Off To France

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The Palsson family leaves Germany this week and discovers France. As they journey through Europe, they’re inspiring all of us to take on new adventures, try new things, and find time to have fun as a family. Read what’s happening in the Discover the World section of the Homer app and see where you’re inspired to go.

Champagne Region: Surprisingly Fun with Kids

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We leave Germany for France this week! On our way, we decide to hit up a few other countries. Why not?!

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We stop in Soy, Belgium to visit an amazing brewery, Fantome. My husband emails with the brewer, Dany, who will be too busy brewing today to show us around. Another time. So we stop by the old farmhouse where the magic happens and proceed to a cute little spot for lunch, La Command’Rie. They let us buy Fantome by the glass, and we all decide Belgium food is our favorite so far.

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We also stop in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The old city wall there is incredible. Just wow. It overlooks more of the city below, with a river and an old bridge built in the 1200s. It is breathtaking.

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We arrive in Reims that same day and settle into our new Airbnb. Lillian has been talking about this one for months, so she starts jumping up and down when she realizes she finally gets to sleep in the bed with the slide. Forget seeing the world. All you really need is a bed with a slide, apparently.

Reims, France is an interesting town. While it’s known as the center of the Champagne world, it really is so much more. First we love that it is small enough to walk all the way through and around, with kids. While most of the town may look ordinary (if you can say that about anything in Europe), we stumble upon beautiful old places, like an old Abbey and ruins of amazing sites destroyed during the Revolution. It’s full of charming surprises.

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Taittinger is located in town, and they don’t require reservations for the tours they operate throughout the day. While California wine tours spend time showing you the fermentation tanks and explaining the science of making wine, this tour focuses on the impressive caves storing an incredible number of bottles of Champagne. These caves and passageways date back to Roman times. The small, short chisel marks on the wall give you an idea of the amount of work it took to build these caves. It’s impressive. Parts of the cellar used to be an abbey, so you can see a couple staircases that used to lead up to different parts of the abbey and original doors from the 12th century. These caves were also used by Reims citizens during World War I, and there are some markings on the walls left from that time too. It’s fascinating. The glass of champagne at the end of the tour is nice too.

We take a day trip to Epernay, only 25km south of here and the center of the Champagne region.There are many small towns surrounding Epernay, and we stop in Hautvillers. It’s a cute old town, with the church where Dom Perignon, the monk who made champagne what it is today, is buried. I find the tastings at the local shops here off-putting, as they charge around 5 Euros for a “tasting”, which is just a small glass of one type of Champagne. In this regard, I prefer California wine tasting, where I get a bit of education and the opportunity to taste and compare different styles side-by-side.

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We’re delighted to find Au 36 in Hautvillers. They provide side-by-side tastings and yummy snacks to accompany them. They even offer grape juice tasting made up of a white and red juice from local grapes. The kids feel very sophisticated. The white, made from Muscat grapes, is the favorite.

Epernay has many nice restaurants, but be sure to make reservations. They fill up, and everything closes at 2pm. We lingered in Hautvillers too long, so we had to pick up sandwiches somewhere. My impression of Epernay is not great. The champagne houses all seem super commercial and a bit snobby. I’d spend time elsewhere in the Champagne region.

We drive “The Champagne Route” on the way home. There are 3 different routes, very clearly labeled. It’s a very nice thing the region has done for visitors. We drive through fields of vines and through tiny towns. It is unbelievably charming. I would have preferred spending more of the day doing this than in Epernay. We feel like we got a complete Champagne experience though.

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One last gem to share. To the side of Les Halles, we discover a cool space behind the shops on a walking street. It is so hipster, with umbrellas hanging from lines overhead and seats made from reclaimed wood and tin barrels. There are a few food carts selling champagne, beer and hamburgers. Perfection. The kids run around with the perfect balance of crazy to get out energy and restraint to not irritate everyone else there. Or so I hope. A nice last impression of this adorable town.

Have you spent time in the Champagne region? I’d love to hear what you loved and didn’t!

Next Stop: Paris! #TravelWithHomer