Saturday, 14 July 2012

 Our Arrival and Hautvillers

 We were quite tired after a sleepless night on the plane, next to the toilets, when we arrived in Paris.  We took the RER to Gare du Nord, and quickly walked the small distance to Gare de L’Est station to catch the TGV to Reims.  As we travelled at great speed eastwards from Paris the fantastic green scenery flashed past.  We heaved a sigh of relieve that everything went according to plan when Joretha was there to pick us up at the train station in Reims.  After a quick stop at a local Boulanger to pick up baguettes, (and drooling over all the nice cakes!) we headed to their home in Verzenay.  At home hubby Jean-Luc and her mother Maxie was busy in the kitchen preparing Cocq-au-Vin, the first of a string of gastronomic delights that awaited us at Maison DesPres.
Lookout over the Marne river

Markers indicating whose vineyard it is.

Abby with Dom Pérignon's grave in Hautvillers

Hennie rubbing the Dom's belly and hoping for good luck and lots of champagne!

 The afternoon we took a drive through a part of the Montagne de Reims Regional National Park, a wooded range of hills in the Champagne area, in the direction of Épernay, to a small village called Hautvillers.  Situated on sunny vine planted hillsides, the town is made famous due to a certain Benedictine monk named Dom Pérignon.

Cafe in Hautvillers
Hautvillers’s streets and alleys are lined with naïve style, colourful wrought iron signs, revealing the activities undertaken behind the closed doors of the village houses and buildings.

In many a legend Dom Pérignon is credited being the inventor of champagne.  It would seem reality is not that good a story though.  But I like this semi-bald man with his pot belly to be involved.  We visited the abbey church of Saint Sindulphe, built in 1518 by Don Roger where Dom Pérignon served as cellerar of the Abbey until his death in 1715.  Inside the Abbey the grave of Dom Pérignon lies alongside that of Dom Riunart, whose nephew in founded in 1729 what would become the oldest champagne house in the World, Ruinart.

We went to an independent small champagne producer, G Tribaut, where we tasted about 6 different types of champagne.  And those tasting glasses are not small!  The tastings are for free.  Whilst there various Belgiums came across the border and bought cases of champagne, making our small haul of 6 bottles look totally insignificant.
The first of many champagne tasting sessions!

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