After yesterday’s fiasco with GPS changer, I realised in the wee small hours of the morning that my laptop charger had also given up the ghost. Convinced that the hobgoblins had returned to destroy me through loosening my wiring, I was a little concerned about what they might have done to the car. Luckily Mum was on hand to point out that the hotel hairdryer was also unwired and that the rule of three outweighed hobgoblins.
Mostly convinced, we stepped out into an absolutely perfect day – more spring than autumn. We had breakfast at the most delectable patisserie as the sun shone gently down on us and church bells peeled all around. We took our time and a few macarons for the road.
Our intention from that point was to go to the tourist information office, pick up a driving map of the region, get a new charger for my laptop and go check out some Champagne houses. It would have been a perfect plan if not for (a) Sephora sucking us back in to buy essential skincare; (b) H&M sucking us in to buy essential clothing and (c) the #*&#!@ GPS just essentially sucking!!!
Having worked all yesterday afternoon, it decided to go out on strike again – now it charges, it just doesn’t give us any directions. After demonstrating to Mum how imaginative I can be with the English language, we spent another delightful afternoon with the utterly useless, though friendly staff of Europcar.
We cut our losses and headed to the one champagne house that couldn’t be missed on this trip for it’s name alone – Mumm. We signed up for a tour and with 40 minutes to spare, decided to wander the adjacent properties.
Right next door was the star of last nights show and my sister and brother-in-laws (Gabrielle and James) favourite, Louis Roederer. We had promised James that we’d take a photo out the front but we thought we’d go one step further and go inside to visit the cellar door. We went through the main doors into a very grand foyer that opened onto a hall lined with vintage champagne making paraphernalia and an austere statue of Monsieur Roederer himself.
We couldn’t see the reception desk so followed the hall down, snapping away as we went. We came across the very fancy toilets complete with L’Occitane handwash so took the opportunity to powder our noses, but still no reception desk! Out another door, we came to the production area with people going about their work, seemingly oblivious to the two strangers wandering around.
We thought we must have overshot the cellar door so went back inside, poking our noses here and there to no avail. Eventually, a very sophisticated lady came out and asked if she could help us. When we asked where the cellar door was, she simply replied “I’m sorry, we’re not open to the public” – whoops! Sorry James, no souvenir but lots of espionage photos!
Back at Mumm for our authorised tour, we were led through a small section of their 25km network of underground caves holding 25 million bottles of the good stuff. Along the way, the process of champagne production was explained to us along with all it’s rules and regulations that distinguish it from all other ‘sparkling wines’ (for e.g. only 3 grape varieties from the region can be used – pinot noir, pinot meunier and c******nay – all of which must be picked by hand!). The highlight of course was the tasting at the end. I had a lovely sweet demi-sec whilst Mum opted for the super fancy, hand turned Blanc de Blancs, Mumm de Cramant. We exited through the gift shop, leaving only 24,999,999 bottles on the premises.
Time to head for the hills, we bid adieu to Reims via the likes of Verve Cliquot, Krug and Tattinger, winding through the vineyards en route to our next destination – Epernay. If Reims is the head of the Champagne region, Epernay is it’s heart.
Our GPS decided to cut us some slack and at some point kicked in to lead us near enough to our B&B – Chez Eric et Sylvie in Cramant – a ‘Grand Cru’ just outside of Epernay, such a picturesque provincial village that lit us both up as we saw it come into view.
We were greeted by Sylvie and Eric who showed us where we would be staying for the next two nights. We had expected a room with a shared bed but they thought we might be more comfortable in our own house! A gorgeous, truly French provincial two story cottage with a bedroom each!
Already overwhelmed by their hospitality, they then announced that we were just in time for the nightly reception they host for all their guests over at their other house in the next village. Furthermore, they’d drive us so we could both drink and then bring us back for dinner at the local restaurant at which they had called ahead to make us a reservation!
Whereas our place is nestled in the village, their other house is surrounded by forest and accommodates 4 couples – at this point in time, a couple of honeymooners from USA, an English couple and two older French couples. We sat around sharing stories, nibbling on french treats and sipping champagne that flowed generously.
Once it was dark, Mum and I were bundled back into the car and dropped at the local restaurant – the only one in the small village, very simple and authentic with meals made to order which meant that my vegetarianism wasn’t a problem.
Having had more wine with dinner, we were glad that we were only meters away and downhill from our front doorstep. We couldn’t have asked for a better day but tomorrow is looking good…
After getting out of the city with a wonky GPS, we found our way to Cramant through winding roads that opened up to the most beautiful vistas of vineyards, old french villages and beautiful sunshine.
Our home here for a couple of days is quaint and it called a ‘gite’ whatever that means. Maybe it means ‘beautiful little house’. Our hosts, Sylvie and Eric, are the nicest people who took us in their car to their other B&B where we met two english people, two american people and 4 french people for champagne and nibblies. Apparently this is a nightly occurrence, all part of their hospitality.
What made me smile today: Doing a self guided tour of Louis Roederer and visiting their really upmarket dunnies with L’Occitane handwash and as we were leaving, we were told that they are not open to the public so we skedaddled with many photos and lots of giggles. Love to all.