La Villa which had gotten great reviews from both websites and people we knew. Since we were in champagne, we splurged a bit with a glass of champagne to start our meal at 12 Euros ($14 USD) each. The small producer choice was much better than the Pommery we had after our tour of the cellars.
The summer staff’s inexperience was very evident as we tried to place our order, giving us a comedy routine akin to “Who’s on first” à la Abbot & Costello. We saw white asparagus on the appetizer menu and wondered about it since white asparagus was out of season in July, so we asked the waitress about it. She checked with the kitchen, came back and said “Yes, white asparagus is out of season. They will substitute green for the white.” We said, “Ok that’s great, then we’ll have the asparagus appetizer.” Our waitress replied, “Oh no we don’t have that.” My friend and I looked at each other wondering if we had both just heard her say they were substituting green for white asparagus. So we asked, “Didn’t you just say the kitchen is substituting green asparagus for white?” Her reply was “Oh yes, all the dishes with asparagus will have green, but we are not offering the asparagus appetizer.” We decided to order pasta and skip any appetizer after that conversation.
My friend chose the gnocchi with jambon cru and although the gnocchi were fresh and light, they were literally bathing in a cream sauce that filled half her bowl.
My seafood spaghetti was likewise freshly made but also bathed in a cream sauce and lacking enough garlic to really make it sing. As my friend and I remarked, the dishes were done for French tastes, which actually is a good thing in a restaurant because that means it has local regulars. The prices are very reasonable, under 20 Euros ($23 USD) for a main course, and it is a lovely space, so I would not hesitate to go if you like your pasta with cream.
We opted for an easy tram ride instead of walking 20 minutes back to our rental🙂