Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tiny Bubbles...

(I remember watching Don Ho sing "Tiny Bubbles" on TV. Yikes. I guess that makes me pretty old!)

One of the things Rick really wanted to do in France was tour the Champagne region. Did you know that "champagne" can only be called "champagne" if it's from Champagne, France? Italian "champagne" is called prosecco. In the U.S., it's called sparkling wine. Anyhow, the Champagne province is in the northwest region of France, approximately 100 miles east of Paris. There are several small towns comprising Champagne, only a few of which are commercial centers. We went to two of these: Rheims and Epernay.

Our first stop was the Mumm winery in Rheims, one of the largest producers of champagne. Although the tour itself was fun, our Mumm tour guide was not so fun. He was rather grumpy and snippy. He did let us take some photos and taste some champagne, so that sort of balanced the "fun" scale. We thought the champagne was just okay. Since we can get it at home, we didn't bother buying any at the winery.

One thing that did amuse us: in the U.S., we tour winery "cellars." In France, the cellars are called "caves." Americans don't seem to be fond of "caves," unless they like bats or spelunking. I'm pretty sure that's why the marketeers went with "cellars," ha ha!
After the tour, we went into the town of Rheims. We found it to be quite charming. Guess what? We actually ate something other than crepes for lunch! We had some yummy sandwiches, followed by a yummy French pastry in a patisserie. Here are a few shots from around the town just to give you a feel for the place.
Nearly every town/city we visited in Paris hosts its own carrousel. I'm talking beautiful, opulent, pristine carrousels. I wished I had brought my Mary Poppins parapluie (umbrella) with me. I would have ridden this carrousel to see if my horse took off on an adventure like Mary's did. I can almost hear Dick Van Dyke singing, "Oh, it's a jolly holiday with Mary..."
Rheims is also home to Notre-Dame de Rheims (Our Lady of Rheims). It is quite a cathedral. Its site originally housed Roman baths, which were replaced with a basilica in AD 496. That basilica was ravaged by fire, and the current Gothic-style cathedral was built upon this site in 1211. More than 1,000,000 people visit Notre-Dame de Rheims each year. The architectural details are amazing! (I didn't have my zoom lens last summer when we were in Paris, and I was so bummed not to get any close-ups of architecture. I was armed and ready this time!)
Yup, more gargoyles. Architecturally speaking, gargoyles served the purpose of diverting water away from the building walls so as avoid the erosion of the mortar binding the stones/bricks. They were also supposed to protect the structures (commonly churches) from evil spirits. Even though these bad boys were way up high near the top of the cathedral, my zoom lens let me get up close and personal with them.
If you click on this one, you'll be able to see the spout in its mouth.
Now for the inside of the cathedral.
Next, we headed to Epernay. Check out the views we had of the vineyards along the way. We could soooo live there. Except that Rick wouldn't have anywhere to sail the yacht he dreams of owning. Hmm. Maybe we could live here for 3 months per year, live in Paris for 3 months, live in Cannes for 3 months, and live in Switzerland for 3 months during the winter. I think I could convince Rick!
This is the center of Epernay. 
We were really excited to tour the Moet & Chandon winery. The tour guide was much nicer there, though we weren't permitted to take many photos in the caves.
Surely you've heard of Dom Perignon champagne. It is the creme de la creme of Moet &Chandon, named after a benedictine monk who was a pioneer in the production of champagne. We love it! 
This was a really fun (and yummy) day! We topped it off with a delicious meal at one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall, local restaurants in Paris
followed by a pretty sunset over the Seine.
Life. Is. Good.

Happy weekend!