Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Not the bubbly... Well, yes, the bubbly... But the post's title mainly refers to the Champagne region of France where THE bubbly is made and where we'll be the next 5 days or so. The overnight train from Venice to Paris got us in just before noon, a couple hours late. Without too much trouble, we found our connecting train to Valle-de-Marne/Chessy station (right by Disneyland) which was a short cab ride away from our final destination, a Marriott Vacation Resort in Bailly-Romainvilliers.

Our villa was a short walk from town so we got quite accustom to pastries, groceries, and lattes from the small town's little shops. And as if the resort wasn't interesting enough, their grounds included a reconstruction of Monet's gardens in Giverney.

We took two classes at the resort: Cocktail Making and Crepe Making. Both were great fun! We made tequila sunrises and cosmopolitans at the cocktail class and various crepe flavors (Nutella, jams, plain sugar) at the cooking class.

So, let's get serious. We're here for Champagne. Since our villa was about an hour's drive from the Champagne region, we weren't quite sure how to approach it. So, the first thing we did was take an all-day guided tour to Reims and Epernay (October 26). Very good investment! We not only enjoyed that tour immensely, but also got our bearings for setting out on our own Monday and Tuesday (October 28 and 29).

Our first stop on the guided tour was the Reims Cathedral, mostly known as the traditional location for the coronation of the kings of France. We also visited a nearby pastry shop for a little something to eat and drink.

Then we headed on down (south-ish) to Epernay where the real fun was to be had. Our first stop was Moet & Chandon, which is also the home of Dom Perignon these days (under same ownership now). This was a "big boy" in the world of champagne. As Mommy Savidge would say, "it just screamed money." The tour was fantastic, and as you might imagine, the tasting was fun, too. Needless to say, we picked up a bottle or two to enjoy during evenings in the villa.

We continued through the vine-laden countryside to a small champagne producer, Egrot. Another cellar tour and tasting, much more homey. Delightful.

Sunday was rainy, and many champagne places are not open, so this turned into a stay-at-home-and-relax day except for a little journey - to the Disney Village at Disneyland. It was kind of fun seeing something wildly familiar. It was great for a little shopping for the grands and lunch.

Monday morning Jamie Uber'd over to the Hertz rental place to pick up a car for two days. That's right, a bit of international driving! He did get his International Driving Permit at our local AAA before leaving the U.S. And after pastries and coffee (of course) we headed off for Epernay. Surely we'd bump into a couple of the 3100 champagne producers in the region. Problem was, many of them are very small. "Every other house in some villages (like Epernay and environs) is a champagne producer," quipped our guide the other day. And he wasn't far off.

Granzamy was our first stop. It was the "Pere et Fils" (Father and Son) on the sign that caught our eye. We pulled into their very narrow driveway and knocked on the door. After finding out they were indeed open and that it was OK to park in their driveway (blocking everything), in we went! The gal running the place spoke about as much English as I spoke French, so we charaded ourselves through a wonderful little visit that included tasting, touring the cellar, and some purchasing.

As a side, we should note that it was because of this week in Champagne that we ended up not missing Fall colors altogether. Colorado basically did not have a Fall this year, went straight from Summer to Winter. But here in France, the grape vines provided all manner of Fall colors. It was glorious.

During our hunt for the next winery and maybe a place to eat, you'll never guess what we stumbled onto. The holy grail of champagne! Dom Perignon's tomb at Eglise Abbatiale in Hautvillers. Ground zero, baby! He lived 1639-1715. He didn't really invent sparkling wine, but he did make contributions to the process.

G. Tribaut was our final champagne stop. Maybe not quite as big as Moet & Chandon, but certainly bigger than Egrot and Granzamy. Gorgeous facilities with an even better view of the vineyards below. Big enough to export to the U.S., so we had them do a little of that for us! We made our way back to our villa via country roads, not autoroutes. Took almost twice as long, but very enjoyable.

We ventured out again on Tuesday, this time to Meaux. There were several options of sites to see, but we started with the La Maison du Brie de Meaux (Brie Museum). Everything you ever want to know about brie production. And as chance would have it, the museum turned out to be in the courtyard of the Meaux Cathedral!

We got back to Bailly in time for dinner at Bistronome which turned out to be quite nice, and busy. We tried to go to Au Bon Petit but they were booked; next time. We also hit our favorite pastry place, Boulangerie Laird, for one final goodness hit.

Wednesday morning we arose early and headed for the train station to catch the TGV (high speed train) to the airport. The last Euros we spent were at the gift shop and coffee shop right next to our gate at the airport - some cool French scarves and chocolate croissants.

All the Champagne photos are here.

"Monet's Giverney" at the villa.

Cocktail making class

Reims Cathedral

Near Epernay

A good fraction of the fruit is left on the vine
as they can only make so much and therefor
pick only the best.

Cellars at Moet & Chandon


Our villa's back patio

Crepe making class


Where Dom Perignon is buried

G. Tribaut

Brie Museum

Meaux Cathedral

Getting on the high-speed train to the airport

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