The Champagne Ardenne region of France
Champagne, or Champagne-Ardenne, is best known for the production of the sparkling white wine that bears the regionís name, and is the most northerly region in France.
Champagne can only be made from grapes from the area that centres on the town of Reims, which has its own airport. Itís possible to tour the various champagne cellars in this area, many of which offer tasting opportunities. The countryside is covered with rows of vines and wineries.
A visit to the cellars of Mercier begins with a lift that takes you down past a series of dummies enacting scenes from the history of the company. A train then takes you around the cellars. Taittinger have what many believe to be the most spectacular cellars. Bottles are stored in underground pyramidal chambers, called crayaires. The cellars also include the 15th century crypt of the church of St. Nazaire. The best places to stock up with champagne at reasonable prices are the smaller proprietaires. Champagne also has a range of regional dishes. Some recipes use the produce of champagne houses.
Reims is the principal city of the region and its highlight is its magnificent Gothic cathedral: Most of the kings of France were crowned there. Other must sees are the fine-arts museum, the historical museum and the Place Royale. The best way to see the surrounding area is by canal barge tour, which can last from a few days to a week.
Champagne is also noted for its rolling landscapes, immense forests, deep gorges and vast rivers. It is full of geographical contrasts, dominated by lakes, rivers, canals and forests. There are huge reserves and parks, and the vineyards stretch for miles. Spectacular caves can be visited under the cities of Reims, Epernay, Aˇ and Ch‚lons-en-Champagne, as well as in many other towns and villages.
Vineyards are cultivated alongside chalky hills that aer the remnants of a build-up of maritime sediments dating back 200 million years. There are planty of opposrtunities for a relaxing break. Try the deep forest of Arduinna en Celte with its thousand paths leading you to the heart of untamed natural sites, or the lakes and rivers offering fishing, bathing, sailing, canoeing and yachting. This is a land of lakes, forests and ponds filled with fish, the ideal setting for a country break.