Holiday Homes In France
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Holiday Homes In France
The Champagne-Ardenne region of France
Champagne's proximity to Burgundy and the Lorraine Vosges means that it is easy to spend a day or two in these two regions too, if you have the time. Part of the Seine, the lovely River Marne the Meuse, the Canal des Ardenne and the Aisne flow through the region and mean opportunities to swim, canoe, take a cruise or fish and gain another perspective. Walking or cycling along the tow paths and off the beaten track reveals small villages and tiny hamlets undisturbed by the outside world. In summer, the great golden wheat fields of the Ardennes meander like a river against an intense blue sky and the forests are home to a flourishing wildlife.
Champagne was celebrated throughout Europe for centuries long before it was fizzy. Then Dom Pérignon created the first true sparking champagne in the late 1660's. Reims with its splendid cathedral where twenty five kings of France were crowned, is at the centre of the vineyards. Not surprisingly the vineyard villages that surround it are prosperous. Ay, close to Epernay, lies at the heart of some of the most distinguished vineyards and you can visit the cellars of individual champagne producers to taste and buy direct. Mailly, Verzenay, Villera-Marmery and Hautvillers are others.
Most of the great Champagne Houses are based in Reims or Epernay and have a labyrinth of underground cellars to visit.
The market town of Chaumont enjoys a lovely position between two rivers and Langres, at the gates of Burgundy, is a world apart, dignified and old.
You can always eat well in Champagne and food ranges from very rich to humble and hearty. Andouillette, small spicy sausages from Troyes served with a hot mustard sauce, smoked hams from the Ardennes or boudin, white sausages made with chicken, pâtés and terrines or a dandelion salad with bacon bits and potatoes, are common appetisers.
Pike in champagne sauce, pig's trotters slowly grilled and poached, ham wrapped in pastry, pidgeon, which have gorged on grapes, roasted and served on a bed of vine leaves, rabbit stewed in wine with plums and grapes, jugged hare, quail and wild boar, beef braised in beer, quenelles, freshwater fish mousse and trout make up some of the main dishes, together with locally grown vegetables or a simple salad.
The cheeses come from all over France and from neighbouring regions. Champagne cheeses include Barbery, a soft cheese cured in wood ash, Chaource, a delicate cow's milk cheese with a fruity taste, Langres, shaped like a cone, strong but fine in taste, Ery-le-Châtel, Chaumont and Carré de l'Est, similar to Camembert, are others.
Plum tarts, apples baked in pastry, little vanilla souffles, pancakes and waffles, meranges or soft, fruity gateaux finish off the meal. Look for the delicate macaroons from Reims, which you can dunk in a glass of champagne and spicey, honey gingerbread.
Still wines are also produced in abundance; red, white and rosé. Bouzy is a well known red wine, Rosé des Riceys comes from the Aube in the south of the region and is made only from the Pinot Noir grape. Ratafia is usually drunk as an aperitif, made by adding Cognac to freshly pressed grape juice.
The climate of the Champagne-Ardenne is as variable as the landscape. Summers are usually long, hot and dry, winters tend to be cold, crisp and clear.
Various international and other independent airlines operate services to Paris and there are connections to Reims-Champagne regional airport from there.
The area has good road connections and is served by the A 4, A 5 and A 26 motorways. The journey from Paris to Reims is about 80 minutes.
The TGV and SNCF trains operate extensive daily services to main destinations in the region with fast connections covering the whole of Champagne-Ardennes. Car hire can be easily arranged locally on arrival.