If you want to travel beyond Paris, be sure to consider the Champagne-Ardenne region and/or Burgundy. These two areas have so much to see and do that you will be very busy. And if you are a lover of champagne or fine wine, you will be in heaven.
When you pop a bottle of “champagne”, you can be sure it is produced right here in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. The lovely rolling hills dotted with vineyards cover the miles of champagne caves below-ground. The Champagne region of France is as magical as the nose-tickling champagne it produces.
Many of the famous Champagne houses such as Taittinger, Mumm, Pommery and Pieper-Heidsieck are located in Reims (pronounced RHANS.) While here, be sure to take a tour; the champagne tours are quite interesting and end with a few sips of the bubbly.
Reim’s Cathedral of Notre Dame is the place where twenty-five of France’s kings were crowned; it is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Next door is the Palais du Tau, a former archbishop’s palace that is now a museum housing treasures from the cathedral and the royal coronations. Although the cathedral and many other buildings in Reims were damaged during the war, they have been lovingly restored or reconstructed.
You may want to take the Routes du Champagne where sign-posted roads take you through the lovely Marne Valley to Epernay; which also contains famous Champagne houses, most notably, Moet & Chandon. Epernay is a charming little town with more than 200 miles of champagne cellars and tunnels underneath the city.
Troyes (pronounced TWAH) is located half way between Paris and Dijon. You will be amazed by the many 16th century, half-timbered homes still standing in this quaint old town. If you decide to visit, be sure to tour the many museums and churches. Troyes is also known for its many factory outlet stores located just outside the city – a bargain-hunter’s paradise.
The Burgundy region of France is one of our clear favorites. Burgundy, or as the French call it “Bourgogne” (pronounced Boor GONE yeh), offers unforgettable rolling-hill vistas of vinyards for as far as the eye can see, and it is at the crossroads between the north and south of France. Some of the most gorgeous towns can be found in this region as well as some quite spectacular wine. This region is home to significant Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals and monasteries. The following towns are well worth a visit: Autun, founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus, contains several Roman ruins. Auxerre (pronounced oh SAIR) is a perfect stopping place on the journey from Paris to Dijon. The ancient clock tower alone is worth the trip. Two ancient abbayes in this area are Cluny and Fontenay. Fontenay, built in the 12th century, has been restored to its early glory. The town of Cluny is charming although only a small portion of the original Abbaye de Cluny still stands today.
Dijon, the cultural and commercial capital of the region, is beautiful and well worth a few day’s stay. The Eglise Notre Dame dated from the 13th century is a spectacular church. The Musee Archeologique is located in the 1000 year old Abbaye de St Benigne and the Musee des Beaux-Arts is housed in the former home of the Dukes of Burgundy. It is regarded as one of the finest museums in Europe. The nearby Chateau du Clos de Vougeot is the headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Knights of Tastevin and it is open for visits.
Beaune, located about 25 miles south of Dijon along the famous Route de Grande Crus, is an exquisite town of winding medieval streets set in the midst of the region’s most celebrated vineyards. A must-see is the gorgeous Hotel Dieu, a former hospital that is now a spectacular museum. Be sure to also visit the Musee du Vin de Bourgogne, featuring the history of winemaking from ancient times to the present.
Burgundy wine is the star in this region accompanied by fine cuisine and the wonderful barge cruising on the lovely Burgundy canals. For a memorable road trip, take the picturesque drive along the Route de Bourgogne between Dijon and Santanay.
If you love France, you will love Champagne and Burgundy.
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com