Finally, it is Friday, it’s 7am and I am off to find Gare du L’est train station. Of course I am feeling very comfortable about finding a train station where I can catch a train there and meet up with the tour group. But no it was not that simple. First of all you have to find an entrance where they sell tickets! Once again I found myself walking all the way to Republique but in the meantime, as luck would have it I found a beautiful bakery and bought Breakey-French style! The best Croissant I have tasted yet!
Finally I arrive at Gare du L’est and it is beautiful!
There I meet the fabulous Neil and together with two of the other guests we catch the train to Epernay. Throughout the train ride, Neal told us all about champagne and even about how the area was affected by the wars. It took a little while to get used the e-bikes but once we did -it was fun! After purchasing some lunch, we took off! The hills were not only steep but took ages to climb.
There were times, however and we were allowed a takeoff! Needless to say, yours truly managed to beat the motor, that only goes to 26km and get up to 34 km/hr. It felt so good to have the wind in my face and to be riding again. Can’t wait to get home to ride again! There is a real sense of freedom and being released from constraints of life when I am riding. That said, riding around champagne was wonderful – it was everything I thought riding in France would entail.
We visit a Premier Cru winery, called Phillipe Martin and we were given a tour of the cellar and shown the processes used to make champagne. Then the tasting! Here we enjoyed a sit down tasting out in the terrace area and we managed do enjoy about six champagnes including a vintage 2008.
After that we rode up to the abbey where Dom Pierre Perrignon, a monk, lived, worked and developed champagne – the drink.
There we had a picnic with the food we bought earlier in the day. Of we also had a glass of champagne with our picnic overlooking the valley of Epernay. The picture doesn’t do the scene justice. It was magnificent!
The next challenge was to travel down a very, very, very steep incline – and yes I did it. Thankfully we weren’t allowed to go fast but it was so hard not to!!!
We ended up back at Mercier, just past Moet and Chandon, where we enjoyed a train ride through the cellars – not quite the 18 kms that are underground there.
While at Mercier I started to run out of puff so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride without listening to the audio guide. As we rode home on the train I closed my eyes and enjoyed a bit of a snooze! Mind you it was just as well because my evening suddenly became hugely entertaining!
Arriving back from Epernay, my use of the Metro was much smoother and I arrived at the hotel around 7.30pm – expecting to be late for tae reception dinner that was Are first official function of the tour. You can imagine my horror when I saw that we were meant to meet in the foyer at 5pm, have a bit of a bus tour and go out for lunch. Anyway there was a number to ring and I managed to make contact with our Tour Guide who’s name just happens to be David! Anyway, they all returned in half an hour and a couple of us sat down and had a drink – and did that turn into a bit of a saga! In drying to have a meal and sit out in the courtyard I was forced to make a decision about eating. After chatting for awhile with some lovely people, I decided to move into the dinning room where no-one proceeded to serve me. As you can imagine by ahs’s stage I was feeling somewhat affronted when they knew I wanted to order something and Ney could not even give me a menu! So up to the bar I go and when I asked to pay for the wine, they wanted to know what I was doing because the thought I wanted to eat! When I told them that I was going elsewhere, they suddenly started apologising and offered to cancel my bill for the wine. Then before I knew it, they were offering anodhe glass of wine on the house. When I said no, that I had already dunk champagne all day and needed to eat, the manager suddenly started pouring me no less than a Moet and Chandon champagne! Well of course, ahat could not go to waste and so I sat back down with my new friends. proceeded do enjoy a lovely drop of champagne. Then l said goodnight to my friends and walked out to the cafe where I had dinner at on the first night.
As I sat outside and waited for my meal, Legumes Pasta, l became aware that over the road, the Italian-style cafe where l had been the previous night had someone playing me guitar live. The best part about that was I could sit and eat at my preferred cafe for dinner and listen to some beautiful music.
As I sat there, I began to reflect on my day and it occurred to me that all day, today, I had been surrounded by people who spoke fluent English. It made me realise that it would be very difficult to develop my language skills any further if I only spoke to English-speaking people. It also made me realise that when I am able to speak fluently the words pour out of my mouth like water down a waterfall. In some ways it was a relief to finally be able to talk without thinking too much but then on the other hand it was kind of nice not having to have to contribute to a conversation all the time. Of course I also began to think about how we, as Anglo people often expect people to speak, read and write fluently in English and we often speak critically about how different ethnic groups all tend to live in the same area. I wonder if people from a non English speaking background feel like they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the choice of mixing with people who speak the same language and feeling connected to others or who speak a language that is different, that they are forced to learn to assimilate regardless of their ability to learn a new language and who remain isolated from most. A longwinded sentence but hopefully you get the gist! The vegetable pasta was absolutely wonderful and the coffee still absolutely a favorite!
Anyway, as I am sitting there, a father and daughter from Canada who are also on my tour, walk by and decide to join me for dessert. I have discovered a new term: cafe gourmand. In other words, a coffee and a selection of three mini desserts! This time is was a very delicious panacotta, creme de brillee and chocolate mousse. I was very happy but because it was my second coffee for the night the waiter was worried I’d be awake all night. He didn’t believe me when I tried to reassure him that I would! After that it was one very exhausted Janet who went to bed!