A weekend in Champagne, France.
Sounds like a half-baked impossible idea, doesn’t it? It’s not. We did it. I’m going to tell you how.
Hopping on a 6 hour flight to spend a weekend in France seems absurd if for no other reason than a lack of adequate time at your destination. Not here. Not in Champagne. I can confidently say that every minute here is a minute well spent.
Why? I’d throw down a YOLO reference but then you’d think I was encouraging you to quit your day job and drink Hennessy VSOP on Monday. Instead, I’ll tell you that this is the kind of place that reminds you to live (and that’s a good enough reason unto itself).
We didn’t have much more than 48 hours to work with so, although it was essential for us to cram in as much as possible, it didn’t feel chaotic or rushed. That’s the power of this region (or a glass of champagne). It has a way of slowing you down, forcing you to indulge in simple moments that are incredible in even the busiest itinerary.
So if you’re like us, you’ll go for a weekend simply because, well why not – here’s how we laid it out:
Catch the Friday night flight to Paris (but not before making a quick stop at duty free to pick up tokens of appreciation for our hosts). We had the pleasure of being invited to privately tour some of the world’s most renowned champagne houses so naturally, being the true Canadians we are, we didn’t want to arrive empty handed. A quick jaunt through duty free for liquid gold (maple syrup) and fine chocolates did the trick.
Flying business class improves one’s travel experience considerably, especially since Air Canada has completely redesigned its seating and cabin amenities for international customers. Time flew by (pun intended) as we sat back, relaxed and indulged in the luxuries of the business class cabin.
It only seemed appropriate to start the flight with a toast to Champagne with…none other than a glass of champagne! Fast forward though dinner, a few movies and a 5 hour flat-bed nap and, voila, we were there!
It’s Saturday morning when we land refreshed and ready for the 2 hour drive from Paris CDG to Champagne. To Lindsay’s delight, I’ve been driving manual since I was 16, so the ease of renting a vehicle in Europe was a plus (FYI it’s tough to find an automatic on that side of the pond). It takes two – you need a GPS, or “a Lindsay”, to navigate the drive to the Champagne region. If the roundabouts don’t throw you off, the highway exits will.
As we approached the region, rolling countryside started to appear scattered between vineyards. We had to pull over and take a closer look.
Reims and Epernay are the two main cities in the Champagne region. If you want to sip champagne all day then make your way to Epernay – that’s where we chose to visit, mostly because of the Avenue de Champagne.
No vineyards to see here… this street lined with majestic champagne houses that we popped in-and-out of for a few glasses of bubbly.
The most majestic of them all was our first stop, the world’s largest champagne producer, Moët et Chandon.
We will take you through a full review of this marvellous champagne house in part 2. So without going into two much detail just yet, I will say that this house represents everything that this historic province prides itself in.
We got lost in the (magical) moments and lost track of time, so our hosts kindly notified our next champagne house that we were running late. Literally running to the next tour. Well, maybe more of a rapid walk.
Luckily we didn’t have far to go, as Mercier, who is also part of L.V.M.H., was only a few blocks away. We were excited to learn more about the brand as it’s not well known in North America. Just another reason to ensure we made a few purchases on the way out.
Both houses were the epitome of elegance and hospitality. The quality of tours exceeded our expectations. We will bring you a full review of these houses in our upcoming posts.
Just a few blocks away is the central part of Epernay where we dined at one of the cozy and casual brasseries. It was both surprising and marvellous to see champagne flow as freely as water. With a champagne bar on every corner we had an opportunity to enjoy a glass with every meal.
I thought I knew my champagne, but let me tell you – I really didn’t. There are literally thousands of different producers in the region producing a combined amount of 300 million bottles each year! Yes, while the four biggest houses represent almost half of the export market, there are so many incredible lesser-known brands to try that you just wouldn’t see back home in North America.
The champagne region is not only made up of two major cities but over 300 delightfully perfect little towns (think “Belle”, the opening song from Beauty and the Beast). Google it – I swear, I saw a candlestick move.
We had our breakfast at a boulangerie in the neighbouring town, Hauteville, after which we spent a few hours exploring local champagne houses and strolling through the charming town that was the birthplace of Dom Pérignon. Champagne in the morning is not only acceptable, but a way of life around here. It was the perfect end to a weekend away.
I would say we were sad to pack up and leave but I knew our next stop would be the perfect au revoir.
Next Stop: Disney
Disneyland, Paris is impossible to miss. The route back to CDG passes Disneyland – literally. Plus, who can say no to the Magic Kingdom? Just prepare yourself: after a full day of champagne tasting, going on a ride the next morning may not be your cup of (spinning) tea.
Once you pass through the grand entrance, the headache dissipates and the fun begins… just make sure to keep an eye on the time. You wouldn’t want to almost miss your flight (as we almost did).
The joy and haphazardness of exploring a new place is so much fun, especially here. No matter how long or short your trip, I promise you that a visit to Champagne will leave you feeling inspired to never settle on a glass of prosecco again.