Thursday, July 19, 2012

Travel Thursdays: Our Sister Trip to Champagne (Day 1)

Many moons ago, when I was still living with Nicole in Berlin, we took a weekend trip to the Champagne region of France, a place I--actually, we--dare say should actually be called the happiest place on Earth. Funnily enough, we got the idea to go there from our gramma. We love champagne, but our gramma really really loves champagne and used to mention constantly how much she wanted to visit that part of France.

Overall the trip went pretty much like this: 1. Wake up and have a café au lait and pastry in a neighborhood café (pastry-tasting is one of our favorite European travel pastimes); 2. Visit two to three châteaux or wineries--including tastings, but of course; 3. Buy 1 euro champagne and a baguette and cheese for lunch; 4. Repeat step 2; 5. Buy more 1 euro champagne and baguette and cheese and return to hotel for dinner and a viewing of Nouvelle Star--France's version of American Idol (is this still on? Does anyone know? Because it was gloriously over-dramatic).

The first day we toured Epernay, a smaller town in Champagne that houses Moët et Chandon, among other wineries. Obviously, that was our first stop (we don't kid around--we go straight for the best stuff first).

*(Apologies in advance for the quality of this and all of the following images. I had dropped and broken our digital camera the week before, so we had to make due with two 90s-style disposable cameras for this trip.)

Of course we splurged for the 18 euro Moët et Chandon Visite Impériale--a tour of the caves that would conclude with two glasses of champagne instead of just one. I mean hey, it was all of 10:00 am. (And, of course, we were the only ones who had splurged for that double-fisted tasting. How jealous were all the retirees and honeymooners when they saw our two glasses versus their one?)

Me among the fantastic Moet  posters / Nicole giddy in the code-labeled wine caves

We learned (for the first of at least 10 times, in both English and French) the champagne-making process, the history of champagne, the inordinate amount of deaths suffered by cellar masters (it's pretty poor air quality down there), and that Moët codes its champagnes (see the chalkboard writing?) with numbers that only the cellar master knows to prevent anyone from stealing their precise methods and recipes. How very top secret of them.

Our so very French guide showing us the various sizes of bottles--all full and all for sale. 

After Moët, we headed to the Perrier-Jouët château just down the street, only to find out that, sadly, it was temporarily closed.

Closed but beautiful Château de Perrier-Jouët 

So instead we bought supplies for lunch and then forged on along Avenue de Champagne to Lang-Biemont, where there were no caves to tour, but there was a mademoiselle so unhappy to serve us that we inched out of there as quick as possible (but not before completing two tastings ;).

1 euro champagne lunch--we keep it classy.

Next was Maison Mercier, whose laser-guided car tours were probably our favorite of the trip. (Sadly, our trusty disposable cameras weren't able to capture any decent images of this Disneyland-esque champagne tour extravaganza.) They also had in their reception room this:

The second largest tonneau in the world--it holds the equivalent of 213,000 bottles of wine! Yes, please.

We finished up our tours and tastings with a visit to Champagne de Castellane. I don't remember the particulars of this visit, or seem to have any pictures, but that's probably due to the massive amounts of champagne we had already consumed. And the two more 1 euro bottles we bought for a rainy dinner in our hotel room... And so that was Day 1 of our three-day visit to Champagne. Stay tuned for Days 2 & 3 in a future post--when I can find and scan all the old-school images into my computer and pretend I remember everything through the fog of bubbles that was that weekend.

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