In 2008 the champagne loving gal pals chose to use Paris Vision to take a tour of the region. We had a private van pick us up at our hotel early in the morning – 7am. Our guide took us to some amazing places where we were free to take our time as we were just a group of 6.
The cold and rough January morning was the perfect setting for us to see Le Chateau de Conde – a privately owned castle on the route to the Champagne region at Condé-en-Brie, Aisne, France. The chateau is being restored to capture its former elegance and beauty by Alain Pasté de Rochefort.
The main part of the chateau was freezing cold since it is not part of the family’s current living spaces. We knew what it felt like to roam the dark and cold hallways of the past. Our guide was very familiar with this property and shared with us the escape route for the family where tunnels were built underground. The idea was that the family, should they be under attack, could escape to the church nearby to receive “sanctuary” and not be killed.
Not only were we able to enter the public parts of the castle, we were treated to morning tea with the wife of the owner in her private residence. She was a beautiful and gracious woman.
After our morning tea we headed further into the heart of the Champagne region past Dom Perignon’s home where champagne was discovered. Thank you Dom!!!
Having consumed many bottles of champagne over the years, it was time to learn exactly how it is made by two very different wine houses. First we went to a small vineyard at the house of Vadin-Plateau in Cumieres, Marne. It is there we were taken through the entire process from the initial press through the fermentation process and even the bottling of their champagne. Our guide explained to us the nouveau thinking about plastic verses wood corks. She reassured us that we were not being short changed with plastic (plass tique) as they say. Plastic is actually a very good product to use. We tastes a grand cru and bought several adorable well priced champagne glasses stamped with the Vadin name. Now at home, those are the only glasses I drink champagne out of and they also made a very nice wedding gift for Christine – the latest gal pal to get married.
We ate lunch next door in one of the “caves” as they call their wine cellars. It was an average lunch, but a good atmosphere.
Onwards and upwards to Reims, France and the house of G.H. Mumm! Yumm, Mumm! Big cellars with large caves and we learned just exactly what a “riddler” does. He riddles all day and can riddle quite a few bottles down in those dark caves. A good riddler makes a lot of money… “What does your dad do?” “My dad is a riddler!” “Really?” “Ya, it’s wicked cool.” “What does your dad do?” “He’s just an investment banker.” “Oh…that’s too bad.”
We had a hard time paying attention on the tour once we were making up the riddler conversations. To this day I can make Elizabeth giggle immediately with the mere mention of the Riddler Man! Fine history to that great house of Mumm!
Can’t believe I forgot to mention Notre Dame, Reims! It’s even more amazing than Notre Dame in Paris. I loved the architecture and it seemed much more inviting than the one in Paris. Rich Americans gave quite a bit of money to build this church – it looks it! A definite must see in Reims before one is champagne tasting preferably!
When you look at the tour on Paris Vision it is listed under day excursions from Paris. It takes roughly 12 hours by private van. I highly recommend doing this instead of taking a group bus. It’s more personal, they pick you up at your hotel and you can make stops along the way with a good tour guide. Worth every penny – the gal pals gave it all thumbs up!