Posted by: Marco | August 24, 2010

Raising a glass in Reims

Pinto noir on the vine

There are 70 champagne makers in Rilly-la-montagne, a small village of 1200 people. Never mind the hundreds of others in the champagne region. We found ourselves in the unenviable position of  trying to select one for a guided tour of the “caves” or cellars. As we are pinching pennies over here, when we can, we chose a small vigneron near Reims who gave free tours in French or English. We could have opted for a short walk to Mumm or Veuve Cliqot, both located within walking distance of our hostel. Both these Maisons de Champagne offer tours at a fee. We chose well.  Michel Fagot Champagne is a small company in the hillside village of Rilly-la-montagne. It makes its own champagne from start to finish and presses for other growers (notably Veuve-Cliquot). Phillipe, the supervisor of the “caves” and a former maitre d’, gave us a tour of the whole process from the press to the labelling machine. It took an hour and a half and cost nothing! Of course, after the mandatory dégustation, the tasting, we decided to buy a couple of bottles and leave a tip. We sampled their Brut Tradition (their blend), Brut Réserve, and Rosé. Each was slightly different and quite lovely.

After this perfect champagne experience, we drove to Épernay, champgne’s co-capital. Here we strolled the Avenue de Champagne and saw the enormous Maisons de Champagne, like Moët-Chandon. You can see our pictures of Reims, Épernay, and the Michel Fagot Champagne tour here.

Our Peugeot Bipper really, that's its name.

We drove to Reims in the pouring rain — in our newly rented Peugeot Bipper Tepee. We only got lost twice!  Once in Reims, we headed straight for the Cathedral which is the most impressive we have seen, and we have seen a few. This medieval behemoth is awe-inspiring. It is in this cathedral that 26 Kings of France have been crowned. Joan of Arc famously escorted the Dauphin here to be crowned Charles VII. It has survived about 700 years and the bombardment of the Great War. It is a testament to the fantastic architecture and engineering of medieval France.  The town is a lovely and lively small city which offers plenty of surprizes. Not least of which is a fantastic car museum, which we all loved (not just Owen and Marco).  You can see the photos here


Tomorrow, he head towards the Vimy Ridge and other WWI battlefield monuments. But first, one last stop in Reims. We will visit General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters and site of the unconditional German surrender in WW2. More later…

Carpe annum,



  1. I’m loving your blog posts… but I want one from Anique and Owen describing their impressions of France, how it’s different from Canada. What they love, what they miss, what they think is really weird… you get the drift. I’d love to know what they think of all this so far!


  2. Fabulous car museum! Unfortunately, I can remember when quite a few of those cars were on the road. You may remember Pierre’s Citroen and Tony’s series of Renaults.

  3. I just love your blog, I have the feeling I am travelling with you all. I agree with Kathy, it would be great to get the kids’ comments on the towns ,villages, their buildings ,their markets and so on.
    I just love the landscape around Reims and I was wondering if the French people pronounce the “s” at the end of Reims?

    • Reims est prononcé comme le verbe ”se rincer”. Je me rince les cheveux….
      La ville était une très belle surprise.

  4. Thanks for all of the great updates – it is so exciting to read – it has the wheels turning in my head for later down the road! All the best…

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