The best thing about Bastille Day was that it fell on a Thursday, which meant a long weekend!
N and I had wanted to visit the South of France to make the most of the extra days, but turns out last minute trains from Paris to the south coast are expensive. We decided instead to hire a car and visit the Champagne region, which is only a couple of hours drive from Paris. Also, sparkling wine is my absolute favourite.
We made our way to Epernay, the home of some of the biggest Champagne houses, including Moët et Chandon. It wasn’t quite as I was expecting – a little more industrial than the old-fashioned French town I’d imagined. But Avenue de Champagne was a beautiful tree lined boulevard, and we ended up spending most of our time there.
The day started with a tasting at a small Champagne house just off the main Avenue, called Janisson Baradon. It was absolutely delicious and not too expensive, so really regretting now that I didn’t buy a bottle! Already a little merry, we headed over to Moët for a tour of the caves followed by a tasting.
This was so much fun, and really interesting to learn more about how champagne is made, and to taste – both a vintage (only grapes made from that year), and a rosé champagne.
More tastings at an independent Champagne seller followed, and we finished the night in a small pub with hilarious French karaoke. We even managed to follow some of the words and had a little dance in the corner with all of the tipsy French people.
Surprisingly after all that, we weren’t a bit worse for wear the next day. Reims was next on our list, and although it had an amazing cathedral, again it was a little industrial. We didn’t want to do another tour, but still visited Taittinger and had a cheeky glass at Veuve-Clicquot.
If you decide to get the train, or have someone kind enough to be designated driver in your group, then I’d highly recommend a day trip to either Epernay or Reims from Paris. Both have lots of champagne to choose from, and in parts are pretty beautiful. Or was that just the champagne goggles…
Stuff I managed to learn while drinking all of the champagne:
- Reims is not pronounced at all like you would expect. I told people from work I was going to “Reems” for the weekend, and they looked at me like I was speaking Russian. Turns out it’s pronounced ‘RRRans’. Or something like that.
- Something else I’ve learnt about France – everyone knows the words to all the French songs and karaoke is a super casual thing people do while they’re eating dinner.
- We also learnt that you should pronounce the ‘t’ in Moët et Chandon, but we both decided that outside of France that would sound so incredibly pretentious, or just wrong, so we’re going to have to keep saying it like ‘Mo-ay’.
- I also found out that you don’t drink a verre (glass) of champagne like you do wine, and instead you ask for une coupe.
- The French approach bank holidays a little differently than we do. Annoyingly whichever day the holiday falls on, is the day they have the holiday. So if it falls on a weekend (like Christmas will do this year…), then they won’t have a Monday off to compensate. Not the best. But they DO have pont or bridge days, meaning Bastille day heralded an amazing four day weekend.