Saturday, March 31, 2018

I can’t believe that it’s been already two weeks since we spent a short weekend in the Champagne region drinking champagne with friends in the snow.

Oui! It does snow in France, besides the mountains, just a 45-minute train ride from Paris to Reims. In fact, when we returned to Paris on Sunday afternoon, it was snowing in the City of Lights as well! I wish we had more time to spend in Paris so I could take photos, but we took the early Eurostar back to London on Monday because of work.

This was our first trip to Reims, but we were meeting up with other expat friends who have visited several times before. Luckily, one of our German friends, originally from Burkina Faso, Africa, speaks fluent French, which was quite handy to talk with the friendly French champagne house owners.
This UNESCO World Heritage city is perhaps best known for its champagne since the region surrounding Reims is ideal for growing chardonnay grapes, which are used to make champagne. The major champagne houses, such as Tattinger, Moet & Chandon, G.H. Mumm and Veuve Clicquot, are headquartered here. One of the days, we visited Vranken Pommery, a historic champagne house which achieved fame in the late 1800s under Madame Pommery, which was magically covered in snow. We had a snowy, nearly 2-kilometre walk from our hotel, but I enjoyed taking lots of photos of snow-covered spring blossoms.
Reims, with a population of 186,000, is still small enough to be quite walkable to everything. The first documentation of Reims dates to 57 BC when it was under Rome’s protection, and later became an important religious and political city. You’ll find several Roman ruins in the city center.
Another UNESCO site that must be seen is the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims, a gorgeous Gothic church dating to the 5th century originally, but was rebuilt in the 13th century and then restored again following World War I. I visited the cathedral before it was even open, not a soul was around, and I took photos of it covered in snow on Sunday morning.
The Reims Cathedral played an important role for the French Kingdom as it became the site for coronations of French kings until the revolution. In total, 37 kings were crowned in Reims. In addition, in 1429, Joan of Arc knelt down in front of Charles VII when he was crowed King of France at the cathedral.  

Although Reims is an easy city to reach from Paris, I really wish we had one more day to see more in the Champagne region. Or maybe, I’m just looking for another excuse to drink champagne!

My Traveling Joys

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Imagine being surrounded and walking amongst brilliant shades of fuchsia, periwinkle and ruby red orchids.

That’s exactly what we did this past weekend at Kew Gardens as we caught the last day of the annual Orchids Festival in London. Unfortunately, I only had a little over an hour to admire all the orchids since I had to work that afternoon, but since we often go to Kew, that was plenty of time to see the highlights.

This year’s theme featured a celebration of Thailand’s vibrant colours, culture and diverse plant life. (Last year's show festival focused on India.) About 1,100 orchid species grow in the wild in Thailand, according to one of the exhibit’s signs. I had no idea! Many of these orchids grow in remote places and can grow in the ground in warm or cool-climate rainforests or even on trees, which are known as epiphytic.
Orchids seemed to fill nearly every inch of the Princess of Wales Conservatory – hanging in pots, planted vertically, suspended in air and even decorating a Thai palace. I took a ton of photos with my new Canon 50mm lens which allowed me to focus on the flowers themselves. I didn’t bother with finding out the names of the orchids, but if you can identify any of them, please feel free to comment.

Enjoy the orchid show!
Besides the orchids, Kew Gardens featured plenty of other spring blooms such as daffodils and crocuses, and even a random pineapple! I'm thrilled that spring is finally here!

My Traveling Joys