Champagne Ardenne Activities and Things To Do On Holiday
Visiting Champagne Houses, Reims and Epernay
Tourist offices in Reims and Epernay have a full list of maisons which provide guided tours in English and include tastings and visits to the miles of cold ‘caves’ where the maturing champagne is stored. Some are by appointment only and there’s usually a charge.
In Reims, no appointment is needed for GH Martel & Co which is open all year and groups are small. Information on www.champagnemartel.com
or tel: (00 33) 3 26 82 70 67.
You’ll need an appointment at Mumm, established in 1827, where you’re free to wander around the cellars Nov-Feb www.mumm.com
tel: (00 33) 3 26 49 59 70; at Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin where widow (veuve) Clicquot took over her husband’s business in 1805, tel: (00 33) 3 26 89 54 41; and at Pommery, tel: (00 33) 3 26 61 62 56 where the cellars also double as an art gallery.
The champagne houses of Epernay are easily found along avenue de Champagne and streets close by. Beneath the streets, an electric train takes you around the 18km of galleries at Champagne Mercier (founded in 1858) from mid-Mar to mid-Nov, tel: (00 33) 3 26 51 22 22. Moet & Chandon, founded in 1743, is the largest and most famous Champagne house in Epernay. Tours last an hour on foot, covering a fraction of the 28km of cellars which can store 90 million bottles.See www.moet.com
or tel: (00 33) 3 26 51 20 20.
Take in views across the vineyards from the famous Champagne de Castellane tower near Epernay station and browse the museum after your tour, for explanations as to how Champagne is made, tel: (00 33) 3 26 51 19 19.
Follow Champagne Routes
Route Touristique du Champagne
Contained within a triangle bordered by Reims, Chalons-en-Champagne and Epernay, the Route Touristique du Champagne winds 70km from Reims through the Parc Naturel de la Montagne de Reims to Epernay. Follow the vineyards of black Pinot Noir grapes which give the champagne its body and on to the Marne Valley where Pinot Meunier grapes give it its spice. Pass by Roman churches and flower-filled historic villages, enjoying tastings along the way. Take in wonderful views from Mont Sinai above Verzy. From Epernay, the route branches along the Marne Valley to Vincelles or along the Cote des Blancs, specializing in the light Chardonnay grapes, to Villenaux-la-Grande.
Route du Champagne dans l’Aube
This route between Bar-sur-Aube and Les Riceys, not far from Troyes, takes you through the Southern Champagne vineyards, including the Seine and Aube river valleys. See Culture and Events page for details of Aube’s Champagne Route Festival in 2010.
Parc de Vision de Belval, Drive-thru Zoo
Drive along viewing roads in this 350 hectare woodland park to see forest animals in semi-liberty like mouflons (wild sheep), wild boar, bison and red, roe, and fallow deer. There’s a lake with ducks and geese, tourist ‘train’ and fenced walking trails with viewing towers. Tel: (00 33) 3 24 30 01 86
Charles de Gaulle Memorial
A huge Cross of Lorraine, memorial to General Charles de Gaulle, dominates the skyline of his home village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. Located 500m from de Gaulle’s tomb in the village churchyard and family home of La Boisserie, the Memorial museum which opened in October 2008 gives a snapshot of his military career and personal life. Set on 3 floors, rooms contain sound and visual archives in 3 languages, library, boutique, catering area and 150 seat auditorium. See www.memorial-charlesdegaulle.fr
for calendar of opening times. House - tel: (00 33) 3 25 01 52 52- and Memorial - tel: (00 33) 3 25 01 50 50.
Nigloland, Family Amusement Park
Created with children in mind and a hedgehog called Niglo as a mascot, most of the 35 attractions in Nigloland are suitable for 6 year olds. The park in the Orient Forest near Dolancourt has become a firm favourite with families over the last 20 years. Enjoy the Pirate Galleon, Bobsleigh, Canadian River, Juke Box and the 60m Big Wheel. Set in 25 hectares of green space with lovely flower-edged walks and woodland paths. Tel: (00 33) 3 25 27 94 52or go to www.nigloland.fr
for opening times.
Visit this old abbey in the pretty floral village of Hautvillers near Epernay, said to be the birthplace of Champagne. Now owned by the Moet & Chandon Champagne house, the abbey church holds the grave of Dom Perignon. The famous eighteenth century Benedictine monk and cellar master developed ways of preventing the in-bottle re-fermentation of the wines which caused them to sparkle and explode. Many myths surround his character including crediting him with ‘inventing’ sparkling Champagne. What is certain is that he did much to improve blending and quality, and produced white wine from black grapes. Dom Perignon also set guidelines as to how the crop should be grown and processed using natural methods.
The present Boursault Castle on the River Marne was built between 1843 and 1848 by widow (veuve) Clicquot on the site of a previous sixteenth century fort owned by the barons of Boursault. Its design is said to have been inspired by the French Renaissance architecture of Chateau Chambord in the Loire Valley. After the death of her businessman husband, Madam Clicquot concentrated her efforts on his small champagne business and established the Veuve Clicquot Champagne house in the royal courts of Europe, including Russia. At one time she was said to be the richest woman in Europe. Together with her then cellar master, she invented a system which made the collection of sediments and spent yeast more efficient, leaving the champagne clearer than it had ever been.
Visit Renoir’s Studio, Essoyes
From the age of 39, Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir spent summers with his family in his wife Aline’s home village of Essoyes. Renoir’s granddaughter now owns the simple studio - still with its paint-stained floor and wonderful light - where he painted members of his household and the beautiful surrounding countryside. The whole family, including son Jean Renoir, filmmaker, are buried in the local cemetery. Open Easter - Nov, tel: (00 33) 3 25 38 56 28 or contact Aube-en-Champagne Tourist Office, tel: (00 33) 3 25 42 50 00 and pick up a leaflet to follow ‘Renoir Paths’ around the little village (3 - 14km).
Visit Paris for the Day by TGV
Paris is just 45 minutes on the special TVG ‘bullet’ train from Reims. Enjoy a day in the capital taking in the famous sights, visit museums and galleries or perhaps do some shopping. SNCF and TGV trains also travel to Paris from other major towns.