The city of love….. I have to admit that we really did fall in love with the city when we found out our 2-star hotel was a 5-minute walk from the station we were to arrive into after 8.5hours of travel that day! Our hotel – Le Terrage was your standard budget hotel: equipped with the necessities, clean and great value for money. Our first evening was pretty much eat (some cheap Chinese from 5-minutes up the road) and sleep.
The next day we dedicated to walking all over the city of Paris. We walked and walked and walked so much that the soles of my boots have severely worn down, so much that I may need to invest in new boots before we hit the chilly winter wonderland of Finland. Our morning started off of course with freshly made (still warm!) croissants that just melted in our mouths as well as my all time favourite Frenchie pastry – Pain au Chocolat – pastry with chocolate in the center. Absolutely divine, seriously they have the ultimate powers of seduction. We wandered across the Seine to the Notre Dame, following the river up to the famous Louvre and then we made our way down to the Arc de Triomphe. Which to our luck was on the route where the Paris Christmas markets were located. Nearly the full length of the road, on both sides, were stalls selling everything from mulled wine to crepes and waffles to trinkets and fries. There is even a small ice rink for the kids. I don’t know whether to blame Italy or France for my winter weight now as after our tummy friendly breakie we treated our taste buds yet again, I had a fresh crepe with sugar and lemon and Morgan had a fresh waffle. Oh la la… I think I’ll be shopping for new pants soon!
After visiting the Arc de Troimphe in the middle of the worlds biggest round-a-bout we made our way down to the ultimate symbol of Paris – The Eiffel Tower. Boy it was stunning – from across the river to being right up under it. It truly is one of those magnificent sights that you just have to see with your own eyes. We spent ages taking it all in while we munched on a fresh baguette (definitely a food day!). We then walked down the Seine a bit more before heading back over and walking alongside the river where there is a ton of old barges, which have been converted into people’s homes. I am jealous of those people, especially the one with the hot tub… I was daydreaming about being in there, looking up at the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of Champagne very close by. Dreams are free..
We strolled back past the Christmas markets which were now absolutely packed so we grabbed a quick mulled wine each and kept on our way. We were definitely warmed up after that, as it was not only hot but also incredibly strong! We made our way up to the Moulin Rouge to see the famous windmill and then back towards our hotel. I hate to admit it but we again opted for the cheap Chinese… That’s the problem with traveling in winter; a baguette, with cheese and ham simply won’t satisfy when it’s cold outside.
The next day Morgan planned for us to head up to the Omaha Beach area where the Normandy D-Day landings occurred (what Saving Private Ryan is based on). It was a 2-hour train trip to the town of Bayeux, which is just inland of the beach area. Unfortunately due to infrequent bus times we couldn’t make it out to the beach area so instead, after a lunch consisting of a baguette, Camembert and salami in front of the Bayeux Notre Dame we made our way to the War Cemetery & Memorial. This particular cemetery is the largest Commonwealth site for those of the Normandy D-Day landings in the area. 5000 soldiers lye there. I have to admit I have never really visited a war cemetery before, it truly pulls on your heart strings seeing the majority of those brave men being in their early 20s. We found out after we had emerged from the museum across the road that there are a few Kiwis buried in plot 15 which would of been nice to visit and pay our respects. The war museum across the road is 6.50€ to enter and from The War Buff’s (a.k.a Morgan) experience, it is well worth the dosh because – direct quote, “it has allot of equipment used in WW2 and all the strategic plans of the Allied Forces”… Basically he means that there are lots of tanks and guns!
So all up it was well worth the trip and using our Eurail pass saved us the €140 odd to get out there and back. By the time we got home it was well after 8pm so we had a quick bite to eat washed down with a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and then an early night before making another big day trip the next day.
Day 3 had to be my favourite, I mean what girl wouldn’t love to be swept off to the heart of Champagne. In our case the sweeping was done by a rather early train to Epernay. The journey was short, a mere hour and fifteen minutes. Our first tasting at Achille Princier was scheduled for 9:30am and it was only a 10-minute walk through the city of Epernay, passing Moët Chandon on the way (of course being the wine geek that I am I had to pop into the grounds quickly to take a photo of the Dom Perignon statue). We continued down the road to AP where we were meet by Pascale, the lady I had been in touch with over e-mail. The tour was self-guided through there underground cellars which was followed by a tasting. Lucky for us the DVD player, which was meant to show us a 10-minute video, packed up so instead of trying 2 Champagnes we got to try 3. It was a great start to the day and it was the smallest producer of the 3 we were visiting that day.
Next up was a brisk walk 1.5km up the road to the next Champagne house – Charles Mignon. This was very cool as the young winemaker showed us the facility himself and we not only got to taste 3 base wines straight out of the stainless steel tanks but we also tried 3 of their finished cuvées. Awesome as we paid only 5€ and that was suppose to be for 1 taste! I think it may have been a help that we are from New Zealand and that is where he is currently trying to get work for the next harvest!
After we had finished we had about 10 minutes to get back to the station, which involved brisk walking, jogging and finally sprinting through the Epernay train station to jump on our midday train to Champagnes other famed city – Reims. We made it huffing and puffing.
Once we got to Reims we had an easy breezy 1 and a half hours before our next Champagne appointment, which was 3kms out of the center. So we sat down in front of the beautiful Notre Dame and ate our baguette, Camembert and salami while taking in the magnificence of this huge cathedral. After lunch we made our way to the infamous Champagne House of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. The caves were highly impressive and of course the glass of Veuve to end the tour, like always was as scrumptious as ever. Although I have to admit that for more than the cost of our last 2 tours put together it was sadly a bit of a rip-off. Also our tour guide was the Justin Beiber fan of Veuve, which was rather intense, and a tad off-putting.
All in all it was a fabulous day and I only hope I can revisit the region again in my lifetime. We arrived back into Paris at about 7pm, grabbed a quick kebab from down the road and had an early night as it was time to hit the train tracks once again the next morning.