So, part 1 of Euan’s birthday celebrations was a weekend exploring cocktail bars in London (you can read more about it here). Part two is all about drinking champers in Épernay!
I’ve come to realise I don’t like doing things in half. Such is the case for birthday celebrations nonetheless! My aim was to completely, utterly, and wholly surprise Euan with a trip away for his 30th. Mission = accomplished. He genuinely thought we were going back to Tavistock over his birthday (as if!). No siree, I had other things in mind…
But instead of a step-by-step of our time in France, I thought a bit of a ‘pointers’ blog post would be more useful. Amongst some pictures and anecdotes of our trip, obvs…!
There are no words to express how wonderful our stay was here. From the moment I booked, they were so attentive via email. Answering my many questions about the area & what to do, plus organising a birthday cake for Euan on my behalf and letting me decorate the breakfast table! (And – more to the point – clearing up afterwards!). Whilst at the hotel, the staff were incredibly friendly and asked lots of questions about what we were up to etc, taking a genuine interest in our time in Épernay.
They even gave us a glass of champagne each on Euan’s birthday as a celebration – simply fabulous.
Our room was stunning – modern but comfortable and we felt very, very fancy! (Always find myself judging a hotel on whether they provide Nespresso machines in the rooms… Yes, I’m a loser. But what a brilliant touch!).
An absolute must if you are staying in Épernay – I couldn’t find a single fault!
Food & Drink in Épernay
France did not disappoint on the restaurant front. Searching online was tricky as nothing looked any good, but I asked our hotel for some recommendations and trusted what they had to say. And I was right to do so! We had a wonderful spontaneous meal on our first night in beautiful restaurant in the centre of Épernay. Not drinking with your meal is most definitely not an option in France, so champagne for two it was!
The next day was Euan’s actual 30th birthday and (amongst champagne tours) I had booked lunch at a restaurant which came highly recommended (though didn’t look like much online) called Le Théâtre. I bit the bullet and said no to any alcohol with my meal (we had just been to a champagne house after all!), but Euan enjoyed even more champers in Épernay…
In the evening we dined at the ‘hot spot’ of Épernay’s cuisine scene, La Grillade Gourmande. It. Was. Amazing.
A family run restaurant where you were greeted by the head chef upon arrival, introduced to the wine bible (it probably weighed more than a baby elephant – it was enormous), and treated like royalty throughout.
Their sommelier took our wine order which is always the sign of a sophisticated establishment. And the food was absolutely divine. I didn’t feel like eating much, but I still managed to because it was just too bloody good to not! From start to finish, it was the perfect evening. And – more importantly – the perfect way to end Euan’s 30th birthday.
Champers in Épernay – the Tours
Now, the reason we went to Épernay in the first place… The champagne tours! We kick-started Euan’s birthday with a 10am private tour of Champagne De Castellane, and it was incredibly informative & interesting. Especially for Euan who loves facts about wine/champagne.
We visited the cellars, private collections, and were shown where the magic happens. At the end of the tour we had three (yes, three!) glasses of champagne each. Two Bruts and one Rosé, all of which were sublime (even at 11am….). Whether you’re a champagne enthusiast or not, I would definitely recommend this tour. After all, you’re surely only going to be in Épernay for the champagne anyway!
After lunch, we visited a slightly smaller family-owned Champagne house and learned a bit more about the variations of champagne making (not that there are many – there are so many rules!). And then drank even more champagne…
There are many champagne houses you can visit in Épernay, including Moet & Chandon. However I wouldn’t necessarily just go for the champagne houses you have heard of. We hadn’t heard of either of the ones we visited and I really enjoyed seeing more of the less commercialised places!
Travelling in France
We flew from Heathrow to Paris which was super fast & easy (plus we love an airport G&T!). The Eurostar is far more eco-friendly, and probably takes less time when you consider the airport malarky. And in normal circumstances I would’ve gone for that option, but as it was a birthday surprise I thought flying to France was more impactful!
We did, however, travel by train a lot when we got to France. Épernay is around 90 miles from Paris and much quicker to get there by train than car. Paris CDG airport is a little way away from Paris centre, so whether you’re thinking of visiting rural France or just sticking to Paris, you’ll still need to get yourself to central Paris either way.
It’s super simple, if you know what you’re doing. But you can’t pre-book tickets, so you’ll need to leave enough time to collect tickets from the airport. Signposts are everywhere, but you’re basically looking for the RER B train which will take you to Paris Gare du Norde.
From Gare du Norde you can get the Metro to where you need to be inside Paris. Or for farther locations you will probably need to get to Gare de l’Est station, which has local and rural trains going to most places. (This is where we got our train to Épernay from).
I make it sound like I’m an expert, but I’m really not! In fact, my cousin’s boyfriend, Nick, recommended an app called Citymapper and it is honestly life changing. Especially in a foreign country! It makes knowing which signs to follow soooooo much easier, and gave me the confidence that we were on the right train (even when I knew we were – always good to have confirmation haha!). If you are travelling anywhere, you absolutely must download this app!!!
The train services in France were generally speaking really smooth & efficient, even when trying to navigate central Paris! Travel is always stressful, but we did amazingly well and luckily absolutely nothing went wrong!
So there you have a slightly long-winded review of drinking champers in Épernay, some recommendations, and a few top tips!
As December is nearly here, I am going to be all over the Christmas content for the next couple of weeks… Watch this space!