A Taste of Champagne ~ Épernay & Reims
I absolutely love this region of France and who doesn’t love Champagne? It is roughly a four and a half hour drive from Stuttgart, Germany, making it a perfect weekend trip to France. Here is our quick itinerary for a “Taste of Champagne.”
This year, I took a group to visit historical Épernay to try the world-famous Moët and Chandon winery, a tour of the city of Reims, an opportunity to visit local markets, and a little chocolate!
WHERE NOT TO STAY!
I try to inform travelers as much “Where to stay” as well as “Where NOT to stay.” The Champagne region of France is unique and using a SEARCH engine like TripAdvisor/Booking.com can be at a disadvantage in these areas. While researching the area, I found it particularly difficult. The prices ranged from average to OMg expensive… no kidding! So we would have had to spend a fortune to stay on Champagne Row (one of the most expensive streets in Europe) or someplace moderate within walking distance to the sites of the old town.
I chose something moderate… however my 3.5 star hotel was no where near 3.5 star. If you follow me on TripAdvisor (TravelwithWendyP) you’ll see it was not even close. It would have been different if the owners/front desk staff tried a little bit, but that seemed too bit of a stretch too. The Hotel de la Cloche is located right in the heart of old town for Epernay and externally the hotel looks adorable and quaint. It has a GREAT location, but that’s the ONLY thing going for it. Read my review on Booking.com as well, I took pictures and was descriptive as much as I could.
Our breakfasts were included but consisted of weird warm hard boiled eggs, croissants and some fruit. It wasn’t the worst breakfast I’ve had in Europe. But it was close, at €8/person/day it wasn’t really worth it.
Épernay is not cheap!
I have traveled throughout France quite a bit so I am not a “newcomer.” Breakfast is not always included with your Bnb/Hotel stay and is not abundant. At this hotel, it was really lame. Dining in the Champagne region is a separate budget item on your trip. When I’m dining out on travel I get a little savvy like ordering small menus or split dishes with fellow travelers.
Most “menus” are two, three or four course options and most restaurants will give you a price range. It seemed the most common were €22 – €40 per menu option. This included a small appetizer, entree and dessert option. You could add however many courses you wish to add ~
When you add a glass of wine at about €6-8/glass for dinner, that’s a pretty hefty dinner price per person. I know, I know, you are in Champagne, but ouch. Just be prepared for a little bit higher prices than other parts of Europe. Not as expensive as Switzerland but not close to affordable like Croatia or Italy.
I love the Tour company FRANCE INTENSE. I booked this company way back in the fall of 2017 and they were such a delight to work together. Our tour guide was Raphael. Even though we had a very rainy day for our tour of the French countryside he gave us an absolutely amazing tour.
We started at the Abbey for Dom Perignon were the famous champagne all started. This Benedictine monk came up with a recipe to combine the grapes to create the special blend we know as Dom Perignon. Offered by Moët and Chandon this winery has exploded from its early beginnings which was a mission for him to save the town from economic and cultural disaster.
Dom Perignon was revered as a saint in this town and the church we visited in located in a town was enchanting. This town, Hautvillers is where I will stay the next time I am in this area. Set upon a little mountain overlooking vineyard valleys of green and gold. Just breathtaking.
After the Abbey we headed to the town of Reims. Reims was the center for trade and religious domination and persecution throughout the ages.
Champagne Tastings and more ~
Moët and Chandon is probably the most famous of all the wineries so of course we had to include this in our trip. The history and legacy of the Möet & Chandon winery is world renown and we learned it has been a part of Champagne’s culture and economy for centuries with visits from Napoleon and a bunch of other guests including filming some 007 scenes. Pretty cool!
This well-oiled and flawless tour was informative and interesting. The building is beautiful and the kilometers of caves running underneath France’s famous Champagne row is beautiful. Parts are under construction right now so we dealt with a little dust on our tour, no big deal. Ironically, the champagne tasting wasn’t my favorite. But, it might just be me ~ I’ve tasted a bit of champagne. HA! But it will be nice to say I’ve been there. The tour isn’t cheap though, and depending on what you are looking for – you may decide to just book directly through them. I preferred to have a more complete tour which is why I chose France Intense – Bubbles tour.
Power of social media – GREAT WINERIES!!
While visiting Möet & Chandon I had posted on Instagram a picture of us at our tour. The power of social media is incredible – I got a like from a new follower François (francoischampagneprovider- Instagram handle) who works at Champagne Roger Manceaux in Rilly-la-Montagne, in between Reims and Épernay.
After posting, François sent me a private message inviting our group to visit the winery for a tour and tasting. For €10 per person, a wonderful tour including the caves and several wines to try we jumped at the opportunity.
Absolutely one of the highlights of our trip was our visit to see François and taste and tour. We learned so much about champagne in this region and how it truly is the life and culture for the residents in this area of France. It seems like everything revolves around the champagne industry from crops to shops – it’s all about the wine.
Markets & walking around Épernay
One of the elements I found was a weekly market in Épernay. I was thrilled that we were able to visit and shop. We found everything from artichokes, mushrooms to gorgeous flowers just coming in bloom. Located in Les Halles of Épernay this historical building has parking right across the street, for free on market days.
Here are just a few of our treasures
Épernay at night
Chocolate and more ~
One of the best tools I use when traveling is GoogleMaps. I know it is not always our friend, but in France, Belgium, and Holland I use it almost exclusively for EXPLORING “things to do.” With a few extra minutes left of our day, I found a chocolate shop and tour very close to Épernay so we decided to check it out La Chocolaterie Thibault and their free tour.
In the 80’s there was a famous tv show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and Robin Leach hosted it every week. I know indulgent 80’s what can I say… it was my youth. But I remember an episode about this region of France and I am so glad I was able to explore it and have just a taste. I am looking forward to returning again and visiting my new friends and discovering more of this region. Cheers ~