Champagne, cheese, chateaus, cycling...

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April 6th 2007
Published: August 8th 2007
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And ....castles, chocolate, croissants, consumption… Cheers!

Had a great Easter in France with my brother, his girlfriend and some of her mates. We hired cars and drove from London, going via the Eurotunnel from Folkestone (near Dover) to Calais. The Eurotunnel is great - you drive your car in and are in France in 35 minutes (driving on the other side of the road!!).

We spent our first two nights in a guesthouse in a small town near Reims, one of the towns at the start of the ‘Champagne Route’. As you can imagine, none of us had any desire to visit any of the Champagne houses…. NOT.

First off, we headed to Verve Clicquot. Now Verve has 25 kilometers of wine caves dug into the chalk under its floors. Many of these were dug by hand, however, the more interesting thing is that you can store a LOT of champagne in 25 kilometers of tunnel (wine caves) - awesome! The tasting was delicious, tempting us all to make some purchases - which we are showing off in the photo to the left. I even learnt something - did you know Verve means ‘widow’ and the champagne

Love it!
therefore named after the widow of Mr Clicquot who took over the business on his death? Me either! Actually, the history of champagne production is filled with lots of strong women managing businesses on their own when that was not really the done thing.

We then tried the ‘let’s just drive around and try and find a small champagne house’ tactic. After a couple of false starts, we ended up in the town of Dizy and the independent champagne house of Alain Bernard. They make their own champagne there in their own champagne press, and their champagne caves were dug by their, great great and great grandfathers. While they are not as extensive as the Verve wine caves, they too a chock-a-block - some of the storage rooms were literally packed with bottles. Quite a change from Verve, but cool in a different way. Was great to hear from someone who was a fifth generation wine maker. The 4 year old twin boys who will eventually take over the family business were pretty cute too.

As too much wine tasting is never enough, we then headed to Epernay to try and check out Moet and Chandon (which has

No really, we hardly drank at all....
trains that run through its champagne caves). Unfortunately, Moet was closed, but it was worth a try.

The next day we had a 5 hour drive to the Loire Valley, where we stayed in a chateau in the town of Amboise.

We hired bikes and cycled around the region, through the vineyards and into the town to visit the castle (confusingly also known as a chateau). The castle was one of the first residences of the French royal family. Leonardo da Vinci also hung out there. The castle has these massive grounds inside the fortified walls, so even under siege, the royals would have plenty of space for entertaining.

As it was Easter, the winding, cobblestoned streets below the castle were filled with markets and they had all the wineries in the region giving wine tastings in the tunnels below the castle- pretty tough… The hardest part was cycling home after all the tastings .. a little tipsy! As one of our crew celebrated a birthday on Easter Sunday, we thought it a perfect chance to celebrate … with some champagne of course!!

The food we ate in France was awesome - can’t go wrong with
Breakfast feast at the ChateauBreakfast feast at the ChateauBreakfast feast at the Chateau

Doesn't get better than this!
foie gras (I know, I know it’s cruel, but it tastes so good. As a concession to the cruelty issue, am considering only eating it when actually in France), 5 course dinners ending with local cheeses accompanied by local wine.

All in all, a pretty relaxing Easter adventure. Even managed lamb shanks for Easter Sunday dinner - not quite mum’s lamb roast, but close.

Happy Easter all!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Amboise castleAmboise castle
Amboise castle

You can't really tell from this picture, but the castle has massive grounds and gardend within its walls - so even if you were being attacked you'd be able to fit in a game of backyard cricket
Tasting in the Tasting in the
Tasting in the

Under the Chateau d'Amboise
Plenty of extras in storagePlenty of extras in storage
Plenty of extras in storage

In champagne caves dug underneath the champagne houses
Old & the newOld & the new
Old & the new

Another cathedral
Stairway to heavenStairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven

Leading to the 25km of Verve champagne caves

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