What to do in the Champagne region
It’s that time of year when drinks are free-flowing and it’s de rigueur to push the boat out a little and enjoy some fizz.
With Champagne being at the top of the festive drinks menu, it’s worth knowing that a trip to the source isn’t as unobtainable as the price tag would suggest – Reims is just 40 minutes from Paris, which in itself is a train ride away from London.
It’s a popular break for UK visitors, not least because tours of major and independent Champagne houses offer a delicious tasting at the end. But even for those who don’t favour the fizz, there’s plenty to do and see while in the area. So here’s what the Flexicover team recommend sampling on a visit to the Champagne region.
Take a walk down Champagne Avenue
Not only does it have the classiest name in the world, but also the goods to back it up: 200 million pricey Champagne bottles are stored in cellars underneath the street, away from the heat and light above. Only a kilometre long, this mansion-lined avenue in Épernay is the headquarters of many famous houses, including Pol Roger, Mercier and Moët & Chandon. You can venture into many of these mansions for a tour and a taste, or just admire the French architecture from outside, as well as the impressive views of the vineyards snaking around the mountains of Reims beyond.
Marvel at Reims Cathedral
Every bit as impressive as the Notre Dame, Reims’ cathedral is certainly worth a visit. Its quintessentially gothic style is embraced in every aspect of its construction. It’s even more impressive given that it’s suffered more than a few knocks in its 800 years. In 1481, the roof caught fire; a great rose window was destroyed in a storm in 1580; the angel of the bell tower was knocked in 1712 and the cathedral suffered considerable damage in both world wars. Note that the cathedral is currently closed until 15 March 2018, so put it in the diary for next spring.
Shop til you drop
90 minutes away from Reims is the designer outlet of McArthurGlen shopping village in Troyes. Ordinarily, a shopping trip is probably low on the list of activities during precious time away. But as this outlet houses plenty of top French brands, like Lacoste, Kookaï, L’Oreal, Naf Naf, The Kooples and Le Coq Sportif, it’s worthy of an exception. Shoppers can plan a whole day within the complex: there are bars, restaurants and two children’s play areas for respite between shopping bursts. Better still, group shoppers can pick up a discount passport for even more bargains.
Uncover its role in World War I
Overshadowed by the famous wines in the region, it’s often forgotten that Champagne was a central battleground in the First World War. Buildings were destroyed, banks were closed (Épernay had to create its own emergency bank notes to keep business going) and 40 per cent of the area’s vineyards were destroyed on Armistice Day alone. At the WWI museum of Centre d'interpretation Marne 14-18 in Suippes, accounts of soldiers and civilians are enshrined and interactive elements allow guests to follow the daily life of a soldier. For those steely enough, check out the reconstruction of an attack in a trench.
Partake in French gastronomy
With fine wines comes fine food, especially in the home country of both Champagne and the Michelin guide. In Reims alone, six restaurants are Michelin-star quality and many more are admired for their high standards and inventive cooking. Even the ingredients produced by the region, like rose lentils and mustard, are revered. Don’t leave without trying a biscuit rose: a pink biscuit traditionally dipped in Champagne, and made so that it won’t break when moistened.
So wherever your travel plans take you it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protections to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.