“I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
Madame Bollinger, House of Bollinger Champagne
Is there any other drink on earth as elegant, as refined, as representative of celebration and friendship than champagne? First there is the almost ceremonious unwinding of the metal restraints, the removal of the foil, the pop! of the cork, and then the pouring of the golden, effervescent liquid into the crystal flute. There is nothing left to do but to sip and savor the glorious wine with its exhilarating bubbles and to enjoy the exquisite luxury of it.
Madame Bollinger, who ran the House of Bollinger, based in Ay, France, from 1941 to 1971, traveled the world to promote her brand and the magic of champagne. Lily Bollinger certainly had a sense of humor when she spoke of drinking of champagne in so many circumstances, but her point was that champagne is universal.
Whether out to a fancy dinner or enjoying a casual weekend brunch, whether one is happy or sad, alone or together in a large group, it is the introduction of champagne to the occasion that fully expresses the high quality of the moment and that particular zest for life for which the French are so famous.
This beautiful drink that we so associate with happiness and good times originates from the region of Champagne in France, a very special and storied part of the world that I had the good fortune of visiting with my husband while on our honeymoon.
We were always interested in traveling to Champagne, but we were completely inspired to plan to visit Champagne on the first stop of our honeymoon after watching a documentary entitled, A Year in Champagne. You can watch the official trailer below. For those who would like to practice listening to French, this documentary gives you that lovely opportunity, but with the benefit of English subtitles to help you along.
**The following part of this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.
I thoroughly encourage anyone interested in traveling to Champagne and winemaking and wine tasting in general to watch this documentary! It costs $15.85 on DVD and only $3.99 to rent with Amazon Prime. You can rent or purchase it by clicking the image below. It is such a treat to watch and makes for a great date night or girls’ night in. Make sure you have some bubbly on hand as you watch!
So my husband and I drank champagne at our wedding on Cape Cod (see more about our wedding style in A Paris-Inspired Wedding: Part I and A Paris-Inspired Wedding: Part II), and next we were off to Épernay, France, the capital of the Champagne region, for a few sparkling days!
We flew into Charles de Gaulle on a quiet, sunny Sunday morning in July and picked up our small, black Peugeot rental car that we would take on to Épernay, which is about an hour and a half drive east of Paris and about a 35 minutes drive south of Reims, where many famous champagne houses are also located.
If you choose to take the train to Épernay from Paris or from Charles de Gaulle airport, the trip should take just over an hour! We opted for the car, as we would be heading to Burgundy after Champagne and were looking for autonomy while on our trip.
Champagne is so close and accessible from Paris, and you could definitely opt for a day trip if you are staying in the capital. Ô Chateau, located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, offers champagne tastings and also day trips to Champagne! Check out their video below to get a sense of what a day trip to Champagne with Ô Chateau would be like:
As my husband and I set off on our trip to Champagne a short time after landing at Charles de Gaulle, we were feeling very French in our small, black Peugeot and its French GPS (We became quite accustomed to assessing and discussing distance in kilomètres). Before long, we found ourselves smiling at the beauty that surrounded us.
We were suddenly in the heart of the French countryside, admiring the rows of vines in the vineyards and the shining, golden hay bails perched on rolling wheat fields. We were awed by the beauty and so happy with our choice to spend the majority of our lune de miel in the French countryside.
As I gazed out the car window, I often felt as though I were looking out upon a tableau by Van Gogh or Monet. The colors were so vibrant, so alive. The open road was very quiet, and we would frequently stop just to take a few photos of the vines or to admire some of the beautiful animals that we saw along the way, like this pony below!
Before long, we came upon a vineyard where workers were tending to the vines. It was the first time that we had ever seen the people who care for the vines and later harvest the grapes that will one day be made into champagne. The enormity of the whole beautiful process, and its deep-rooted connection to this terroir, or bit of earth and its accompanying climate, swept over us.
Though there was some other agricultural activity, it was clear to see that the whole region of Champagne is predominantly dedicated to one sparkling beverage: champagne. Signs of it were everywhere. There were the vineyards, picturesque wine barrels stacked up by the side of the road, and signs enticing visitors of the Route touristique du Champagne to stop into the various small champagne houses for a dégustation, or tasting.
We passed through quaint villages on our way to Épernay and sometimes deviated from the path laid out to us by our GPS, choosing to meander along the Route touristique du Champagne at times, just to see where it would take us.
It’s times like this where you are glad to have your own car; my husband and I had a blast before we even arrived at our destination of Épernay!
We finished our picturesque drive and arrived in the city of Épernay, where we pulled onto the famous avenue de Champagne, which cuts through the center of town and along which sit most of the major champagne houses of Épernay, including Moët et Chandon. I chatted on the phone en français with our hosts, and while they readied our room, my husband and I lounged in the parc surrounding the Hôtel de Ville d’Épernay, or the beautiful town hall of Épernay.
After a brief stroll in the park, we got back in our now trusty Peugeot and pulled up to 27 avenue de Champagne, the location of the lovely bed and breakfast, Parva Domus, where we would be staying for the following few nights.
Have you ever traveled to the Champagne region of France, or would you like to? I always fly on Air France when possible, since you already start to feel like you’re in France from the moment you board the plane! How do you prefer to travel to France? Answer in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!
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À la prochaine,