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Bubbly in Epernay

Written on: Wednesday April 4th, 2007

A journal entry from: Rouen Exchange

Epernay is a smaller French town of about 25,000 people that lies 80 miles east of Paris in the region of Champagne.  Since my friends and I had decided to scrap our trip to Bordeaux, (as it is expensive to get there and they are behind in the wine tourism industry) Celeste and I made the trip to Champagne.  This was esentially a day trip since there is little else to do in the town besides explore the Avenue de Champagne. 

We left Rouen at 10am, and switching trains in Paris. The train got to Epernay a bit late as someone on the train got hurt and we had to stop and wait for medical people to arrive.  We finally got to Epernay a bit after 3, went to the tourist office to get a map and then found our hotel (Hotel St. Pierre).  Turned out the room was only 24 Euros for the both of us which was amazing.  We took off to visit a Champagne cave as soon as we'd unloaded our bags. 

We chose to do the tour of the Mercier cave as it is the most popular Champagne in France...and it was a bit cheaper than Moet et Chandon (maker of Dom Perignon).  We paid our 13 Euros which included a tour and 3 glasses of Champagne.  We learned that Mercier makes about 4 million bottles a year, buys about half their grapes from regional producers and once held a stock car race in their caves.  Also, did you know that champagne is made not only from Chardonnay grapes but also Pinot Noir and another red grape that I now forget.  After the tour we went back up to surface level to indulge in our 3 glasses.  Turned out they didn't have any food and both Celeste and I are lightweights so after the 1/2 hour tasting, we were a bit tipsy.  The Champagne was really good though so we decided to do a degutasion at a Champagne house further up the street.  This place just looked like a normal home, but had signs directing you to a side door for the tastings.  This time it was only 4 Euros for 3 glasses.  We chatted with the friendly owner for a bit and as we were leaving, he was able to direct us to a patisserie as we were now in desperate need of some food.  Unfortunately, it was about 7pm so all the bakeries were very picked over and not up to our standards.  We went on a wild, hour and a half tour of the town looking for any kind of pastry that looked good - or a crepe.  We found nothing, so went back to our room at 8 and passed out a 8:30.  The early bed time was likely a good thing though...

The first Sunday of the month several museums in Paris are free.  However, lineups start prior to opening so we wanted to make sure we got there early.  We ended up having to take a 5:20 train because it was the only one getting to Paris before 9:30.  Paris is a very interesting city to watch wake up (or should I say go to sleep). Walking the streets at 6:30 in the morning, we saw lots of people still up from the night before.  We found a bakery, got breakfast and then got in line for the Mussee D'Orsay half an hour before it was to open.  This museum is mostly impressionist art in an old train station and was really good. 

After spending and hour and a half there, we went to Angelina's - a cafe that is rumored to have the best hot chocolate in France.  (I would hope so since it costs 6.50 Euros). It was quite delicious but left me feelling a bit sick.  At this point, we were both exhausted so decided not to do any more museums and head back to Roun.

Like usual, I'm going to say this was one of my favourite trips.  Seriously though, everyone needs to try good, French champagne once in their life.

Easter weekend, we are going to celebrate in proper fashion by going to a chocolate festval in Belgium and then moving on to Amsterdam for Easter Monday.

 (PS.  I'll post the pictures once the Internet is working better)