Champagne in Champagne

Delia had long wanted to have a glass of champagne in Champagne. So now seemed a good time. As it turned out it was more of a bucket than a glass, but there you go.

On the Monday at the crack of dawn (OK more like 9.30) we drove, us two and Delia’s dad (B), some 600km and 6 hours to Epernay in the heart of the Champagne region. The non-toll route was only 20 mins longer so we went that way which saved about 100€ (both ways) and also kept me awake in order to keep on route.

Arriving in Epernay after a long but pleasant journey we easily found the apartment, unloaded the car and ventured out to explore. B made a bee-line for the first chocolate store we came across where the staff gave us samples which enticed us to buy. We found a nice looking bar where we wanted to enjoy our first glass of champagne. At B’s behest it turned into a bottle and burger followed by a large cafe gourmande (a selection of smaller desserts but in this case numbering five instead of the usual three, plus coffee).

The next morning (after being reminded how noisy a town centre can be in the early hours) we again ventured out by car to check where the Reims TGV rail station was – to make sure we had no trouble getting B there on the Thursday morning bright and early. All fine – drove back and found some free parking so we could then walk around Epernay. We headed, more or less, directly to the “Avenue de Champagne” with its grand Champagne houses and the 110km of tunnels underneath, cellars for thousands of bottles.

Before the Moet et Chandon tour (where we learnt that one actually pronounces the T) we stopped at De Venoge and tried a different champage each. I had a Brut with a mozarella salad, Delia had a Blanc de Noir and roasted vegetables and B had an Extra Brut with a cheese platter. We were told about the Brut having between 6 and 12gms of sugar added after the first ferment, the extra brut between 3 and 6gms.

That evening we went out for Delia’s official birthday meal. We started with a glass of champagne.  I had a warm duck liver and lobster entree followed by grilled bream and strawberry with black pepper and rose champagne sorbet.  Delia had a salad ardennaise then a delicious steak followed by apple tarte-tatin, B had a salad ardennaise and then grilled bream then a dessert of pear in red wine with cinnamon ice cream.

The next day, after a special bacon and scrambled egg breakfast, we drove out to Hautvillers – the birthplace of Dom Perignon – the founder of champagne.

Back for a quick lunch of boulanger sandwiches, we had another wander around and watched the Epernay tethered balloon for a while then to a wine tasting. This was actually the most fascinating of the visits so far. We first of all tasted three champagnes each made from one of the constituent grapes: the chardonnay blanc de blanc, pinot noir and the pinot meunier. Then the “assemblage” of all three.  The sommelier also talked of a variet even drier than extra brut – the “non-dosage” with less than 3gms of sugar added after the first ferment. The final two glasses were rose champagne, one made (like normal red, on macerated red grapes skins) and the second with red meunier wine blended when the sugar is added. We especially liked the first rose which was almost red and reminded us of sparkling Jacobs Creek red shiraz.



Where have I been? 20 October 2019

So where have I been – or where have we been. Well here is a photo to help?

No we have not been to NY, this is a small version of the Statue of Liberty which is based on the L’île aux Cygnes (Swan Island) in Paris (near the Australian Embassy and the Eiffel Tower). So why were we in Paris – well my Australian Passport was due to expire so I needed to go to the Embassy to submit my paperwork etc. It effectively was lunch in Paris though, we got to Paris at 12:30 were in our favourite Brasserie by just after 1 o’clock and enjoyed a lovely lunch with my Aunty B. We then headed over the Australian Embassy which didn’t take long so we went for a walk along the Island took some photos and headed back to the train. We had a really nice day.

One day we also headed over to Hauteforte Chateau again to enjoy a wonderful afternoon out – complete with lots of sunshine. On Aunty B’s last day we had a lovely walk in the morning and then we headed around the Troc’s (second hand stores) as the rain had set in by then. The following day she headed off to continue her travels.

2 days later my dad arrived. He is still here with us and yesterday we decided to head off to Perigueux which is a city just over an hour away and one I’ve never been to. It’s fabulous, a great amount of parking, a fantastic Medieval and Renaissance section of the town and then a short walk away to a different part of the town – a Roman villa. It was a great day out and one I would like to repeat before we leave France.

Today is a quiet day and I have all of next week off so next Saturday there should be an interesting blog from Pat.

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful part of France – Delia

A UK Wedding

So, our friend Becky was marrying Stuart at a wonderful location called Mythe Barn in Leicestershire. We had booked our flights thinking Delia would be recovering from a bout of chemo but since that had stopped, Delia was full of beans and able to fully enjoy the visit.

We flew Ryanair into Stansted on the Friday and drove to our Nottingham friends Mike and Sandra arriving just short of midnight. On Sunday we drove to Mythe Barn with time to settle into our room before the main event. The rooms were lovely, in building that had been converted from milking sheds and we actually had an adjoining door with some other friends (Robert and Teresa) from Leicester which was nice. Joining up with the arriving guests we stood around chatting until being directed into the function room. Becky’s arrival at the cermony started with her nephew coming in on his scooter and her bridesmaid neice following, as it turned out, slightly early since Becky wanted to get the music timed just right for her entry with mum and dad. The formalities were delightful, especially since Becky was so preoccupied with the “awful” in “lawfully” that she actually said she “knew of no unlawful impediment…” and had to repeat it. All’s well that ends well though and after a return down the aisle under a “guard of honour” archway of guests with upraised linked arms we all trooped outside for photos.

The weather had been wet, in fact the extended area around the barn had flooded but nothing too near. Fate was kind and we had a completely dry period for the photos and the rain only recommenced when we had started eating. The food was delicious and drink sufficient though some tables benefited from other more abstinent ones! The ham terrine, followed by mouthwatering fillet slices and a mix of desserts gave us something to go with the wine. Speeches were touchingly personal and heartfelt, especially Becky’s mum. The music that evening was good, I even danced! Delia really let go, months of pent-up energy let loose in an hour of energetic dancing.

The theme of the wedding included Becky & Stuart’s delight in travelling and the cake consisted of a pile of beautifully crafted suitcases. Whoever made the cake outdid themselves – lemon sponge and white chocolate, cookies and cream cake, fruitcake and white fondant and carrot cake with chocolate fondant. Slabs of which we got to eat over the following days.

Breakfast had much fewer guests since, the wedding having been on a Sunday, many guests had had to get back in time to go to work the next day. It was at this point that we were anointed with the slabs of cake! We had a slow drive back through the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire countryside to our friends.

Our final day had us visiting Calke Abbey. A fascinating mansion that had been left almost as it was when the last owner had died. He had been a recluse and also continuing the line of collectors so the house was chock full of eclectic furniture, stuffed birds and animals and a wealth of other miscellany. As well as upstairs, the lengthy tunnels and preserved kitchens and storerooms along with photo galleries gave us a good impression of life downstairs.

An early start on Thursday and a relatively uneventful drive back to Stansted and our flight home.