Monday, October 6, 2008
Day trip from Paris to Champagne Region
If you like early fall, Saturday was your day. The temperature was crisp in the morning yet mild in the afternoon, the fall colors were starting to appear, and the sun was poking its head out from time to time. It was a perfect day for a get-away to the Champagne region of France.
We headed to a village called Epernay. It takes less than 2 hours to get there if you go directly. However, we took La Route Touristique du Champagne, a scenic drive through the region, with winding roads and magnificent views of vineyard patches and small villages lining the Marne River. About 3 1/2 hours later, we reached Epernay just in time for lunch.
But where to go? We had no hard rules except to steer clear of brasseries receiving bus loads of tourists. We ended up finding a small 40-seat restaurant in the square next to the church, a charming place called La Table Kobus. We would gladly go back. The serious young waiter was especially knowledgeable about all things regional. In fact, this rather surprised us and entertained us. He gave us a map (who needs GPS?!) & explained how to get to Hautvillers, our next stop. He also answered our question about why we were still seeing some grapes on the vine when the harvest must have already happened last month. Yes, "the vendage (wine harvesting) is certainly past, and the grapes are harvested 100 days after the first flowers blossom on the vine. Therefore, those that are remaining had late-blooming flowers and cannot be used." OK, then. Good to know. And lucky for the birds, Eric said.
When we asked where Dom Pérignon was buried, wasn't it next to a monastery? "Non, not at all. It is an Abby, not a monastery. And he was buried in a church." He continued, "But the monastery is not open to the public unless you have", and at this point he showed us the palms of his hands, before adding "pattes blanches". Surely this must be an idiom because the literal translation just wasn't working! Literally, "pattes blanches" means white paws or legs (like a cat, dog or chicken). Eric explained it means that you are acceptable because your "paws", or hands, have never been dirtied before. In this context, it must surely be related to holiness (as in getting into heaven's gates), n'est ce pas?
Could our lunch have really taken two hours? Yes! And we enjoyed every leisurely second of it. We then drove a short distance to Hautevillers. I had previously been there with the Ecole Ferrandi class, and from that brief visit, I knew it was a place I wanted to see again. It's quaint and charming. It's quiet, even on a Saturday with tourists here and there. It is a town of rustic elegance that only the french paysage (countryside) can offer you.
We visited the church & Abby where Dom Pérignon first discovered how to make a fizzy wine back in the 17th century. Little did he know then how much fuss we'd be making today over his discovery! And he never could have imagined how famous his name could become centuries later!
All in all, we spent an hour in Hautevillers just wandering around & exploring. We walked by the vineyards of Moet et Chandon, and found this staircase. I like this picture because it's almost an optical illusion. Which way are the stairs going? Up or down? We took these stairs - it's a hilly area - and they lead us to a path around the Abby, to a park, with a beautiful view on the valley. That's the spot where I took this video. From my previous post, we all know I'm video-challenged....but I'll keep working on it, I promise!
There's one last thing worth noticing if you go to Hautevillers. Several homes have painted metal decorations hanging on their outside walls depicting a craft of some sort, presumably that of the owner. Take a look at a few, aren't they cute? In Richmond (Virginia, that is), it was flags. Here, it's metal plates!
Finally, it was time to head home. On our way, we stopped at a champagne house to do a tasting with hopes of finding a good bottle at a decent price. We didn't find either, but that's OK. We'll be back to the champagne region, and meanwhile, there's plenty of bubbly to be found in this city!
La Table Kobus
3, rue du Docteur Rousseau
Tele: 03 26 51 53 53