Where to stay
Epernay is one of the best places to stay to access the Champagne region in France.
Last weekend I spent the most amazing four days enjoying Paris and the Champagne region to celebrate my nineteenth birthday. My long weekend began with the nine ‘o cock train to Paris. Waiting for me at Gare de Lyon was a school friend of mine, Jodi. She came over at the beginning of May and is staying in Paris with a family friend. When we found out that we’d both be there at the same time we seized the opportunity to meet up and spend the day in the French capital together.
A few hello hugs, exchanged stories and disbelieving smiles later we made our way towards the Seine. Picking up a delicious olive loaf and camembert along the way we found a sunny spot on the banks of the river to enjoy our standard french lunch. Catching up on the past few months and enjoying fromage et pain in the sunshine I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. We got on to chatting about future traveling plans and it looks like we are going to be taking on the South of France, Spain and Portugal together in September. Very exciting!
Strolling along the Seine we made our way in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower, just enjoying the sunshine and not having to feel the frenetic tourist rush that usually comes with major capitals. We have both been to Paris before and so it felt more like a local’s day in the city of lights.
When I was in Paris in January it was very cold, rainy and misty. I still had an amazing time but it was so wonderful this time to experience the city in all it’s springtime sunshine glory. A totally different feel! I really got that romantic Paris atmosphere that all the movies talk about. It was just one of those days where I couldn’t stop beaming and was just filled with such joy.
That evening I went to the airport to meet my cousin, Kerry, and her boyfriend, Dieter, who had flown in from London. We then drove the two hours to Epernay, Champagne together. They moved to London about a year and a half ago and so it was such a treat to see them after so long and share stories of what had happened in each of our lives during the interim. They had got a late plane in and so we actually celebrated my nineteenth birthday in the car before arriving at our accommodation and going to sleep.
It was definitely a weird feeling waking up on my birthday without my family and all the usual traditions. Kerry had just been in South Africa though and brought over an amazing collection of presents and cards from family and friends. It was honestly such a joy to read the kind words of my loved ones, knowing that they were sending their love my way.
We then met up with her bigger group of friends for a late breakfast (basically lunch) at a restaurant in the cute little town of Epernay. That day most of the group were doing an eighteen kilometer running race. It was more of a fun run though with champagne replacing the usual water at refreshment stations along the way and everyone dressing up in crazy and quirky costumes. I didn’t run but instead joined a group who enjoyed the tranquility of a nearby river and some proper champagne.
The day was ended with a simple supper of local bread, cheese and chacuterie before heading out with the bigger group for a some more champagne celebrations. Yes, it was difficult spending my first birthday away from home but it was a wonderful birthday and made for a great change to the usual exam studying that usually makes up my birthday.
The next day was Dieter’s birthday and we had a slow start with a champagne and orange juice breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolat and brioche. Delicious!
We then took advantage of the day to do the proper Champagne experience. Walking down the Avenue de Champagne I admired the beauty of the old money champagne houses. It really was something else.
We visited the famous Moët champagne house and walked around with wide eyes taking in all the expensive champagnes. After much deliberation on the pronunciation of the name we still didn’t reach a consensus but instead moved on to another spot to taste some more affordable champagne.
We then went to Mercier to do a cellar tour. We were taken on a tour through all the caves and underground cellars in a little train while being informed of all the history of the champagne house, how champagne is made and why only champagne made in this specific region is allowed to be called champagne. It was a really interesting tour and ended off with a glass of brut.
The weekend ended off in Paris with a yummy pizza close to the Notre Dame before I caught my train back to Annemasse. It was a lovely and different experience to my usual traveling with the focus being more on the people than the place. I so enjoyed relaxing, drinking proper champagne, catching up with Kerry and Dieter and meeting their new group of friends.
Back to work now for 2 weeks and then my mom, dad and brother will be joining me here in France! Can’t wait to see them after being away for what will be 5 and a half months. It’s crazy how quickly the time has passed by but it also feels like my life in Cape Town was a lifetime ago. But I suppose this isn’t just one year in my lifetime but a lifetime in one year.
If you’re visiting more of France on your trip why not check out my French regional guides:
A winter skiing trip to Tignes