November 18, 2009
With Thanksgiving just over a week away I am reminiscing about last year’s celebration. One of the highlights of living in Europe is having all of Europe at your finger tips for weekend trips. It’s really easy to jump on the eurail or chunnel to hit up Amsterdam, London, Brussels, or Berlin- but some of my favorite trips are within France itself. There’s so much to explore- Bretagne, Provence, the Loire Valley, and Champagne- where I spent last Thanksgiving. It’s a really easy drive from Paris and there is so much to see and do! Paris is so beautiful this time of the year, but its still fun to take weekend trips! Don’t forget to bring some warm clothes, it gets cold there this time of year and you will want to be walking around outside a lot because the small towns are so beautiful!
The largest city in Champagne is Reims, which is a beautiful city with lots of history. It is the site of the beautiful Reims Cathedral with stained glass windows designed by Chagall, and the traditional site of the crowning of French Kings. The city is amazing this time of the year and sets up an adorable Christmas market where one can buy hand made gifts, cidre chaud and marrons glaces.
I would suggest staying a little outside of the city at one of the amazing Chateaux in the area. There is nothing like staying in a chateau built next to a castle to literally make you feel like royalty. I would suggest the Chateau de Fere. It is absolutely amazing, an amazing opulent Chateau built next to the ruins of a castle in 1209 by the grandson of King Louis VI. The rooms are beautiful with comfy beds, plush couches, and nice big bathtubs to take hot bubble baths in, because it gets cold out in November! There’s also a great restaurant on site where you can have dinner, because those country roads get dark and you may not want to leave the comforts of the chateau at night. I do however urge you to explore the chateau’s grounds at night, they light up the castle and a beautiful marble fountain.
In Champagne you can arrange tours of each Champagne house. We chose to tour Mumm and Moet & Chandon (which includes Dom Perignon.) I wouldn’t suggest doing more than two as they get a bit boring- watching the generic video of how one makes Champagne, but it is really interesting to see all the bottles and where the magic happens. The Moet & Chandon housed miles of tunnels underground of bottles, they wouldn’t tell us the exact number of bottles, but they said it was more than the population of France and less than America. The best part of the tour is the tastings- which I highly recommend!