The best way to start a tour of champagne is of course with a bit of royalty, and where could be worthier than Versailles.
With so many plans abated for so many over the past few, unbelievably now years- it was with near astonishment when with David and I checking into the hotel at Versailles that my brother David, Chris and Claire walked in behind us for brother David’s belated 70th birthday trip to champagne.
A quick check out of our rooms and then onto afternoon tea before our 4pm tour of the palace. However, this tour was a Whitney gathering and so of course the rain started the same time as the tour started, but thankfully we were on the inside part of the palace.
The palace, history etc are all that you would hope for and expect, and it really should be bucket list jobbie, even if it’s only to see the vastness of it from the outside. The mirror room was just overwhelming as you would expect from the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and of course the path of history laid out again.
A few hours are not enough to do the palace and gardens justice, but that was all we had as the rain continued, and there really was no point in trudging around the gardens in that. Plus of course, it’s always an excuse for another visit to do the immense gardens justice.
The next day it really was case of the tortoise and the hare, as we headed off in Buster at our steady 60 to 70 mph, while Peter the Porsche headed off hours later and of course arriving before us at our first champagne tasting- Mercier. It was a lovely, educational tour, with a trip around the 18 kilometers of caves on a little train finishing back at the visitors centre with a two glass tasting. (KW) Wine notes- very good!. Not quite good enough for a Greygapper purchase, never being ones to waste money, we don’t want to peak to early!.
Oddly, Mercier then directed us across the road to another champagne house (not a surprise as we were on Rue de Champagne) by the name of Elodie. A girl power house for the last few generations, where you could actually taste vintage champagne. (KW)Tasting notes- don’t bother. However, the lady was lovely, entertaining and gave us some free hats. Unfortunately, my brother seemed to think they made us all look like seaside donkeys and refused to wear his for long. Us GG’s, will take anything free if we can fit it in Buster, and so two of them are with us, along with the other four sun hats we have.
Tuesday, was the big birthday day which involved two tastings in Reims rather than Epernay. The first being with Martell, generally associated with brandy, but in fact one of the top ten champagne producers. Like all birthdays, along with the fact that we have a non drinker driver in our midst, we started the day with a glass of fizz, along with our bacon sarnies before heading to Martell’s for 11.30 and again like all birthdays should be the sun shone. Again, a cellar tour, but this time a bit more intimate and three tastings at the end. (KW) Tasting notes- excellent. Three bottles were purchased, including against better judgement, a vintage one. Vintage champagne is a difficult one, as the actual taste is hugely different to the young, fresh vibrant ones produced to be drunk. They do really need food and that’s something for us Brits that we’re not actually use to doing, so I’m hoping this one might do something for the Christmas turkey in one shape or another!.
Wednesday brought departure day for the two sets of Whitney’s, plus one Nolan, with D, C & C heading off to Rouen for their last few days, and the Whitney, Nolan sector heading further south to Spain, but not before we had had a marvellous goodbye lunch at the La Grillade Gourmande in Epernay. A wonderful few days were had with good food, good company and of course good champagne.
It was to be two long drives for us to get close to the Spanish border. The first stop was at Clermont Ferrand, a town for all things Michelin and David really would have loved to have visited the tyre museum there, but the call of the road was stronger and we eventually made it on the Friday evening to the beautiful historic town of Carcassonne, home of the cassoulet.
Two long drives are more than we usually do and so tensions were high on both those nights, but with glorious weather on the Saturday, a good stroll around the walled town and an exceptional lunch, which did include the local speciality of cassoulet, good humour was restored. That was until we just parked up at Camping Barcelona and there was a slight tiff with our new German neighbours.!
Peace has again been restored as we sit just outside Barcelona facing the sea, sun shining with a slight sea breeze.
What could be finer, oh perhaps a glass of fizz. After all you can never really have enough fizz!