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Published: July 19th 2015
We find the vineyards.
Tuesday 14 July 2015
Yesterday was a city day, today it was country and the search was on for the elusive champagne vine. So with the map from the Tourist Office we headed off on the touristique du Champagne. Our first town on the list was Thil, for no other reason than it was near the start of our tour and Polly was keen to get us on the road. She even offered to be a backseat driver and only offer assistance when it came to find our way back to the hotel. We think she was after a few samplings along the way.
It was Bastille Day and we weren't sure what to expect. On TV everything was being beamed in live from Paris. President Hollande was there, as was the President of Mexico. The parade was taking its time to get started and we had more important things to do. So we left the pomp and circumstance to take care of itself and headed off.
As we approached Thil there were the vineyards growing on the slopes of the Thierry Massif. Quite a contrast to the golden colours of the grain, with their regimented straight lines
WWI machine gun post beside the church.
reaching up to the haphazard woodlands on the hilltops. Driving through the village of Thil we witnessed the villagers and mayor, with her mayoral sash, preparing for the official start of the day. The band members seemed to be extricating their instruments from typically small French cars. Don't take a large drum in a small car.
We continued our drive through the villages of Saint Thierry, Merf, Chenay and Trigny. The towns looked neat and tidy and all of them had war memorials recognizing those who had died either as soldiers, resistance fighters or villagers. Several had photographs of how the village looked after 1918. As we entered Trigny we were confronted by the local fire brigade marching rather solemnly down the road followed by wreath bearers and the rest of the villagers. We made some speedy parking manouvers and witnessed the parade from the comfort of the car. In some of the villages it was so quiet we wondered if the inhabitants were resting up for the evening's festivities.
Hermonville was a larger town but everything was shut except for the boulangerie. We were just in time for some wickedness for lunch. One tour member purchased the
12th century church - Chapelle
most wicked looking chocolate éclair. It was so heavy with chocolate it was going to take some time to eat. As we left the town we took a brief detour to a British War Cemetery. Even in this quiet village here was a part of England looking well cared for, even if a little dry.
Our drive continued along the Massif with many views of Reims in the distance. The vineyards are small family businesses and are ideally 'positioned to make the most of the sun. At one stop to take in the view we discovered a church that dated back to the 12th century. Surrounding it was a cemetery with many family plots still being used today. In this peaceful spot it was hard to understand the remains of a machine gun emplacement beside the church.
We took a short detour to Epernay for a quick look and hopefully an ice cream. Driving through the town we passed through a police check point, not once, but three times, and failed to be stopped. We did try but obviously that red number plate is magic. Our ice cream wasn't quite what we expected but on a hot day
The owner's house stands out amongst his vineyard.
just what we needed.
Darkness comes very late in this part of France and as we didn't purchase our own fireworks we had to rely on others. It seems anyone can buy fireworks but not everyone can let them off. You have to know what you are doing. Not sure who polices this policy but there was certainly fun to be had. Just as our eyes were closing at 11:15 pm the public displayed started. Our view wasn't too bad, and the display was quite modest compared to that in Paris. And so to sleep. Tomorrow we head north for a night's stay before taking our car to England through the Eurotunnel by train.
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