August 3, 2017 – August 6, 2017
For my 28th birthday, I decided to be basic and spend the day drinking Champagne in Champagne #Louvre&Veuve. I figured this was one of the only birthdays where I could make a request like this and have it granted.
Reims, the largest city in the Champagne region, is easily accessible by train from Paris so we decided to spend a night there to kick start our weekend. We arrived in Paris just in time for our 9:30 dinner reservations at Alliance, a Michelin star restaurant where we did a tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings. The food was intricate and delicious, and the wine was also spectacular. Happy birthday eve to me!
Since we had to be in Reims by 3pm the next day for our tour of Veuve Clicquot, we did not get to see very much of Paris. However, we did spend the morning at the Louvre. We got there early enough that the line for tickets wasn’t too bad, but the place was still super crowded. The first thing on my agenda to see was obviously the Mona Lisa, so we headed there first because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Our friend told us the day before we went to not expect much and that the portrait was about the size of an 8″ x 10″ photo. Well, I was impressed because it’s actually bigger than that! But there was a huge crowd pushing and shoving to get a better look, so we didn’t admire her for too long. Instead we made our way through the museum stopping to see paintings of the French, Italian, Spanish, Northern Europe and British. It’s amazing how many works of art are in the Louvre that are centuries old. I just kept wondering where they all came from. The painting section was probably my favorite, but we also saw the Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiques which included many artifacts and sculptures.
I recently read a fiction book about World War II called the Nightengale (HIGHLY recommend if you’re into that sort of thing) and it talks about how many works of art were hidden during WWII so that the Germans couldn’t steal them. I’m glad that happened because I really enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful pieces.
We only had a few hours, but I could have easily spent a whole day wondering through the many halls. I expected to be bored and ready to go, but I was disappointed to leave. I guess we will have to make another trip back to the Louvre!
Although I was sad to leave the Louvre, I was excited for our first Champagne tasting at Veuve Clicqout. Getting to Reims was easy from Paris, but getting to our AirBnB in Reims was more challenging, specifically because I navigated us the wrong way from the train station, and as a result we were late for our tour. But, it was my birthday so Tyler couldn’t get mad. Luckily we caught up with the tour before they went down into the caves. Our tour guide was very professional and he explained the history of Veuve and the Champagne making process. It was actually very interesting and I was intrigued that Madame Clicqout took over her husband’s business at the age of 27 after he passed away. She grew the business into a thriving one that has lasted for centuries. Hearing this story motivated me to start rethinking my career goals.
After we had finished the tour of the caves, it was time to taste the Champagne. We had a few glasses with the others on our tour and were surprised to learn that 6 of the 8 people on the tour lived in Amsterdam. What a small world! After all of this Champagne we needed some food, so we finished the evening at L’Alambic. The food was absolutely delicious and even rivaled that of the Michelin star restaurant of the night before. We then headed back to the AirBnB to greet our friends Shannon and Noah (or as I like to call them, Shannoah) who drove to Reims after work. They also brought along their 7 week old Corgi named Teddy who is the cutest pup I know.
On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to begin our day of Champagne tastings. Because we were bringing baby Ted with us, we last minute upgraded to a private tour, so our tour guide picked us up in an 8 person passenger van for just the 4 of us. She was very knowledgeable about the Reims area and the Champagne making process and told us very detailed accounts of the history. We were all still a little sleepy so many of the stories did not resonate with me.
Our first stop on the tour was at Godme Sabine located in Verzenay, a Grand Cru village. This was a medium sized, family run winery. We learned about the Champagne making process and took a tour of the grounds. We learned that Grand Cru grapes are of a higher quality and thus make the bottle of Champagne more expensive. The views of the winery were really cool and we also liked the Champagne so we bought a few bottles.
We then drove around the area through the scenic hills and listened to another history lesson.
The next stop was at Dominique Foureur in Ambonnay, a very small winery where the owner made us lunch. The four course meal was incredible with melon & prosciutto, breads & olive oil, salmon & rice, strawberries & whipped cream. I especially enjoyed the dessert and we all had seconds. I also really liked the fact that she has several cats and one HUGE dog, named OB-1. We enjoyed a few Champagnes with our food and also a some still wine. When grapes that are produced in the Champagne region aren’t up to Champagne standards, they can sometimes be used in the production of still wine instead. Interesting stuff.
Our last stop of the day was at the huge and famously known Moët & Chandon. We took a tour down into the wine caves and learned for the last time of the day about the Champagne making process. Maybe it was the fact that we had already heard this spiel 3 times now or possibly the fact that the tour guide was talking in a fake accent, but we did not pay attention very well at this tour. However, our tour guide sprang for the deluxe tasting for us at this place so we enjoyed some really good, expensive Champagne. I think that drinking Champagne in Champagne was such a great way to spend my birthday, and I was very thankful that our friends were able to join us as well. And Teddy did so great for being a 7 week old pup. He went accident free the whole day and basically just let us hold him the whole time.
For dinner that night we went to a terrible tourist trap that I left a bad review for on Trip Adviser. I don’t remember what it was called, but seriously I’ve never paid for more inedible food. Afterwards, we had heard that there was some type of light show going on at the Cathedral in town, so we headed to check it out. I was blown away with the show! The lights were projected onto the Cathedral in different patterns with different music to tell a story. It was a good little surprise to end our trip to Champagne. On Sunday we packed it up and drove the 5 hours back to Amsterdam.