Monday, July 4, 2011

Castles, Cows, and Champagne

What do castles, cows, and champagne all have in common?  They all played a part in our fantastic weekend away!  I knew that Dustin was taking me to the Champagne region last weekend, but I didn't know where we would be staying or exactly what we would be doing there. 

So, after Dustin got home from work on Friday, we went to pick up a rental car.  Dustin told me the drive to our hotel would be about an hour and a half.  After we got out of suburban Paris, the roads were relatively free of traffic and we were cruising along with farmland on either side of us.  It was nice to be out in the open!  As we got closer and closer to our destination, I noticed that we were getting closer and closer to the middle of nowhere!  And that is when we pulled up to our "hotel" - Chateau de Fere.  At first, I thought Dustin just wanted to show me this beautiful castle.  Then, he told me that he had booked a room here and we would be staying for the weekend!  I was thrilled!  I mean, this is every girl's dream, right?  I was going to get to play princess for the weekend!

This is the back of the chateau.

Also on the property of the chateau were ruins of an old castle!

As soon as we checked-in and dropped our luggage off, we set out to explore the ruins.  When we first entered the ruins, there was a set of stairs that went down into a cave-like area.  Since no one was around, I dared Dustin to go down and see what was at the bottom of the steps.  He took a few steps down (while I was at the top nervously watching) and all of a sudden a bat started flapping around his head!  I have never seen him run up a set of stairs so fast in my life!  Of course I screamed and took of running as well.  :) 

After our blood pressure went down a bit, we looked around for a place to have a picnic in the ruins.  We watched the sun set from this old castle, wondering who had built it and how many people had watched the sun set from the same place.  

Dustin with our picnic supplies.

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast in the chateau's dining room, we set out for Reims.  It took us about 45 minutes and the drive was breathtaking!

Reims is the home of many champagne houses.  We headed straight for Mumm and got to do a tour of the cellars and a tasting.

30 meters underground in the champagne cellar.

This part of the cellar was behind a locked gate.  Only the cellar master has a key.  It is hard to see in this picture, but there are bottles of champagne stored here that go all the way back to 1895!  Every once in awhile, the old bottles are opened and tasted to make sure that the same quality of champagne is still being produced.

After our tour, we walked around the city of Reims for awhile.  Here are some old Roman ruins that marked the entrance of an old Roman city!

The Cathedral in Reims - many coronations of French kings happened here.

On our drive back to the chateau, we stopped at an American Cemetery from World War I.  Many American soldiers lost their lives in the Champagne region.  Seeing the American Flag flying next to all of the white crosses, especially on the weekend of the 4th, made me so proud to be an American. 

Once we were back at the chateau, we headed to the pool for a couple of hours and then got ready for dinner.  Our dinner was another surprise that Dustin had planned for me.  Apparently the chef at the chateau is very famous in France.  We sat on the back terrace of the chateau, with a view of the ruins, and had a 7 course meal!  I have never had anything like it!  It was probably the best meal I've ever had, not to mention the most memorable setting!

Sunday morning we had another fabulous breakfast at the chateau (although we were still full from the night before!) and then took off for Epernay, another town in Champagne.  The entire route was very scenic...we even got to get up close and personal with some cows!  Notice that this cow is OUTSIDE of the fence!  We were a little nervous driving past it... :)

Beautiful French countryside


In Epernay, we visited Moet & Chandon, another Champagne House.

There's something a little funny about seeing a monk with a champagne bottle...

The cellar of Moet and Chandon.

This time, our tasting was underground in the cellars!

BRRR!!  It was cold so far under the ground!

Finally, we headed back to Paris.  Again, the drive was stunning!

More vineyards.

A field of sunflowers!!

Thanks to the best husband in the world for making our anniversary celebration so special!  This is one we will never forget!