Life without Champagne? Inconceivable!

The flat landscape of Normandy gave way to hillside vineyards as we headed east into the Champagne region towards Reims (pronounced “Rance”), the capital of the region and home to several Champagne Houses.

What a thrill to find our room at the Best Western de la Paix to be outrageously huge by French standards. And modern, with a bathroom that had a jacuzzi tub and separate shower area. It was a far cry from the Hotel Bristol in Caen where the shower was so small that you inevitably knocked the hot water tap to the hottest setting if you tried to turn around. And the location of the Best Western was perfect: situated in the heart of Reims, and 30 seconds to great restaurants and shopping.

We hadn’t booked any tours ahead of time but found the House of Mumm had an opening for an afternoon tour. The tour takes about an hour, starts with a short history video before you descend 14 metres below into the chalk caves where millions of bottles are stored amid the 15 kms of trails. The tour ends with a tasting and is totally worth the 15 Euros admission cost.

The next day we tried to get into Veuve Clicquot for a tour but no luck. Instead we walked a short distance to to Pommery and booked a tour for later in the day. In the meantime we explored Reims. Most of the downtown area and the Notre Dame cathedral is undergoing renovations so it was a bit difficult maneouvering and finding businesses that weren’t obstructed by construction.

The caves of Pommery were dug 2000 years ago by the Romans. The temperature remains a constant 12 degrees celsius but the coolest thing about Pommery is a temporary art exhibit set up at the beginning of the tour, 40 metres below ground. Fifty birds are housed in one of the rooms where they feed and fly around and play guitars. Yes, guitars. The room is filled with electric guitars and when the little birds land on the strings they play music. The birds, apparently, are quite happy there judging by the numbers in their little flock. Originally there were 23 birds, now there are 50.

On our last night in Reims we sampled some more Champagne in the beautifully chic and very well-stocked lounge in our hotel. We could’ve spent another week in the area, but two days was all we alloted and no where near the amount of time needed to explore this part of France. And if I ever came back, I’d definitely book a room at the Best Western, no question.

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