Epernay to Paris day #16

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July 19th 2012
Published: July 20th 2012
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Today our journey takes us to the town of Epernay which is about 35 minutes drive south of Reims. The short drive is just beautiful with the countryside lined with acres and hectares of vineyards of the 3 grapes that are used in the production of champagne; Chardonnay , Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunière. All 3 varieties produce a white grape juice when crushed but only the chardonnay has a light color skin. As far as the eye can see there are grapes growing and being tended to along with the most charming old historic villages and their red tile roofs sprinkled along the way. Each village appears to have a gothic cathedral with a steeple to rival the next village. Just lovely.

We arrive in Epernay and thanks to the iPad, we are able to navigate our way to the avenue du champagne where all the champagne houses that produce here have their facilities. This area is like entering the very heart of champagne country. We park the car in a parking lot and make our way to Moët & Chandon. Out in front is a statue honoring the monk Dom Perignon who first created the methode champagne (wine with bubbles). It is said when he first presented this wine to his monk brothers, he described it as "I am drinking the stars".

Our tour began promptly at 10:45 with a female japanese guide. She was very knowledgeable but it was really strange to tour a french champagne house with a guide that was trying to speak english using french words to describe the methods and with japanese dialect, it was odd for sure. We didn't know that a mouth could make such contortions trying to pronounce english words. We got a good chuckle several times throughout the tour. The tour actually began with a video presentation that was narrated by Scarlett Johannsen, I wonder if she was paid with champagne!

Moët was started in 1743 by Claude Moet and his champagne was the favorite of the french royal court. Chandon was added in 1832 following a marriage. The majority of the caves were dug by hand in the 17th century and are a subterranean labyrinth located between 10 to 30-meters under the chalky soil. Moët & Chandon’s cellars are the largest within the Champagne region, spanning approximately 18 miles. Napoleon was friends with Mr. Moët the
Moet Chandon ChampagneMoet Chandon ChampagneMoet Chandon Champagne

Cask of port given to MR Moet from Napoleon
founder and visited the caves in 1807. He presented them with a beautiful oak cask that was filled with port wine from portugal and it is on display in the caves. Our tastings included a glass of the imperial brut as well as an imperial rose. Both delicious. Of the 3 champagne houses we visited this was our favorite and we loved their champagne. I would have liked to stop and visit another champagne house here (or more) but I had enough cave tours and if we could have just gone straight to the tasting room, I'm all in!

We had lunch in a nearby brasserie, Crouque Monsieur with pomme frites for Jim and with a salad verte for moi. So before we depart this lovely town, a toast to the region of champagne and may we all "drink the stars"!

Now we make our way west to Paris, city of lights and the craziest, wildest, out of control drivers on the planet. We had to drive for miles on these 2 lane narrow country roads through all the little towns before we finally reached a toll booth and entry to the A4 freeway. hooray! Enough already of
Moet Chandon ChampagneMoet Chandon ChampagneMoet Chandon Champagne

Cask of port given to MR Moet from Napoleon
the cute towns, these roads are killing me. I did use Yelp to locate a gas station in one of them though, that was very helpful. Now.... On to Paris.

Once we hit Paris, all hell broke loose. We must make a note: NEVER EVER drive in this town again. Can I say nightmare. Between all the traffic, the motorcycles that zip through traffic in packs riding between cars creating their own lane of traffic, (no, not harley's but Suzuki or dukati's), and the cab drivers that hug every side of your vehicle, our SUV was dinging constantly. Remember I mentioned that it has sensors on every corner front and back when you get to close to something....every single vehicle and motorcycle would set off the sound. OMG make it stop!

We finally pulled up to our hotel du la Bourdonnais, dropped off our luggage and set off to find the nearest Hertz location near les invalides so we can free ourselves. Well it took about an hour just to find it, then we had to go fill it up .... All in all that was not a good experience and both Jim and I ended up with major headaches. We got a taxi to run us back to our hotel where we promptly took a nap.

We went to dinner at our favorite restaurant in rue cler neighborhood, Cafe Bisquet. We weren't that hungry but enjoyed French onion soup and a salad along with a nice carafe of French wine. We love the coffee here in France, strong but very flavorful and unlike at home where we drink it black (with splenda) here we enjoy the warmed and frothed milk they have expertly crafted. I go back and forth between coffee americana, cafe au lait and good old espresso. Yum.

Another fine day and we are looking forward to these final days in the French Capitol. We booked our ground transportation for monday to Charles de Gaulle airport so I guess we are coming home and not staying. We have really enjoyed every single day. I would seriously have to learn French if we stayed longer or return, Jim gets better with each situation, he is really speaking the language very well!

Tomorrow we may go to Montmartre or maybe Gallarie Lafayette for the sales, we will decide tomorrow. Did I mention that in ALL of France retailers are only allowed to have a sale twice a year, once in February and the other in JULY. Seriously, that's the truth, 2x's a year and that is controlled by the government for the country. Our US retailers would have an uprising if told they could only have 2sales per year instead of 2sales a week! Hahaha!

Bonne nuit.

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