Reims is a short train ride from Paris. I think maybe an hour and a bit? I feel asleep on the train. But when I woke up the monitor said we were going over 300 kph (Matt said it was faster at one point). I highly recommend visiting the champagne region….but I also highly love champagne. So ya know. To each her own. You could probably do a day trip from Paris and it would be worth it. We spent three nights. Because. Champagne.
So winter is definitely low season…and we missed the christmas market in Reims. I thought it was until January, but it ended just before Christmas so all the stalls were set up but vacant. Le sad. But the cathedral light show was still on (and was exceeded my expectations. I don’t want to over sell it so your expectations can also be exceeded, but its more “site-specific audio visual installation” than just “light show.” It was rad).
We had a fancy dinner at Le Millionaire (I made my reservation by email since my written french is better than my spoken french and received a prompt reply. I found out at dinner that Chef Laurent Laplaige was actually the one who replied to my email, when he swung by my table to say bon soir). I took one picture of my food while Matt was in the bathroom. Shhh. Don’t tell.
Speaking of Matt being in the bathroom he got real sick that night. I went on a champagne tour with Cris Event the next day by myself (no shame). This tour was well worth it. They picked me up right outside our flat, and we drove to Hautvillers. It was just me and one other couple, so quite intimate. We visited some small scale champagne houses, met with local producers and growers, visited the grave /site of the abbey of Dom Perignon. I will say a 9am tour makes your first tasting a bit early…but when in Rome, as they say.
I checked on Matt, and spent the afternoon exploring town a bit more (and buying chicken noodle soup for the recovering spouse). The next day he was back in action so it was off to Epernay (after a coffees and pastries). Epernay is a quick 20 minute train ride from Reims. Being the week between Christmas and New Years (and maybe also just because it was winter) many of the houses on the Avenue de Champagne were closed but we found some. (Just means we have to go back). We had an afternoon tour (and tasting) booked at Moet et Chandon. This tour was super interesting (though our tour guide was not so inconspicuously carrying a Louis Vuitton wristlet just pumping the LVMH luxury brand/image business. But in learning about the Moet family, the patriarch would be proud of what it has become) and I will never turn down an opportunity to go into champagne caves.
All in all, the champagne region was everything I wanted it to be: slower paced than Paris, champagne everywhere, and small and accessible. The only thing I would have done differently was take the TRAIN to Nice instead of flying because (1) the train is easier in terms of tickets/boarding/etc and (2) we could have STOCKED UP on champagne and brought it with us to Nice and back to Ireland. But again. Just means we’ll have to go back.