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Published: September 17th 2022
I was up early today to run through my survival routine; shower, heat pack , Ibuprofen, and a shot on the TENS machine. I have new respect for women who rise early to go through their daily routine of cosmetic applications. I didn’t even look any better after my effort.
We packed the car, bought a takeaway coffee at Babbo, and headed south east across the overcast Battlefields of World War One.
It’s hard to picture the muddy destruction as we drove passed, but signs and landmarks point to areas of significance in the Verdun region. Much of the forest area we pass through are designated spoiled areas, where it is forbidden to engage in any building or development activity because of the contamination by artillery and armaments.
It would be nice to think it is also out of respect for the millions of lives lost during this pointless endeavour. For years, the French and Germans fought back and forth over a battle line, with little ground gained, but thousands of lives lost on both sides.
Vernon, the scene of one of the bloodiest battlefields in WW1, is now called the City of Peace. The battlefields are
A 5 minute drive from Tim’s Place
now rolling green pastures and farmlands dotted with farm houses and villages. Close inspection of some areas still bare the scars of trench warfare, but we’re not seeing that at 120kph.
The Champagne Tour we are heading towards is held in the village of Epernay, home of famous brands of Moët, and Chandon. The village streets conceal 110 kilometres of subterranean cellars, holding more than 200,000,000 bottles of champagne in various stages of fermentation, right up to the ready to pop stage.
The Tour commenced with a video presentation of Eugene Mercier’s forward thinking and entrepreneurial approach to his vision of champagne making and marketing. One example is that he was the first wine maker to promote his champagne with a film advertisement produced by the Lumiere Brothers.
We then ventured underground and experienced some of the kilometres of hand dug tunnels in a small tourist train, similar to an upmarket amusement park ghost train, without the scary bits. The remote controlled train is electric but the trains in the original operation were coal powered which might explain the black residue lining parts of the limestone ceiling and walls. The natural temperature is maintained at 10ºc all
year round, assisting with a consistent annual production of each type of champagne.
The tunnels are lined with champagne in wooden racks, or metal crates that are rotated, moving dozens of bottles in one movement. Artwork decorates the tunnel walls, and the crossroads of tunnels reveal more extensive well lit tunnels that seem to be endless.
And this was just one champagne maker. The town is a warren of tunnels belonging to many manufacturers.
The tour ends in a tasting room, with 3 champagnes explained and offered to each visitor to sample.
Unfortunately this part of the tour was no use for me, so after watching everyone else sniff, swivel and sip their way through the first offering, I moved outside and served as the official photographer for family groups, and chatted with a Canadian couple who had walked for 1 1/2 hours to get there, after being told it was a 20 minute walk. And the poor man was on a walking stick, with a disability.
They had recently visited Australia and visited the ‘desert ‘. I’m not sure how long it took to walk there.
When the intrepid Australians finally dragged themselves
away from the sampling room - last ones to leave - we drove to our last stop for the day, Reims.
We parked underground in the centre of the city and walked the short distance to the Cathedral. This is one of the greatest Cathedrals in Europe built over 60 years in the 12th century.
Before reaching the Cathedral, thirst and hunger pangs drew us into the classic Cafe de Palais, a very eclectic bar started in 1930. It attracted writers, artists and philosophers, among other bohemian types , and the current decor still reflects this period.
The Cathedral is a gothic masterpiece that has been affected by both world wars, restored in parts, with existing lead lights restored and some were redesigned. The ceiling of the Cafe de Palais was designed and installed by the same glacier who, when reglazing the cathedral, used the same drawings his ancestors used when originally designing the windows. The company was formed in the 1600s and has continued ever since.
Seated at a desk at the rear of the church was a lady volunteering to greet pilgrims walking the Camino De Santiago. Since March, she has greeted 660 people
Original Working Champagne Barrel
Designed to increase volume. Holds 300,000 bottles
walking from Canterbury, England, heading to Rome, and others going to Santiago.
The Cathedral was full of tourists and seemed more like an attraction than a church. Some places you visit, like Saint Damiano’s in Assisi, have a reverent aura but it was missing here. Amazing place though.
Dinner tonight was at a French Restaurant , Les Sarments, recommended by our host Max, and was just around the corner from our rooms. From having your coat taken at the door, to having you money taken at the door, the service and food was exceptional. My Crème Brûlée cracked at the top and was probably the first time I’ve ever eaten the real deal. I don’t normally photograph food , but this is worth a look.
Well, I’m buggered so I’ll add a few pics and rest up for Versailles tomorrow.
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