Walking with Pepper along the CBR

It’s a beautiful crisp, cold and slightly foggy day today here in Champagne, so I decided to step away from the computer and take Pepper for a longer than usual walk.

I love walking, especially with my dog.  It’s so refreshing to be in nature, to hear the rustle of the trees, the birds singing and the quiet solitude of the forest.

My favourite walking trail is definitely the CBR which stands for Chemin de Fer de la Banlieue de Reims – a former railway line spanning over 400 kms and connecting 180 villages in the Champagne region.  It was built in 1894 and played a very important role during the first World War carrying ammunitions, materials and indeed the wounded.

This is an old picture of the station in Verzy which is now a private house.  The stations are easy to recognise because they all look the same, built to the same specification. However, as time went on, the railway network was used less and less, and like many European suburban railways, was sadly dismantled in 1966.

But what’s left is over 400kms of trails for us to enjoy on foot or on bicyle around the region.

The bit which passes through our village, Verzy, is now part of the old pilgrim trail to both St. Jacques de Compostelle in northern Spain and the Via Francigena which leads to Rome.

When I walk just a little bit of this trail, those destinations sometimes call to me.  How about you?

Champagne Harvest 2012 is coming soon


 
How would you like to join us here in Champagne and experience the highlight of the year – The Harvest?  We’ve put together a programme so you can do just that!

Between the 20th and 30th September, you have the opportunity of becoming part of the harvesting team for one day,  picking the grapes, following them to the “pressoir”, tasting the juice as it comes directly from the crushed grapes, and experiencing the atmosphere and excitement of this special time.

Your day will begin at one of our favourite champagne maker’s “vendangeoir” where you’ll pick up your secateurs and be taken into the vineyards with the team, where you’ll begin picking.  You’ll then follow the process back at the “pressoir” and witness first hand how it’s all done champagne-style.

A traditional harvester’s lunch and some serious champagne tasting is included, and all you need to do now is to book yourself a place by clicking here.

The package includes:

  • Two nights’ B&B accommodation at Les Molyneux
  • Dinner on your arrival night with champagne and wine
  • A full day out with one of our favourite champagne makers

Prices are 355 euros for one person and 520 euros for two people sharing a room.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  1. Simply Click Here to book your accommodation at Les Molyneux
  2. Choose two nights’ between the 20th and 30th September
  3. Put a note for us in the Comments Box of the reservation form that you want to come on the Harvest Special

That’s it!  We’ll then organise your day’s harvesting, and be in touch with you again very soon.

Places are limited, so hurry and book now and we’ll see you soon in Champagne!

Yvonne

x

Rent a Renault Twizy 45 in Champagne

Have you ever wanted to try out an electric car ?  How about drinking champagne in the region where it’s made?  Well now the Tourist Office in Epernay is combining these two dreams into one.  Discover the vineyards and the champagne houses of the champagne region by hiring Twizy, an electric car directly from the Tourist Office and… grab a free bottle of bubbly to drink for yourself!

You can hire Twizy for an hour, a half day or a whole day.

Where can you go with an electric car in Epernay?

Start off by driving up the Avenue de Champagne, calling in at Moet et Chandon for a swanky, stylish guided tour of their cellars and a glass or two of bubbly afterwards.  Did you know that there are approx. 21 kilometres of cellars just under Moet’s building and 110 kms of cellars under the whole town of Epernay!  Incredible, but true.

After your visit to Moet why not drop into Champagne Andre Bergére, just a short drive in your little car further on up the Avenue.  Maxime or Stephanie will be happy to welcome you and introduce you to their smaller but good quality champagnes, made at their production facility in the Cotes des Blancs but on sale here on the Avenue.

And then further on up the Avenue, drop into Champagne Mercier where an elevator experience will descend you down into their cellars and then onto their cellar train for a guided tour.

Aftwards, Champagne de Castellane will introduce you to the mechanics of champagne making where you’ll get to see the bottling and labelling room – fascinating.  And for the best view in Epernay, climb the steps up to the top of the de Castellane tower.

You’ll probably be hungry after all that, so try La Banque on the Place de la Republique for a well-earned bite to eat.  Or La Table Kobus, behind the church, where you can take your own free bottle of bubbly to drink there.

Whatever you do, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Champagne Stories from the Vineyards

What a priviledge it is to be able to live and work in Champagne!  I am in awe of the beauty of the landscape and the work and toil of the people every single day.  My drive to the supermarket is through vineyards owned by such luminaries as Moet et Chandon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and I marvel at their visions which began almost 3 centuries ago.

I am indeed lucky.

But life wasn’t always bubbly in Champagne. After the devastation of the phylloxera epidemic during the late 1800s and the wine growers’ revolts in the early 1900s, the emergence of champagne as we know it today began.  But life was still tough, and many farmers were very poor.  So much so that over the years, many of their offspring left the bubbly trade in search of adventure elsewhere.

One of those sons is our friend Christian Briard, who after having explored life without bubbles, has returned to his roots and taken up the baton in his grandfather’s champagne business, Champagne Christian Briard, in the Marne Valley.

Christian explains what lead him to where he is now in this interesting article and I encourage you to read it here

 

On the Pilgrim Trail

Running a B&B is a great way to meet new people, and the thing is, we never know who is going to show up next, and that’s exciting.

Verzy is situated on not just one, but two of the great Pilgrim Trails which start in various locations in northern Europe and either lead to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, or the Via Francigena to Rome in Italy.

People take this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons and not always religious.  Some are walking for a charity or in the memory of someone they’ve lost, or some are doing just because they can. But they all come with a story, and we love to hear their stories.

Some embark on this adventure alone and some with a partner or friend.  Some do the whole thing in one go which takes around 3 months, and some do it a couple of weeks a year, spread out over several years.

Some plan their overnight stays and some don’t.  Some simply knock on the door hoping to find room at the inn, and some have their ipads or other mobile devices, keeping in touch with the real world while on their travels, and have all their lodgings pre-booked in advance. Some are blogging about their adventure and staying connected during the whole journey and some completely cut themselves off to focus on the journey itself and the inevitable silence of being alone.

Some are travelling on a budget, and some are doing it “in style”.  Whoever they are, we welcome them and offer them great accommodation, a good meal and a fond farewell the next morning.

Bunjee jumping in Verzy!

With the torrential April showers hopefully behind us now, we can turn our attention to what’s happening in May in Champagne.

May is the month of the brocantes – those street markets which sell cast offs and collectors items, featuring everything from used tyres (?) to champagne caps.  Verzy’s brocante was last weekend, and needless to say I didn’t buy anything.

There’s a brocante every weekend now in several villages in the region, and if you like milling around bric-a-brac and looking for a bargain, then don’t miss, come on down.

The highlight of events in Verzy (not to mention the Summer Dance Gala on the 16th June, where yours truly will be dancing!) is the Fete Patronale which is happening on the last weekend of May.

I’m really excited about this because last year it was an absolute hoot on the Sunday afternoon.  We were drawn into the music and entertainment of the drag artists singing and dancing in their luminous outfits and unbelievable wigs.  Sipping champagne in the sunshine with friends and enjoying the ambience of the real France was incredible, and this year promises to be even more fun with the opportunity to participate in bunjee jumping.  Needless to say again, I won’t be jumping, but you can!

Join us if you can, we’re looking forward to meeting you in Champagne!

Spring has Sprung in Champagne

Spring has sprung in Champagne, and the vines are in bud, the blossom is out on the cherry trees and the pear tree, and we’re ready to welcome our guests for the 2012 season which officially starts this weekend at Easter.

What’s new?

The Blue Room is still the Blue Room but it’s now a different shade of blue.  We’ve re-decorated it in duck-egg blue and cream, which we hope you will like.

Champagne Tours and Tastings is our new offering this year, with three options to choose from

(link to webpage)

Jiles will be your Guide and will let you into all the secrets of the champagne region and production, sharing stories and anecdotes along the way.

The “Champagne Day” app is your essential resource for your trip, containing our personal network of contacts built up over 17 years of living and working here in the region.  Videos of the people and places will help you to plan your trip and “virtually” meet them before you even arrive here.  Past guests have said how much they have appreciated having it with them on their ipads and iphones.  The free upgrade to Version 2 with even more special people and places will be available in June.

As it’s an even year (2012), the Fete Henri IV takes place in Ay on the 7/8/9 July.  This is a great festival to visit if you’re in the area at that time.  Tasting champagnes in style at some of the bigger houses such as Bollinger, allows us to dream of another world, and of course, the smaller independent producers open their doors to welcome you too.

Plus many more exciting and interesting things to do and see in Champagne in 2012.  Come on down!

 

Categories: B&B

Give more to get more

I posted a blog recently on a friend’s website which focusses on the good news about being an entrepreneur.  It’s about giving more to get more and my philosophy on business and you can read it here.

I love working for myself, because I love making my own decisions, but there is a responsibility too, and sometimes things don’t always go right.  But if we focus on the value we can add to our customers, suppliers and community, then I believe that it will all come right in the end.  What goes around comes around as they say, and I believe in that very much.

As entrepreneurs, we are in a unique position of being able to add value in so many ways.  It’s a priviledged position which we cannot afford to take lightly.

I’d love to know what you think, so go ahead and click here to read the full post and please do leave us a comment with your thoughts.

 

The French are rude!

Living and working in France has and still is one of the most enriching experiences of my life.  I love it here!  I even left it once, only to return “home” as soon as I could.  Why?  I find the French philosophy on life refreshing and it just makes sense to me.

Here in Champagne, the people are warm and friendly, and there is a sense of community, that long-forgotten feeling that used to prevail in the homeland, the UK before it all went wrong.  The French are attached to the earth, the “terroir”, the planet in a way that makes me feel safe and secure, and even loved.

You can imagine my surprise then, when friend and business partner Marion Ryan sent me this article this morning.  Apparently the French have been voted the most rude country to visit for tourists!

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes they are rude, but isn’t everybody?   But what I’ve learned about the French during my many years among them, is that it’s NOT intentional.  My daughter describes them as “direct” and that’s a good description.  They don’t put up with nonsense, poor service, poor food, rules that don’t make sense to them, working harder, working longer (remember they only work 35 hours a week!)  and their lives are much more important than any commercial transaction.

There is a respect here for each other, with the essential “Bonjour Madame or Monsieur” whenever you meet someone in the street.  Eye contact is normal and people smile.  Old people are respected and children are cherished.  People help each other in a distinctly and guarded French way, but nevertheless the support is there.

Of course, I may have to eat my hat if Marine Le Pen wins the next election! God help us!

Reiki and Champagne

I’ve just received the monthly newsletter from the Tourist Office in Epernay (pity it’s only in French) and I’ve noticed that there is a “Reiki Conference” happening on the 31st March.  (The Tourist Office’s website is undergoing some maintenance at the moment, otherwise I’d put a link in here for you).

I know that alternative health treatments are pretty popular around the world, but so far, in France I’ve yet to discover much at all. In fact one of my English students whispered that that sort of thing isn’t welcome in France. And I’m not surprised. The French are pretty wedded to their mainstream medical system, and anything natural or slightly “out there” would probably be shrugged off.

In fact, many of the “spa” treatments the rest of the world has to pay for privately, are offered on the French national health system.  A good friend of mine recently had a heart operation and he was sharing with me recently, that the option to take a “spa” treament was part of his recovery package!

But now, we have a Reiki conference taking place at the stunning Hotel Royal Champagne on the hills outside Epernay on the 31st March, starting at 4pm. I’m certainly going to be there. Anyone else?