One of my favorite past times is sipping on tasty, bubbly champagne! So what better way to spend a weekend than supping away in the ACTUAL champagne region of France.
The hubby and I booked a very last minute weekend in this area. We drove down to Dover and then used the EuroTunnel to whisk us off to Calais. Look out for deals as there are some amazing bargains on trains and the journey is so quick and easy! We loved playing 20 questions in the car during the ride!
The car journey from Calais will be around two and a half hours to the region itself, mainly on French motorways. Before you take this trip please make sure your car insurance covers you in Europe and purchase a driving in France Kit from places like Halfords as you can face a hefty fine if you do not have this equipment.
Our hotel of choice was the beautiful Chateau De Rilly. The staff are very welcoming and helpful and have lots of tips and advice for your stay. There is plenty of free parking on site as well as a lovely garden to wander. There was a very small but sweet spa area with a hot tub and sauna but most impressive of all was the gorgeous views of all of the vineyards.
Our room was huge (room 109) and very light with plenty of windows. We had a beautiful bathroom with a shower and large separate soaking tub, an abundance of fluffy towels and a very snug robe to relax after a hard day's tasting! We also ate at the restaurant here, which was a real treat. The dining area is quite small but mirrors create an illusion and very quiet and relaxed even when busy. The staff were very attentive and the food is delicious. They also produce their own house champagne, which is well worth a taste.
A car is quite a must on this trip, unless you book onto a tour, which means you must be careful what you drink at the tastings.
Epernay is a gorgeous little town with many shops and restaurants but most importantly the Avenue de Champagne (can you think of a better street name?)! Our favorite houses on the Avenue were Mercier and Moet & Chandon.
Mercier was a very intuitive wander through the cellars followed by three delicious, crisp glasses of champagne. However, the best part of visiting this house was the train ride through the cellar. It meant you got to see far more of the area without using your tired little feet.
I would recommend for everyone to also visit Moet & Chandon. It's always great to go to one of the bigger houses. They sell their tastings in packages. Everyone does the tour and learns about how the great families of Moet and Chandon came together to create this impressive brand but then depending on the package and price paid will depend on the champagnes you taste at the end. You could do several packages including vintages, so it's easier to stick to budgets with this house.
The champagne route itself is easily signposted and is a gorgeous drive through rolling countryside and vineyards. The time of year will depend on what is happening in the region in terms of harvest etc as well. The route will take you from Reims to Epernay. Also do visit Reims home of other large houses such as Veuve Clicquot but also try and visit some smaller houses. Just knock on the doors of the smaller growers, most will welcome you in and show you around plus provide tastings.
Whilst in the area check out Reims Cathedral but also have a look, some companies offer lessons in The Nobel Art of Sabrage. In other words, opening a champagne bottle with a saber. It might be worth giving this a go to impress your friends and family back home!
Good luck with your travels and happy tasting.