FRENCH CHAMPAGNE: REIMS

Bonjour!

Today I will be sharing some of my recent travels to the Champagne region of France.  For a gal who loves her bubbles, this is one of my favorite and most accessible regions to visit in France.

Just a 30 min train ride from Paris, you can plan for a day trip or get lost exploring the vineyards for a week.  I will start with the the day trip (sans a rental car) from Paris. Welcome to the city of French Champagne: Reims.

DAY TRIP – PART I

START: PARIS-REIMS (30 min by train)

From Gare du Lyon you can leave the hustle and bustle of Paris behind for a quick and easy day trip and still be back in Paris in time for dinner if you wish.  You can purchase cheaper train tickets in advance or just simply check the schedule and purchase tickets at the train station that morning. A high speed train will take you from Paris to Reims in approx 30 min.  Beautiful train ride too!

Once you arrive in Reims, it is a 5-10 min walk from the train station down Place Drouet d’Erlon. Here you will find a long street filled with restaurants and hotels at all different price points.  Note that if you are looking to picnic be sure to purchase your food and beverages here as Reims doesn’t have much by way of grocery stores after this street.

From there I highly recommend visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims.  This cathedral has similarities to the one in Paris, but even bigger and more grand in my opinion. Spend a few moments taking photos or an hour wandering through the beautiful cathedral. Complimentary admission and no lines..again, even better than the one in Paris!

Of course the town it quaint and scenic, but lets be honest, most people traveling here is for the chance to sip champagne at one of the famous Champagne houses nearby. Almost all in Reims are within walking distance from the train station (be sure to wear good walking shoes though.)  Don’t expect rolling vineyards; Reims is the central of commerce and tasting rooms for many of the champagne houses. Still totally worth the visit as many of the champagne houses in this area still produce and store 100% of their champagne in the chalk cellars on site. The tours are quite spectacular.

There are many to choose from but here are my favorites to attend in Reims. Word to the wise, 3 in one day should be more than plenty.  The tours mostly discuss process and history. While the history is different for each house, most of the tour will be redundant after you learn the process.  I would probably pick 2 tours and treat yourself to a nice lunch or dinner instead.

My top 3 Champagne House tours in Reims, France:

TATTINGER

This is a fantastic tour that walks you through the chalk caves and discusses the history of champagne in more depth.  I like this one as it is less posh and they have kept the original caves and staircases in their older, grittier state. They do not take reservations for tours. They do have tour times so be sure to look  those up before you go.  The tour is about 1.5 hours but the down side is that you might end up in a bigger group if there is a tour bus that decided to unload and 30 people get off for the same time frame.  I would highly recommend making this tour the first or last stop of the day to avoid getting tangled in the bigger groups.

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VEUVE CLICQUOT

The famous yellow label that is widely distributed in the USA.  This is a bucket list for many to attend but you have to make an appointment in advance. They don’t accept same day reservations. I was so sad to learn this when I went to Reims for the first time. I just stood a the gate and took a photo, jealous of all of the people who made appointments. So the next time I was in town, I emailed them a week or so in advance for an appointment without issue.  Groups are small, intimate and our tour guide was awesome. The history of this champagne house is great…but I will leave you to find out for yourself!

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Veuve and Tattinger are a stones throw away from each other on the outskirts of town (so do these tours back to back)–they are longest walk from the train station, but don’t worry, there are bubbles waiting for you at the end! You can always attempt to hail a taxi or organize private transportation while you are there as well.

MUMM

Fancy pants. Have your chance to walk down the “red carpet” down into their beautiful cellars. Informational video and good tour. An appointment is needed but getting a same day appointment is easy.  They have a cool museum part of the tour that the others don’ have in this area. Old champagne making equipment and a good story to tell!

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TOURIST OFFICE: The adorable tourist office right next to Reims Cathedral is a good place to start if you decided to do this trip on a whim while visiting Paris. They will get you all sorted out for tour times and appointments (with the exception of Veuve Clicquot.) So make this your first stop if you didn’t make a plan in advance.  They speak English and are very helpful.

MEALS: Lunch spots are closer to the train station so keep that in mind as you plan your day.  A fantastic dinner to be had in Reims would be at Brasserie Flo. I had a 4 course meal complete with perfect French profiteroles that was incredible. Not the cheapest place around but worth every penny if you love great food and fantastic service.

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If this is a momentous occasion that you want to mark with an unforgettable experience I highly recommend dining or even staying at Chateau Les Crayeres. Wowza, what an exceptional property and a meal you will never forget.

For those of you wanting to do an overnight with a more budget friendly price, I stay at Hotel Crystal. It is a perfect location and the price is right too! Staff is nice and hotel is quiet. Just the chance to ride in their old-school brass elevator is worth staying there.

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Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: Champagne Part II.  My time in the vineyards, Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon and the sweetest little town you only dream to stumble upon while traveling. Au Revoir for now!