In its diversity and richness, in the Gothic grandeur of its architecture and its centuries-old cellars, in its sunshine drenched vineyards and renowned wine houses, Champagne is an absolute feast for the senses.
This gorgeous region, in its every city, every village, every turn is a study in delightful contrasts - a textured experience of flavours, sights, ancient, modern, tranquillity and grandeur that tickle the senses as headily as the bubbly glamour that it is famous for, does.
A city ravaged by World Wars I & 2 and meticulously restored thereafter, Reims offers a delightful exploration in contrasts - handsome pedestrian boulevards rub shoulders with ancient Roman remains, art-deco cafes merge seamlessly with a flourishing fine-dining scene that counts amongst it, Michelin-starred restaurants - a melting pot of the old, the new, the extravagant and the picturesque. A guided tour of Reims will take you past the imposing golden facade of the Grand Theatre de Reims as the trams of Reims with their unique champagne-flute shaped design, rumble past.
It is often said that "If you only see one French cathedral, it has to be Notre-Dame de Reims." This imposing 13th Century Cathedral engulfs one in the sheer magnificence of its architecture and history. The dizzying height of the Gothic Nave inspires awe, as does the stunningly etched Smiling Angel, considered to be the guardian angel of Reims. The interior is a rainbow of stunning stained-glass windows, soaring arches and intricate sculptures. Step outside and right next door, is the stately Palais du Tau or the cathedral museum. Both the Reims Cathedral and the Palais du Tau are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
'Terroir des Rois' is a charming little champagne and curio shop, right next to the Reims Cathedral. Inside, wooden barrels gleam brightly while the shelves are stacked with every variety of champagne. From Champagne Liquor Chocolates to Pink Champagne, Terroir des Rois offers the headiest champagne delicacies
A little further down the street, the iconic pink sign of Maison Fossier catches one's eye. Established in 1756, this shop in Reims was the flagship store for this historical brand that introduced the famous Pink Biscuits to France. Delicate, crunchy, light-as-air - these pink biscuits originating in Champagne, epitomise French tea-time sophistication and fine taste.
Truffles are the world's rarest mushrooms and one of the most expensive, luxury food items in the world. So if you are in the Champagne district of France, you cannot miss the unique experience of going on an actual truffle hunt. Auberge des Moissons, in Matougues is one such truffle farm that offers visitors the complete paddock-to-plate experience. Housed in a 200 year-old chateau tucked into the gorgeous French countryside, with vast expanses of vineyards stretching away on either side, this place has been run by the charming Benoit Jacquinet and his family for 2 decades now and offers exclusive truffle-hunts. With truffles growing deep under the dirt, special truffle-hunting dogs such as Honey lead these rare food forays.
As the sun sets over the vineyards in a fiery ball of crimson and orange, feel the exhilaration of walking through the mystique of the truffle trees, leaves crunching beneath your feet while a truffle-dog sniffs out and leads you to precious nuggets of black truffles. In season, a truffle hunt can yield as many as 8 or more of these priceless, earthy finds. Back in the warmth of Benoit's firelit kitchen, he dons his chef's hat and demonstrates some exclusive, typically French recipes that celebrate truffles. Paired with the perfect champagne, each course is an exploration of decadence and deliciousness, bringing together the finest in French cuisine and experience.
Imagine being in the heart of Champagne's vineyards - miles and miles of rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, newly harvested vines stretching out in rows of endless green, some still hanging heavy with grapes. Now imagine being ensconced in a plush, professionally equipped bus in this setting, enjoying an al fresco creative cooking experience along with Masterclasses from an expert chef. That is the Bus En Vignes, experience for you.
Creating an interactive cooking experience, seasoned French chefs will take you through customised workshops using seasonal and local produce and showcasing French culinary skills with a local flavour. All of this is to be enjoyed amidst the vineyards, aboard the luxuriously equipped bus that has its own spacious kitchen and dining area.
Champagne cellar visits engage the imagination and the intellect as they reveal the magical processes that go into making this region's most fabled wines. While all the big champagne houses offer guided cellar tours, a visit to one of the smaller, family-run champagne houses such as the J. De Telmont, makes for a more personal and curated experience. The House of Telmont has been making exclusive award-winning champagnes since 1912 and their cellars reveal more than a century's worth of bottled beauties.
From the gigantic wooden champagne vats that gleam in golden spotlights in dim cellars to going deeper underground and unearthing a labyrinth of tunnels stacked on either side with unending rows of bottled gold, the Telmont Cellars are an epic walk through the history and process of champagne making.
A sprawling tree-house in the middle of a forest ablaze in a riot of fall colours, is spectacular enough. When that tree-house is also an exclusive champagne bar, it makes for a stunningly memorable experience! The Perching Bar in Verzy is the world's only tree-house Champagne Bar. Walking through leaf-strewn forest trails, you have to navigate a few swinging rope bridges and moats, in order to enter the bar.
The Perching Bar has expansive outer decks, overlooking a breathtaking view of deeply forested hills and distant valleys. There are electric heaters and warm woollen wraps to snuggle into, if you should choose to sit outside as you sip on champagne. A variety of the best local champagnes on the menu, make the Perching Bar a uniquely heady experience
One of the most awe-inspiring champagne estates to visit, producing over 500,000 cases of champagne a year, Vranken Pommery has ancient Roman caves with ethereal carvings and a fascinating history. Pommery's Cave Tour is a memorable experience, with a surreal staircase of 116 steps taking one deep down into the depths of the ancient cellars. The chalk walls gleam palely as narrow corridors open out into cavernous rooms with towering ceilings and a maze of tunnels and dusty alcoves with heavy iron grills. When Reims was being ravaged by the destruction of the World Wars, millions of bottles of champagne were hidden in these very cellars and there are still over 20 million bottles of champagne to be found in the Pommery caves.
As you emerge from the cool depths of the ancient cellars, let the opulent setting of one of Pommery's artful tasting rooms, welcome you with a celebratory glass of champagne. With some of the world's finest champagnes jostling for space, the Pommery champagne tasting involves a leisurely ramble through the headiest bubbles, bottled in history.
Chef Eric Geoffroy's gorgeous 'Au Piano Des Chefs' is a sprawling, airy space right at the foot of the magnificent Reims Cathedral. Large bay windows overlook ancient stones and cobbled roads even as rows of electric as well as wood-fired ovens and the most professionally equipped kitchen, gleams inside.
This is Chef Eric's personal workshop, where he specialises in providing hands-on classes in creative cuisine and wine and champagne discovery experiences.
This bar and restaurant entices with its elegant interiors bathed in cool aqua hues and warm golden tones, in keeping with its name.
A premium and highly exclusive bar, the wine and champagne menu at Golden Blues is fit for royalty with a delectable food menu, to match.
The BEST WESTERN Hotel De La Paix is exceptionally located, right in the heart of Reims and a stone's throw away from the Cathedral, main city centre and shops. Combining modernity and a rich cultural heritage, this hotel's sprawling architecture encompasses a vintage, partially restored chateau alongside more contemporary wings with every modern comfort.
The hotel also features a bar with a private terrace and an indoor swimming pool and an elegant onsite Restaurant Cafe De La Paix which offers seafood & fish specialties along with an extensive wine and champagne menu.
Hostellerie La Briqueterie is one of the most charming and exclusive hotels, located in the heart of the Champagne vineyards, in Vinay. This quaint and characterful property is surrounded by rolling green acres of rose gardens and olive orchards, fringed by majestic fir trees. Each room has its own unique character and is exquisitely decorated in whimsical, individualistic themes with every service and setting designed to guarantee a luxurious, memorable stay.
The gastronomic restaurant leaves guests spoilt for choice with a wide array of French delicacies that can be enjoyed while gazing out at the tranquil scenic beauty of the Champagne countryside.