A sparkling short break: Champagne region
Does anything sound more glamorous than popping across the channel for a long weekend in Champagne? Fortunately, it’s not only super glam-sounding, it’s also easy to organise and perfect for a short break. With the summer bank holiday coming up, indulge in a bit of bubbly in the beautiful region of Champagne.
We headed across on the Eurostar, via Paris. Just over a couple of hours from there by train you’ll be heading into the gorgeous rolling green countryside of the Champagne region.
Champagne region: make your own tour
There are a tonne of towns, small towns and vineyards around the Champagne region. If you’re heading by car you can take a leisurely drive around. However, we were keen to pack in as much bubbly as possible, so we opted for the train. First stop: Epernay.
Epernay: Avenue de Champagne
I mean, it’s main street is called Avenue de Champagne – need we say more?! This is the big dog, the place to hit if you’re short on time and want to pack in the big ones. Pre-book a tour at Moet & Chandon cellars (or caves, if you’re feeling French) for a great introduction to the champagne-making process. There are a mind-boggling number of bottles in the cellars, and it’s topped off in their glamorous tasting room with a glass or two of delicious fizz.
Also worth popping into is Collard-Picard. A smaller house, with a bar in the shop where you can do a 3-glass tasting for around £20.
Tasty French bistros
While you’re in Epernay, soak up the alcohol at a traditional large French bistro. We headed to Le Progres which has hearty meals and quick service. After a morning glugging bubbles, a Croque Monsieur (massive toasted sandwich) and ham-and-cheese omelette were very welcome.
Wrap up your day by picking up some delicate macaroons from one of the fabulous patisseries.
Reims: Bubbles, cheese & meats (aka Living the Dream)
Reims is a large city in the region, and definitely has an urban vibe compared to the sleepy champagne towns. It’s perfect as a base for exploring as it’s stuffed with trendy bars and chic cafes – all of course, serving plenty of champagne.
We thoroughly recommend Le Coq Rouge for a chilled, not-too-pricey glass of house bubbly. We’d heard rumours about the sardines (yup, the kind in a tin) and have to admit the saltiness goes perfectly with a glass of fizz. Try it to believe it!
Second top recommendation has to go to Le Wine Bar. We make absolutely no apologies for picking this English-sounding establishment, as the champagne was deliciously cold, and best of all they had a platter of meats AND cheese AND fried potatoes. Take us back there, please…
Pommery Champagne Tour
Reims is also home to a number of champagne houses. Our feminist side was interested by discovering that Madame Pommery set up hers, and it was a fab tour. Packed with interesting titbits, we learnt that Madame Pommery built miles of cellars, and as well as using them to store the bottles, created gallery space for up-and-coming new artists. (Plus she invented the Brut dry style of bubbly, so is basically our heroine. For life.)
It’s easy to drive around the region if you head across on the ferry or Channel Tunnel. Just don’t drink and drive please! Otherwise, for a non-designated driver trip, we recommend getting the train out to Epernay or Reims after flying or getting the train into one of France’s main stations.
Where to stay
We used good old Air BnB. There are lots of lovely, affordable options in Reims and it’s easy to walk around the main areas. Have a look for accommodation deals at the champagne houses too – a lot of them have gorgeous rooms, although they do get booked up. Also an option are the beautiful chateaux around the region, especially if it’s an extra special trip.
Bring it back
Finally, make sure you splash out on a bottle (or several!) to enjoy once you come home. We also loved Pommery’s mini bottles, perfect for a decadent train picnic as you spin out those final holiday moments on your journey home.
Are you heading for a trip to Champagne? Share your pics with us – @tweetjanes.