We arrived in Paris and we were on the road to Reims, the capital of the Champaign region 45 minutes later. It took us two hours to reach our hotel in town. We stayed at La Caserne Chanzy, an Autograph Collection property. The hotel overlooks the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Checking-in and parking at the hotel is a challenge as the entrance of the hotel is on a pedestrian street in front of the cathedral. Each time you arrive with your car you have to contact the hotel front desk. A few minutes later, if you are lucky, the valet parking attendant will come and activate the automatic retractable Bollards with his code. It seems it would be easier to just give a code to each hotel guest.
We were upgraded to a “Room with a View” facing the cathedral. It was quite small, but modern and elegant. Perfect for a weekend gateway, but not for a long trip with several pieces of luggage.
We had dinner at Le Tablier, a very nice brasserie located a few minutes away from the hotel. The food is good and it is very affordable.
The next morning, we had the breakfast buffet at the hotel’s restaurant, the Grande Goergette. They have a lot of choices including an omelet station. We started our visit in Reims where we had made a reservation for a tour of the Veuve Clicquot cellars. They are one of the most important Champagne vineyards in terms of size and quality. Our visit included a guided tour in English and a Champagne tasting. It took around an hour and afterwards, we spent time in the beautiful store. Our guide was very informative and gave us a lot of information about the making of Champagne. The caves were majestic with the tunnels carved from white limestone.
It was a rainy day, but we still decided to drive the Champagne Tourist Route, which takes you on a tour through the vineyards of the region. We spent a couple of hours driving around the hills before we stopped in Eperney. Reims is the official capital of the Champagne region, but Eperney is really the capital of the Champagne houses. The main street, the Avenue de Champagne, is home to beautiful mansions owned by some of the most famous Champagne producers such as Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Pol Roger, Mercier and Mumm. Some were originally built as a head office, others as the private home of the owner. The Avenue de Champagne is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a very impressive street to visit.
We booked a tour of Moët & Chandon for the afternoon, which included a cellar tour and a tasting. Our guide explained the whole process of making Champagne and took us to the caves, which are huge with 28 kilometers of underground tunnels. The house and the stores are very classy and slick. Not a surprise as the winery is owned by LVMH, the luxury goods company, which also owns 75 fashion and cosmetics brands.
After the visit we went back to our hotel in Reims, a 30 minute drive, and visited the cathedral. It is larger than Notre-Dame in Paris. It is not only a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, but also the coronation site of the Kings of France. The cathedral hosted thirty-three sovereign coronations in just over 1000 years. This explains why UNESCO has granted the monument the prestigious label of World Heritage Site since 1991. Pictures simply do not do it justice.
We really enjoyed our brief stay in Champagne and decided to come back when the weather is a little bit more agreeable.