Thursday, 26 June 2014

Epernay; June 25–27, 2014

The side trip Dijon to Epernay was to Fontenay Abbey, probably the first ever abbey we visited in France way back early in our travels. A beautiful, tranquil spot with lush lawns, big trees, water and the beautiful abbey, in very good repair and still lived in by the family that bought it and resurrected it from being a factory.
So we wandered again into the serene Cistercian church with solemn nave and light through the windows at the far end, the capitals of the columns plain in the Cistercian fashion, the one statue of the virgin and child in the transept. In the gardens we walked the paths to a sweet fountain pool and then again to the forge and ironworks driven by the waterwheel, recently restored to actually work again. I was sorry to see the climbing roses missing from the dovecote but the overall effect was very beautiful and faithful to the original plan of the abbey. Most worth a visit.
F nave
The peaceful nave
f arches
The Chapter House
f chapter house arch
Entry from the cloister to the Chapter House
F cloister garden
Cloister garden
F cloister
Cloister arches
F tower
A long drive then to Epernay, much further than we were somehow expecting, to a small house nestled between various champagne houses on the Rue de Champagne. An absolutely charming place, Parva Domus, where the owners spoke virtually no English and we our very limited French. Still, we managed to get by. While it was very close to places such as Moet and Chandon it was actually quite a walk to the town when the foot was hurting. The house had a semi-spiral staircase and wooden floors that creaked as we moved but we found our Beige Room quite charming, spotless and convenient. There was also a wide terrace across the back of the house for sitting in the sun and sipping a champagne.
We decided to take the tour of Moet and Chandon, which requires booking in advance. Ours was for later the same morning at about 11.50am, which really meant we couldn’t see another place in the morning and be back in time for the tour, so we had an explore in the town. There isn’t a great deal to interest the casual tourist.
E war memorial
So many names on the war memorial at the Hotel de Ville
e fountain
Pretty fountain in town
The tour was excellent which may have been our particular guide, as other guests at the B&B had not been impressed. We were taken through the caves and given a quite detailed report on the processes, vineyards, grape varieties and blending to produce a consistent product from year to year.
E Moet
The waiting room at Moet and Chandon
E Moet hotel
Part of the Moet Hotel
E stores
Stored champagne ageing nicely
E riddling
Riddling racks to remove the old yeast
E oldest drives
The deepest and oldest drives
E Moet bubbles
The finished product
Then we had a tasting with two full flutes of Champagne with explanations from a sommelier. I watched the woman next to me put a tasting glass in her handbag. Later she and her partner spent hundreds of dollars on champagne, even a bottle of Dom Perignon, but she stole to save E7. Sigh…
On recommendation, we visited 520, a shop where the advice was reputed to be excellent. We consulted and ended up purchasing one bottle of each grape type used in making champagne ( Chardonnay, Meunier, Pinot Noir) so we could taste the difference. It was informative and the champagne tasted great later in Paris. No way could we carry it on the plane so alas, it needed to be drunk in Paris. What hardship!!!
Really, this was a stop just for a taster of Champagne. Tomorrow, on to Paris!

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