Our Do-It-Yourself Visit To Champagne


Champagne

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been quite surprised by how long it took us to visit France’s Champagne region. Especially given how much we enjoy the famous local product.

I always thought that we would have to do a tour of the area, but I could never find one that quite suited our needs. And despite me asking anyone and everyone for a tour recommendation, the responses I got were usually a bit underwhelming.

Eventually, after a bit more questioning and a lot more reading, I worked out that you could essentially craft your own tour of the Champagne region – and its famous Champagne houses.

And that’s exactly what we did during one of our visits to France.

To help out anyone else who might be keen to explore the area, here are our do-it-yourself suggestions for visiting the Champagne region of France.

One – Decide which Champagne houses you want to visit

A massive number of choices make this step easier said than done. All of the well known (and many of the lesser known) Champagne houses seem to offer a variety of guided visits for you to choose from. And the on-line reviews aren’t a lot of help – apparently every visit of every is house is considered the very best!

Like anything, you only seem to be limited by the time you have available and your budget. However, it appears that for many of the guided visits, booking is essential, so you really are best to give it some thought before you go.

Given Scott and I were only planning to be in the region for one day, we really wanted to see and learn as much as possible. We were also keen to see the crayères or chalk mines the region is famous for. So we centred our ‘house research’ around the houses in Reims that offer tours of the mines.

After much deliberation, we decided to make a very big day of it and visit both the houses of Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart.

Veuve Clicquot offers three different guided visits at various times and price points. I reserved our visit in advance via the internet and paid for it on the day of our visit.

Ruinart offers one style of guided visit at different times of the day. These visits must be pre-booked and paid for in advance. We booked in for the 4:00pm time slot so we would have time for lunch and to visit the famous Reims cathedral between our Champagne house visits.

Two – Get yourself to the Champagne Region from Paris. And get yourself back again

I guess you could hire a car from Paris if you were

a) Brave enough to drive in Paris; and

b) didn’t want to taste any bubbly.

Unsurprisingly, we decided to take the train.

Our extremely fast, super smooth TGV service left Paris at 8:00am from Gare de l’Est (also known as Paris-Est) and delivered us to Reims in around 45 minutes. You can book and pay for your train tickets in advance on line. But do make sure that your destination is Reims rather than the Gare de Champagne-Ardenne. Stopping there would leave you in a difficult spot, about five kilometres south of Reims itself.

Although we didn’t do it, it would be easy to take a connecting train to the capital of the Champagne region, Épernay. Apparently Épernay itself is beautiful and worth a visit in its own right. I’ve definitely put it on the to-do list for a future trip.

Returning to Paris was equally easy, with trains returning to Paris regularly. Again, the travel time was only 45 minutes.

Of course, with the luxury of more time, you could easily stay in the area for longer. There were many forms of accommodation in Reims. Perfect if you felt like exploring more of the area – or spacing out your champagne tastings!

Three – Getting around the area

Regular readers will be aware that Scott and I tend to do a lot of walking while we are in France. There’s one reason for that – you just get to see so much more.

And while we were in Reims, it was no different. We arrived in Reims at 8.45am, checked out a map at the Tourist Information Centre (which is conveniently located at the station) and then started walking. The town of Reims is really quite charming, despite suffering a fair amount of damage due to bombing in World War Two. A number of older buildings remain intact, with squares and green areas providing space for visitors and locals alike.

We were due at Veuve Clicquot at 10:00am. As it happens, Veuve Clicquot is the house farthest from the railway station, on the outskirts of Reims. The walk itself took a little over 30 minutes so we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

That said, other visitors on both our morning and afternoon tours chose to take taxis which seemed to be in good supply, with the staff at the Champagne houses ordering taxis for visitors at the end of the tours.

We also had time to walk back into the centre of Reims between our visits to the houses for lunch and to visit the gothic Reims cathedral.

All in all, our do-it-yourself visit to Champagne worked a treat. We had a fantastic day in a beautiful town. And I would recommend the DIY option to anyone else struggling to select a tour of the region.

Have you ever visited Reims? Did you take a tour? Or did you go with a Do-It-Yourself visit to Champagne? Do you have a favourite Champagne House? I’d love for you to share your experience in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.

Check out another of our Do-It-Yourself French Wine Region Tours here.

 


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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14 thoughts on “Our Do-It-Yourself Visit To Champagne

  • Veronica Sance

    I will be visiting Paris in December. I am glad a found your pg. Any more suggestions .I’m very adventurous so I am going to try your DIY tour. So glad you mentioned that Veuve Clicout house is the furthest away from train. Which houses are cloest to the track n station?

    • Janelle Post author

      From memory, Pommery was closer than Veuve Veronica. You might like to check this link to help you with your ‘champagne tour’ planning http://www.reims-tourism.com/Discover/Champagne/The-Champagne-Houses You’ll have a fabulous trip in December – it’s an excellent time to visit Paris. If you can swing a trip to Strasbourg (depending on your time frames and other plans….the train ride might be too lengthy and therefore potentially expensive) I would definitely recommend it. The Christmas markets are absolutely sensational.

  • Sherry

    I’m so glad I found your site. I’m in the middle of planning our trip for September and started to question whether or not a trip to Reims is worth it. I’m back on to thinking it is 😉 Thank you for the details!

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for the kind words Sherry. We loved our visit and I’ve had feedback from many readers who felt the same about Reims. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you travel safe, and have a fabulous time!

  • joLC

    Thank you for all the info 🙂 Your post helped a lot. We are considering a DIY tour to Eperany. Any pointers for this specific region? Would you say all your tips can be transferd to Eperany? I am aware that it is a longer train ride. I just wouldn’t know what else to do after visiting Moet & Chandon. We would grab lunch in Eperany before heading back- Hoping it is easy to get around…

  • Nicole

    You have answered all my frustrations! I am venturing away from the tours and planning my own! THANK YOU for helping with the ease.

  • Jason Collado

    We are headed to Paris in the next week & have been several times already. We travel myself, wife & daughter & plan on following your itinerary to Reims. Rather than doing 10am tour in your estimation could we tour the town cathedral/lunch & than do nboth tours in afternoon & wed integrate cabs/walking to afford more time?? Would love your feedback. Also, have you done the day trip from Paris to Bruges? If you have, I’d love to hear your input. Thanks in advance for any info.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks for your comment Jason – I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip. I’ll answer your final question first….Unfortunately, we’ve not yet travelled to Bruges so I can’t offer any assistance on that point – I’m so sorry. Perhaps you can share your experience here after you’ve done the trip to assist other travellers. In terms of your time in Reims, our itinerary was driven by the 10am Aromatically Yours tour at Veuve Clicquot. That particular tour only ran once a day in the morning while we were there – it also happened to be their longest, most comprehensive tour of the day. If you were happy to take one of their Discovery or Madame Clicquot tours, you could definitely maximise your time by doing the cathedral/lunch first and then heading out to the Champagne Houses. I do recommend you book regardless of which tours you decide to do. That way you won’t be disappointed if the tour is popular and you’ll also be very clear about your time frames and itinerary. Travel safe.