Fire stations can be noble. And very comfortable. When they are converted into a luxury hotel. The branding station in Reims – in the heart of Champagne in the 1920s in the Art-decó-style – is one such case. Because this recently became the
La Caserne Chanzy
On the trail of champagne
The location of the luxury accommodation is spectacular. Directly opposite is a marvel of High Gothic architecture: Notre-Dame de Reims. It is considered one of themost beautifulcathedrals in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its seemingly endless pillars and pointedarches, the church appears to be very close to heaven. Larger than its famous sister in Paris, it was here thatFrenchkingswere crowned in splendor and glory for centuries. Among them were the Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI.
Fire and flame for the project
Guests have a view of the sublime church from 30 of the 89 rooms at the Caserne Chanzy. It is also an eye-catcher from the outside, constantly changing its appearance depending on the incidence of light. And in the evening in particular, she puts on a top-class show thanks to her skillful lighting – she, this beautiful, gothic lady, as the hotel staff respectfully, almost affectionately call her.
The old fire station stood empty for over a quarter of a century. No more fire engines came rushing out of the large gateway. No more blue lights flashing alarmingly, no more sirens terrifying the residents. Forgotten, the only thing left was the lettering “Sapeurs-Pompiers” in large letters on the sandstone façade. Nobody was interested in the abandoned building in the middle of the city. The people in Reims passed him by carelessly. Until an investor and an American hotel chain came up with the idea of breathing new life into the whole thing. They were on fire for the project. Four years later – at the end of August 2019 – the chic hotel finally opened its doors to guests. One that tells stories …
Reminiscence of Mrs. Brandmeister
The garage, where the red fire engines used to wait for their turn, is now home to the reception, lobby and casual bistro restaurant. And that is called “La Grande Georgette”. Of course, every visitor wonders what this means. The solution to the riddle: the brasserie was named after the last giant fire escape that was used in Reims. The good old tradition was that this very device always bore the first name of the wife of the respective fire chief. Madame’s name was Georgette … Today, the place is no longer in a hurry. On the contrary: the brasserie with its open kitchen is the place to be. The small menu offers delicacies such as tuna ceviche, Reims ham pie or country chicken with turmeric carrots and roasted mushrooms. Plus a huge selection of champagnes, also by the glass from 10 euros.
The hotel belongs to the
Autograph Collection Hotels
of Marriott International, which now includes around 185 independent hotels worldwide, 53 of which are in Europe.“Autograph Collection Hotels is a soft brand on an expansion course,” says Mark James, European Brand Leader from the UK. “This has only been around since 2010 and is the fastest growing brand in the company.” Each hotel is unique in its own way. Each one tells a special story. True to the motto: Exactly like nothing else…
Substrate with a tingle factor
La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa is also quite exceptional. In more ways than one. It’s not just the location in the middle of Reims, in the heart of Champagne. The former fire station is a unique homage to the queen of drinks. It all starts with the color concept. Walls, floors, furniture and accessories are in shades of gold, beige, green and wood. Lamps are reminiscent of bottles, stools look like oversized corks and carpet patterns are based on rows of vines in vineyards. Behind the reception desk, an illuminated wall shines in the style of a shaking desk … In short: guests should immerse themselves in the wonderful world of champagne while still in the hotel. And from there, explore the sparkling underworld around it.
Pläsir? No, elixir of life!
Small and large, unknown and world-famous champagne cellars, cooperatives and winegrowers are based in the city of 180,000 inhabitants: including Pommery, Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin, Louis Roederer, Ruinart, …. Plus numerous mini-wineries. This is why Reims is considered the unofficial capital of sparkling wine – even if the “Capitale de Champagne” Epernay doesn’t like to hear it. So if you want to discover the subtle differences in champagne, Reims is the place to be. The drink shapes this city and has a far-reaching effect on everyday life. Champagne as a pure connoisseur’s delight, as an elitist pleasure? No, it is simply the elixir of life there! The locals are convinced: “You can’t survive without eating. But you can’t do without champagne either!” The fine pearls are already dancing in the glass at breakfast time. It is available as an aperitif at lunchtime. And, of course, it is the stylish prelude to a nice dinner. In other words, it is omnipresent.
And anyone in Reims who dared to make even the faintest suggestion that we could do something good for the environment, improve local transport and build a metro, was met with nothing but a stunned shake of the head. Reims’ underground consists of a network of more than 200 kilometers of champagne vaults and tunnels, some of which are interconnected. Millions of bottles are stored there. After all, the good droplet has to mature somewhere …
In the oldest champagne house in the world
So it’s time to dive underground and walk straight through the “Crayères”. In this limeöThe best place to start is at the oldest champagne house in the world:
. Created by Nicolas Ruinart on September 1, 1729foundit is now being run by the eighth generation. So into the chalky corridors that branch out like a network of veins in the belly of the earth. Ruinart was the first to use the former limestone quarries as storage cellars. It goes deeper and deeper, 20 meters, 25, 30, up to 40 meters down … Lines on the floor guide the visitor so that he does not get lost in the constantly branching corridors. It’s damp, it’s cool, the temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius. The smell of fermentation fills the nose. So here they are, the delicacies and treasures made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes … which we naturally taste. These include the Ruinart Rosé and the Dom Ruinart Rosé 2007 from the magnum bottle. Oh, you never want to leave. And from now on, I’ll stick with Lily Bollinger: “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad … Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
Notre-Dame de Reims
Opening hours: 7.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (Sundays and public holidays until 7.15 p.m.)
3, rue Guillaume de Machault, Reims.
No entrance fee. www.cathedrale-reims.com
4Rue des Crayères, Reims.
Visits from March to November.
Terroir des Rois
Beautifuldelicatessen store with products from the Champagne-Ardenne region, including a huge selection of delicious sweets such as Biscuits Roses de Reims, various pâtés and champagne.
Rue Robert de Coucy, Reims.