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did someone say champagne?

It's mid-Autumn and for those of you have been following my blog may (or may not) know that mid-Autumn is the time of year we go on our French exploration trip! In 2011 we went to lovely Loire Valley, last year was our striped shirt Normandy excursion to Honfleur, Le Havre and Etretat, and this year, we went to a region I have been dying to go to since I arrived in France....

 You guessed it! Champagne!

I was pretty much in my bubbly glory the entire weekend as I felt no shame in ordering a glass of champagne with every meal, something I feel sort of diva doing elsewhere. But when in Rome, right?

We stayed in the center of Reims (which for the life of me cannot pronounce properly without spitting) in a curious little hotel called the Hotel Crystal. Dropping our things off and me wanting to change out of my peep-toe heels to my more weather-appropriate black Keds, much to my horror, I had packed two left shoes. Having several pairs of these sneakers and the dim-lighting in my bedroom, this was bound to happen one of these days, just not on a rainy weekend exploring champagne caves. Oy.


I had two choices here: drive out to the suburbs of Reims looking for an E.Leclerc (France's WalMart, more or less), and waste precious Champagne buying appropriate footwear, or deal with it and visit les caves in 2007 Dior Gladiator heels.

Do I even need to tell you which one I chose?

We kicked off our weekend with the bigger Champagne houses and paced ourselves by tasting not finishing the complimentary glasses offered at the end of each tour (this was me being an adult.) Although the bigger houses were quite impressive, I would have to say the tour that I was most enchanted with was hosted by one of my favorite champagnes, Demoiselle (part of the Vranken family who also produce Pommery.) Perhaps it was because it was the end of the day or because this more of a niche champagne, the Villa Demoiselle attracted a much smaller crowd where we could really experience the house with all of its art nouveau touches, we could actually hear the guide, and none of the other tour visitors asked annoying and irrelevant questions.

 The tour ended with a glass from their Diamant collection which was pretty much like sipping on sparkling liquid gold.
This glass, I finished.

A little purple lace coat and an Eiffel Tower box?
I can't.
You know one of these is sitting in our fridge right now.
I'm such a sucker for packaging.

Reims was nice, and while I appreciated visiting the famous Champagne houses and seeing their Notre Dame, I couldn't help but feel slightly uninspired by how commercial most of the town was. The Sephoras (there were two!), Jennyfer, and H&M stores reminded me more of a mini rue de Rivoli than the region where Champagne came from. I guess I had always imagined that my beverage of choice would come from a quaint little French village sprinkled with family producers on side streets, welcoming visitors, and encouraging tastings.

Not wanting to be a whiny little bitch, I kept these thoughts to myself; not every place in France has to be a postcard out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. I get it. 

Well, someone was listening to my silent "concerns" because the following day we headed out to Rilly La Montagne, and this is where I got to see the Champagne I had dreamed of.


Autumn in Champagne.
This is where the magic comes from!




Now this was more like it! Quiet and super quaint with the air smelling like wood-burning fireplaces. Walking around the village (still in my towering heels), we absorbed the countryside scenery that us city-folk had been craving. We may have even been the only people in town, because not even a car passed us by. It was divine. 

Faced with a myriad of fermé signs and locked doors, it had occurred to us that not many producers are open on Saturday, especially during a holiday weekend. And that's why it was super quiet, not because we had discovered a top secret town like I had hoped. Well, wise wife to the rescue, I reckoned that the only solution was to stop at Chateau de Rilly, the town's four star hotel that we had passed, order a glass of champagne (you know, for inspiration) and call several of the houses to request a reservation.

As suspected, it worked. Within the hour, we were welcomed to most of the houses that we called, were offered a generous tasting (more than just one glass!), learned the company history and chatted with the owners, and at some of houses with their kids and wives. It was a much more intimate experience than what we had experienced in Reims. 

It was truly a sparkling weekend (pun so intended), we came home a few cases of champagne heavier; one to keep in the house for the impending holidays and the other for a very special upcoming event....to be continued.

30 comments:

  1. Oooh, sounds like a lovely weekend! I always think of saying Reims as like rinsing your mouth out, it totally reminds me of toothpaste (I have slight synesthesia!) Can't believe you passed up on a trip to Leclerc ;o)

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    1. I know, I can't believe I passed up E. Leclerc either (notice how I INSIST on adding the "E"?) since there aren't any here in Paris that I know of. I really let the ball drop on that one, didn't I? ; )

      Saying Reims really isn't fun especially when no one understands you! Even my American friends where like, 'wait, where are you going?'...at that point i said, fuck it and said I was going to Champagne.

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  2. What a bubbly dream,even with two left feet! x
    P.S. I can't say Reims either

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    1. It really was! I felt like such a diva ordering champagne with every meal! I kind of loved it. : )

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  3. Sounds fabulous! We only visited Taittinger when we went (wanted Ruinart but all booked out, boo). I would love to go to some of the smaller villages as well, just always been put off by thinking it required a car and hence a sober driver. How did you get around? I think I'm really not far from Champagne now, I will have to plan a return visit.

    PS You're such a tease with your "special upcoming events", I'm dying of curiosity!

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    1. PS and no-one can say Reims :)

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    2. Aurelien drove but we didn't bounce from house to house via car; we parked once (one day in Reims and the other in Rilly La Montagne) and went to teach house by foot and also paced ourselves with the tastings. We let the buzz wear off with lunch before getting back in the car. It's something to consider when doing tastings, for sure.

      In Napa, there are locals who do driving tours which pretty much just means you pay them to be a sober driver as they tell you about the town and the vineyards, which I think is nice. Maybe Champagne should get on that? Not a bad idea, eh?


      REEEEIIIIIIMSSSSSSSSS! Nah, still can't get it. It'll go in with Fontainebleau...another one that just won't happen!

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  4. Two left shoes?! Oh the horror! The horror!

    Just loooooooove that packaging! Purple lace and an Eiffel Tower on the box, what's not to love?!:)

    "The air smelling like wood-burning fire places"... How wonderful!

    I'm glad you had a great weekend and thought to stock up:)

    And she's leaving us on tenterhooks again!;) Judging from all the champagne you imbibed this weekend, the upcoming event is certainly not a new addition to the family;)

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    1. Duchesse, it was truly something I was looking forward to: putting on comfortable jeans, thick socks and my black sneakers. I stared down at the two left feet for a good five minutes weighing my options. I was super annoyed with myself!

      Hahaha, no we didn't buy two cases of champagne to celebrate my pregnancy! Can you imagine? Plastered and Preggos 2013! Woo hoo! No, I just have a little something in the works with a few of my girlfriends revolving around champagne. ; ) TBA...

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  5. WOW...fantastic pictures , how lovely. Can just smell the wood burning and hear your heels clicking on the cobbles...LOL

    hey I once went on a road trip and left my entire suitcase in the kitchen so things happen...

    love love champagne...very jealous right now.

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    1. Road trip or dirty weekend?;)

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    2. Thanks Deb! It really was so special and cozy once we got into the smaller village. And, the smell of the fire places just did me in. So charming. Sadly, my feet didn't find any of it all that charming! They're still recovering...

      Your entire suitcase?!?! What did you do?? Go back or re-purchase the necessities? Wow!

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    3. went to a Rite-Aid in Rhinebeck NY and had to buy the basics...luckily my sister was with me so I just borrowed what I could from her...

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  6. OMG I literally laughed out loud about the two left shoes, you poor thing.

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  7. What a nice weekend :) I don't drink alcohol but i can imagine how divine it must have been :)

    Upcoming event... oh la la ... excited about that :) :)

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    1. It really was such a lovely weekend and not because I was buzzed on bubbly, because Champagne is so pretty! I think it's a trip everyone can enjoy!

      I'll be sharing the special event next week! It's something me and a few friends have been working on for a few months now! ;)

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  8. Autumn is the best time for discovery trips and your pictures are gorgeous.

    I made that mistake with shoes once, but luckily they were just ballerines, so, being less glamorous than you, I just spent the whole day at work with two left feet.

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    1. Autumn just makes everything look so festive, right? I love seeing rows and rows of vineyards in general, but during the foliage? WOW! Enchanting!

      I considered stuffing my right foot into the left Ked but Aurelien stopped me from even entertaining it, citing that it just wouldn't work. But you were able to do it, so perhaps I could have done it...hmmmm. For argument's sake, I'm going to give it a try today. Thanks! : )

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  9. Champagne is so high up on my France to do list, although so is a visit to E.Leclerc which I've heard all sorts of wonderful tales about. I do the same when I go to a French town and I feel it's not French enough. I bite my tongue but I just want to scream: "Who put a McDonalds there?!!" Anyway. Gorgeous. I want that bottle.

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    1. Oh, Anna, you must see it!! It was such a special experience, especially once you go off the beaten path to the smaller villages!

      Hahaha! E.Leclerc (which I TOTALLY say with an American accent) comes in handy, you can pretty much get whatever you need there. However, I am glad that I omitted this experience from our trip!

      I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who gets miffed if yeah, there's a McDo plopped right next to a chateau! But the French do love their Mickey D's!

      Thanks for your comment!

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    2. Still trying to get over the Starbucks on Place du Tertre! I'm gonna have to go and check it out at Christmas to see for myself!

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  10. Oh, I love La Parisienne champagne in its purple lace coat! I wonder if it's somehow connected with "My Little Paris" because the drawing on the box looks like one of theirs.

    I'm happy that you had a sparkling weekend in Champagne!

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    1. MK, how precious is this bottle? Like, I couldn't NOT take it home with me. We're saving it for a special occasion! I just Googled Demoiselle and My Little Paris and got nothing, but yeah it looks a lot like their art work. Perhaps they used the same illustrator?

      It was lovely! Rilly can't wait to go back to Rilly La Montagne. ; ) !

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  11. I love little villages in Europe! I love visiting the wine regions in Spain because they all seem like this—quaint and, now that it's fall, smelling of the wood-burning stoves, as you mentioned!

    I'm not a huge fan of champagne, but it may have to do with the fact that I haven't had the really good stuff! (Isn't that the truth with almost all things?)

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    1. it was super cozy in the village of Rilly La Montagne! It was exactly what I was hoping for. And yes, the wood-burning fireplaces and stoves really added to the charm. I wanted to stay!

      My mom also doesn't love champagne, what is it for you? The bubbles? Or the sweetness? I have to say after three glasses I need to stop because the bubbles get to me and I feel like I'm going to start floating! So I hear ya... : )

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  12. I just don't understand why they pronounce "rince" instead of Reims. Why?

    I have never been out to the Champagne region and I'd love to go! I must one of the only wine-drinking expats in France that doesn't really like bubbly wine and rosé, but I would still love to explore the history and beauty of the region. I would say that I have more "masculine" tastes when it comes to wine: I love full-bodied red wines that smell of leather and animals. Crazy, isn't it? I get my fix around Bordeaux, but I must say, there are some amazing red wines in Languedoc-Rousillon! My "Champagne" is the region around Perpignan. I just love going down there: great wine, mountains, nice people, wonderful food, beautiful villages, medieval castles, etc, etc.

    I'll make it to Champagne one day!

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  13. Oooh, fabulous. And in Dior nonetheless. Thatta girl!!! We were in Burgundy for Toussaint and so stocked up on Cremant--the poor folks Champagne! ;)

    I am already placing a vote for next year's trip: Provence! Woooohooooo!!!!

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