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Guide to The Champagne Ardenne Region of France
The Champagne Ardenne region (often called simply Champagne) is celebrated for the sparkling wine after which it is named and its production dominates most aspects of life in the region. The region is also noted for its rolling landscapes, immense forests, deep gorges and vast rivers.
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Introduction to Champagne-Ardenne
Until the nineteenth century, Champagne-Ardenne was best known for the French royal coronations, which took place in beautiful Reims cathedral. Now, the region is known all over the world for the king of wines: Champagne. The name is synonymous with those glorious golden bubbles - and champagne production certainly dominates the region - but the word is derived from the Latin campagna, meaning countryside or plains, and this area also boasts some of France’s most spectacular scenery. You’ll find magnificent lakes, rivers and canals, forests with thriving wildlife, vast nature preserves and parks, rolling wooded hills and miles of glorious vineyards stretching into infinity.
The four départements of Ardennes, Marne, Aube and Haute-Marne comprise a land steeped in history, where charming towns and villages demand to be explored. A land where traditional hospitality flourishes alongside fine cuisine, where champagne growers share their sparkling secrets and the landscape invites your participation through walking, riding, cycling, swimming, boating or simply soaking up the view.
Modern pleasures are not ignored. Nigloland is a stunning family amusement park, Troyes boasts hundreds of factory shops and the eastern TGV line can whisk you to Paris on a bullet train to enjoy a whirlwind day trip.
Vineyard tours, cellars and the Champagne Routes
Champagne's vineyards are cultivated on chalky hillsides, the remnants of a build-up of maritime sediments dating back some 200 million years. The deep, chalky subsoil stores the sun's heat and wraps the vine roots in warmth; it assures perfect drainage and preserves humidity in the soil, as well as supplying mineral elements to the vines. This happy combination, together with the local climate, produces grapes that give Champagne wines their unique characteristics and finesse.
In the Champagne-Ardenne region are the homes of world renowned champagne houses and cellars. Explore cavernous, spectacular cellars beneath the streets of Reims, Epernay, Aÿ and Châlons-en-Champagne and discover smaller stores of bottled gold in many other towns and villages, especially in the Marne and Aube départements of Champagne.
The Champagne Routes – 220 km in all - are designed for visitors who want to discover how the famous wine is made, taste different brands, learn how best to enjoy bubbly and take home a few bottles or boxes. There are two main circuits:
The Route Touristique du Champagne runs from the renowned wine city of Reims to Villenauxe-la-Grande, taking in Epernay on the River Marne en route
The Route du Champagne dans l'Aube is located in the southern areas of champagne production not far from Troyes and the valleys of the Rivers Aube and Seine.
Many Champagne houses in Reims, Epernay and along the Champagne Routes offer the chance to absorb yourself in champagne for a few hours. Enjoy guided tours and wine tastings, along with demonstrations of and instruction in the skills of pressing, fermenting, blending, bottling, disgorging, dosing and labelling. Some houses include lunch – accompanied of course by champagne! It is best to book in advance for these day events and check the cost. Look out for the “point d'accueil” welcome point label, awarded to some vineyards by a panel of tourist and wine professionals.
Cities and Towns in Champagne-Ardennes
Reims is the city of the coronation of the Kings of France, where you can hail the Smiling Angel and visit the amazing Gallo-Roman chalk-pits.
Epernay, the capital of Champagne, reveals secrets behind the bubbles in the famous Avenue de Champagne.
Troyes is a medieval city with cobbled streets and coloured timber framed houses, the capital of the Counts of Champagne.
Chalons en Champagne, capital of the Champagne- Ardenne region, has a historic cathedral and is home of the Joseph Perrier cellar. A touristic bus tour takes in the main sights
Langres boasts ancient fortifications to explore and a fascinating arts and crafts museum
Colombey-les-deux-Eglises is the burial place of General Charles de Gaulle.
Essoyes houses the workshop of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the famous Impressionist artist. His wife and sons are buried in the village cemetery.
Hautvillers is the town where Champagne was invented, with a reconstruction of Dom Pérignon's cellar and laboratory in the abbey museum.
Places of Interest in Champagne Ardennes
Arduinna en Celte is a deep forest with a thousand mysterious paths, leading you to the unspoiled natural sites that lie at at its heart
Orient Forest Nature Park is close to Troyes and is a vast area with beautiful lakes and fascinating flora and fauna
Haute-Marne has vast areas of forest and is a centre for basketry and cutlery-making Bourbonne-les-Bains gives you the chance to enjoy a visit to the thermal baths
Nigloland family amusement park is in a magnificent natural setting and a great draw for youngsters. Attractions include the mine train, haunted manor, Space experience and Village Rock n Roll.
Troyes Factory Shops: Well-known for its long tradition of textiles and home to the Lacoste brand, Troyes now offers a wide range of major brands at great prices in over 200 factory outlet shops.
Paris day trips and connections
Champagne-Ardenne is located just east of Paris, making France’s capital city, with all its art, culture, sights and romance, easily accessible for a day trip or overnight stay. SNCF trains go to Paris from numerous towns in the region and TGV ‘bullet’ trains speed to the capital from major towns and cities. The journey from Reims on this service takes just 45 minutes. Connections at Paris terminals also make it easy to take the Eurostar from London or south-eastern England to visit Champagne-Ardenne.
Activities in Champagne-Ardenne
Vineyard visits, champagne tasting and learning production methods
Gourmet dining in a region renowned for its fine cuisine as well as its wines
Water sports including fishing, swimming, water skiing, sailing, canoeing and boating
Hiking and biking, including excursions based on a local theme. Various routes allow the visitor to seek off-the-beaten-track attractions of special interest, such as Rimbaud and Verlaine country, the legends of the Meuse and Semoy and historic fortifications.
Discovering and observing outstanding flora and fauna.
Horse riding on a vast network of rides through glorious countryside
Hunting in the forests
The Champagne-Ardenne's climate is as variable as its terrain. Winters tend to be cold, crisp and clear; summers are warm and relatively dry.
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Getting to Champagne Ardenne
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 A4 and A26 motorways. The journey from Calais to Reims is about 275km and will take around 2.5 hours.
SNCF trains go from Paris to numerous towns in the Champagne-Ardenne region and TGV ‘bullet’ trains speed to the capital from major towns and cities. The journey from Reims on this service takes just 45 minutes. Connections at Paris terminals also make it easy to take the Eurostar from London or south-eastern England to visit Champagne-Ardenne.
Champagne-Ardennes (AA Road Map France S.)
Champagne/Ardenne: Touring Map Including a Guide to 4 Popular Scenic Routes (French Road Maps S.)
Channel Hoppers Guide to Champagne Ardenne (Channel Hoppers Guides)