Thursday, July 13, 2006

France Reims Day 5

This was one of the best days of the trip. We had a wake-up call for 8:00 a.m. About 8:30 a.m., a maid lets herself into the room to tell us that it is time to get up!

We had breakfast on the terrace of the hotel below our room. They initially seated us off to one side. As we were sitting there, the waiters started to set-up a nice table in the sun. Sharon wondered out loud who that table was for. It turned out the table was for us. After breakfast, Sharon and Jack went and played tennis.

The plan for the day was to go champagne testing. Talking to the people at the tourist office on the previous day, we had highlighted a route from Reims to Epernay. There is essentially a trail marked as “Route de Champagne.” We had highlighted a couple of stops. We set the GPS for the first location and started off.

I was astonished by the number of wineries. Every little town seemed to have a dozen marked champagne wineries. The first stop we made was in Chamery at the Bonnet-Ponson Winery. This was a very small winery. We ended up choosing it because the sign said that there were cave tours. We ended up sitting outside in a courtyard tasting champagne and talking to the winery’s secretary who spoke good English. She gave us a tour of the caves that they have for storing their bottles and talked about the process for making champagne. The champagne was very good. We talked to her about having some shipped back to the states, but that seemed impossible so we bought one bottle. My guess is that we will end up drinking it in the next week.

The next stop was a larger winery. It remind me very much of the type of place that you would find in Napa. It had some great views of the valley and vineyards below the road. Neither Sharon nor I were particularly impressed with the wine.

One of the problems that we had was finding food. We had not packed a lunch to take with us thinking that we would find something along the way. Unfortunately, none of the little towns had any markets or cafes. We found one café at the intersection of a major road and the waitress was so rude that we got up and walked off. I will organize some observations about how we have been treated by the French at some point.

When we reached Epernay, we stopped at the first store that we found and bought some cheese, bread and meat. The store was a very odd place. It seemed to be a mini-Cosco with a limited selection of things in bulk.

The last stop of the day was one of the major champagne houses back in Reims called Piper-Heidsieck. This is a very large winery. It has a Disneyland-like ride through their chalk caves which Jack enjoyed.

I felt like the day was extremely successful. We visited a very small, a medium and a very large winery. The drive was beautiful with all of the vineyards and little towns.

Heading back to hotel, Jack and I spent 45 minutes playing soccer on the lawn.

We had dinner reservations in the restaurant at the hotel. We left Jack with a babysitter in the room and wandered down to the bar. The dinner turned out to be one of the best meals that Sharon and I have ever had. From a presentation standpoint, it was probably the top meal that we have ever had; the salad was particularly amazing. We had a nice bottle of champagne with dinner.

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