A Day in Champagne Country

moves, travel, what I'm drinking, where I've been, wine
Trésors de Champagne’s illuminating ceiling in Reims, France

It is time, my friends, to talk about Europe.

There’s no real explanation on why I’ve held off on telling you all about the beauty that is France, Switzerland, and Italy, but that writer’s block has passed, and I’m ready to tell you all about the Old Country.

I’ll start off with Reims.

When roundtrip tickets to Paris are only $400, what do you do? You book tickets to Paris, that’s what you do. After a memorable study abroad trip, l’Italia era nella mia mente and I finally found an inexpensive ticket to get there. (I may have booked first then told my boss after I was going to be gone for two weeks. YOLO.)

I knew I had many options of how I was going to travel, but I knew my best bet would be by train. After all, there’s fast trains that take you all over Europe. I knew the one from Paris to Florence would take a day at least, so we decided to make a trip out of it. Starting with a little break to ease our jet lag in Reims.

Reims, France

Pronounced RAHMs, this quaint little town’s main attraction is being in the heart of Champagne country. I know that the meaning of “Champagne” has been lost in translation as some of you consider it as any kind of fancy white bubbly. NO. Erase that debauchery out of your head at once. In French wine country, wines are known and honored by region, and Champagne is no different. Only wine grown and bottled in Champagne can be called Champagne. The perfect trifecta of the grape varietals Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, Champagne used to only be exclusive to the elite and royal.

Reims was relatively easy to get to by French TGV (their fast train line) from Charles De Gaulle Airport as they have a train station at the airport. We exchanged trains at Marne la Vallée Chessy (aka Disneyland Paris) which then took us to Champagne-Ardenne. From Champagne-Ardenne, we took a quick regional train to Gare de Reims, only a ten minute walk from our Airbnb.

Reims was quiet at night, but by morning was bustling with pedestrians and bikers who, I kid you not, seemed to all be carrying loaves of crispy fresh baguettes. We ate at Maison et Tartine, which also doubled as a boutique decor shop, making our breakfast super homey. We made the mistake of thinking we could just go to these grand Champagne houses and pay a tasting fee like we do in the States but no. You must make a reservation or book in advance. Honestly, I didn’t really plan our day in Reims as it was only a stopover, but we did want to drink bubbly as what else are you supposed to do in Champagne country?

Champagne tasting & history lesson in Veuve Clicquot’s crayère cellars

We snagged an English-speaking tour at Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin where we ventured down into crayère (chalk) caves that Champagne bottles are stored and rotated. As we sipped on flutes of their peachy vanilla Yellow Label Brut, our lovely tour guide told us the story about widow Lady Clicquot, a business woman who made the best of her circumstances after inheriting a dwindling vineyard in 1805. After, we checked out their Insta-worthy boutique shop and personalized airstream trailer.

Our tour guide then pointed us in the direction of this amazing growers champagne tasting room called Trésors de Champagne. In the past, Champagne houses such as Veuve Clicquot, G.H. Mumm, and Moët & Chandon would collect only the best harvests from surrounding French vineyards, but in the last fifty years, those same vineyards are making a name for themselves by developing their own concoctions of bubbly. At Trésors, you could opt for a flight, glass, or bottle from their library of only growers champagne. Needless to say, after an afternoon of Champagne, we passed out at our Airbnb (only to wake up at 10 p.m. and cure our bubbly coma with moules frites or steamed mussels and fries at l’Édito).

Trésors de Champagne’s interactive tasting room had informative bottles you could pull from the ceiling that coincided with its library and regional map of Champagne, which took up the entire floor.

Next on the blog: The Swiss Alps

What to Do in New Orleans, Louisiana

moves, travel, where I've been

It had been awhile since I had been back in the Bayou. I went in 2014 to visit my aunt and uncle who worked as teachers in Belle Chasse, just 10 minutes southeast of the city. I’ll never forget the end of that 11ish hour drive when we arrived to a feast of crawfish, oysters, and shrimp étouffée.

I’ll love New Orleans forever because of that.

I went back this past Labor Day weekend to celebrate Danielle, someone who has become a soul sister to me for the past five years. We bonded over breadsticks and margaritas and Southside karaoke during our time at Mizzou and have stayed close ever since. It’s so nice to have someone in your life that you will always just click with no matter how long it’s been. The same goes for places like New Orleans.

Without further ado, here’s what I recommend doing if you’re ever in NOLA:

THE FRENCH QUARTER

I can still hear the thunder rumbling in the background as this violinist performed. The French Quarter is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited the States. Not only is it steeped in colonial history, it’s one of the most diverse corners of America that continues to celebrate its multiracial roots. There’s Spanish, French, Creole, Natives, and Africans who have all contributed to La NouvelleOrléans in some way, shape, or form. We took a Saints and Sinners Tour with Justin, who knew his shit while getting shit at the same time from the locals (seriously, someone give this guy a raise). He told us about General Bienville, who I imagine to be this hot 19-year-old French military man who tattooed himself with local tribe marks to get along with the 40+ native tribes who inhabited the area. He also tricked the British to not attack the rising French settlement. New Orleans history is as wild and scandalous as you could imagine it to be as it was a port of entry for many immigrants during the start of the New World. Home of Bourbon Street, Royal Street, Jackson Square, and the best freakin’ food I’ve ever had.

EAT & DRINK

New Orleans cuisine is a whole other level of Southern home cooking. I would fly across the country for its aforementioned seafood, along with seafood gumbo, shrimp po boys, and some of the best sweets I’ve ever had in my life here.

These cookies from Willa Jean were probably the best cookies I’ve ever had. Sea salt, peanut butter, and chocolate chunks with a glass of milk AND cookie dough on the side. God bless.

Must-Go Spots: Cafe du Monde (sit down wherever there’s an open seat and your server will clean your table and bring you treats!), Palace Cafe, Saint Cecilia, Riccobono’s Panola Street Cafe, Willa Jean, Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street, Fat Catz, Pat O’Brien’s, Saints & Sinners

SHOP

Mosey on over to the corner of French Market Place and Barracks Street to start the demise of your credit card… just kidding. Bring cash. There’s an open air French Flea Market that sells everything such as local art, clothing, and jewelry. I found lots of little trinkets to take home, plus there’s food stalls at the end so you can cool down and refuel.

ART

Pink Satin and White Fur by Daniel Bilodeau at Red Truck Gallery

I highly advise spending an afternoon strolling through Royal Street. I was invited to check out the Red Truck Gallery (who’s hosting a brilliant exhibit curated by ThinkSpace at the moment) and its sister gallery right across the street. I found this amazing piece that gives me all the Alice in Wonderland vibes, as well as art pieces that reflect the modern revolution of sex, feminism, and the environment.

Jackson Square used to be where prisoners met their executioner, but now is lined with tons of local art, shops, and the occult. I met an artist who actually grew up in Leadville, CO but is now happily selling portraits of silly animals. 🙂