Champagne, Champagne, (and more) Champagne - Day 35
Essoyes Travel Blog› entry 21 of 30 › view all entries
(Jenni will be writing this blog - not to say that Eli doesn't write wonderful blogs, but if I let him write, you will have many pages of boring wine-stuff to read. So here we go.)
Up to today, we have taken trains and Metros everywhere we have gone. Our next host stated in their email that we needed to rent a car in order to stay with them, because they were far out in the country. Our host in Paris helped us acquire a car rental reservation and we prepared for the harrowing experience of driving in a foreign country with limited understanding of road signs and the French language.
On the last morning in Paris, Nicole prepared breakfast for us, and we set out. We stopped at a cafe and a post office, and then off to the train station. We arrived in Troyes in the early afternoon, and went in search of our Hertz rental location. Troyes is the closest city to our host that has car rental (about a 1 hour drive). We rented a Chevy Matiz (yeah, we have never heard of it either) and set off for our destination.
Initially the drive went pretty well. We missed a few turn lanes, and didn't drive as fast as the natives would have preferred, but overall, not too bad. We entered the freeway on a normal on-ramp, but soon encountered many round-abouts instead of overpasses. Jenni was driving, and these crazy merry-go-rounds with speeding cars were enough to make us whoop with joy every time we successfully survived them.
Soon we were in the country side and the driving became more relaxing. We tried to stop for lunch around 3, but were told that they wouldn't be serving food until much later. So we enjoyed a small beer and water and talked politics with the locals that went something like this:
Local: Obama. Good. (thumbs up sign)
Us: Yes. Very good.
Local: McCain. No good. (cutting off the head at the neck gesture)
Local: Kennedy. Obama. Good. (thumbs up sign)
And so on. Not being completely fluent in French we weren't able to communicate much more than this, but the sentiment was familiar. All through out Europe we have encountered numerous people that when they find we are from America, start talking to us about Obama and how much they hope for him to win. It is amazing how much knowledge everyone here has of our politics.
After our beer and water we continued on our way to the host's house. We stopped in the last town before their house and again attempted to eat (this time around 5pm). No restaurants in the town (of the 2 or 3) would be serving dinner for many hours. We were (gratefully) directed to a grocery store and bought some meat, cheese, and crackers and had a picnic in the park.
We continued following the directions to our host's house but now they got a bit murkier. We drove around for about 40 minutes in the country roads (between rows of grape vines) before stopping to knock on a farm-house door to ask for directions. We drove for another 30 minutes or so before stopping at another place, this time a rented cabin. It turns out that the cabin was owned by our host family, and the woman renting the cabin walked us to our host, Monique and Gerard's house. We were greeted by an energetic and loving 1-year old golden retriever named Jacque, and our host family. We thanked our rescuer and walked with Monique back to our car and she directed us to the correct roads to get our car to her house.
We had arrived at their house at a little after 7:00pm. Monique and Gerard had made a homemade meal with home-grown ingredients. We had Champagne as an appetizer with pretzels and nuts, and then red wine with dinner. This beverage arrangement was repeated with each full-meal at their house (breakfast was just coffee and tea). After dinner we headed off to bed.
The next morning Monique brought us to the processing facility where their grapes are processed to create the Champagne called Charles Cullen. The cooperative combines grapes from many different vineyards for different varieties of Champagne. This isn't the time for harvesting yet, so most of the machines were sitting idle, but we did get to see the process of bottling and corking the aged Champagne. That was a really cool assembly line. Overall the tour of the faclity was really amazing.
This is the point at which Eli would write for the next hour about the champagne making process. If you are interested in more details, he would be tickled to tell you all about it.
After the tour, we went to a look-out spot and viewed many acres of vineyards. Eli and I took a long walk around the area while our host had other plans. When we returned to the farm, we investigated the barn and found that not only did they have a pony, sheep, bunnys and chickens, they also had teeny-tiny barn kittens. We spent a long time attempting to get them to be friendly with us to no avail.
We ate another wonderful dinner with our host family, and their son came to visit for the night. He had just returned from a month long hitchhiking tour of Iran. They had a lot to catch up on. So Eli and I spent a lot of time organizing a cruise.
We have been enjoying seeing so many places and meeting so many people, but I think we are getting a little travel-weary. We email 10 or so Servas hosts in each area that we want to visit and spend a lot of time communicating with them and attempting to coordinate a visit. We prefer to stay with hosts versus a hotel because of the opportunity to get to know the actual local culture, but it takes a lot of computer time. So we thought it might be nice to have a week where we didn't have to worry about where we were going to go, how we weregoing to get there, etc. So we worked with our travel agent, Carol (who is fantastic - if you are in need of a travel agent let us know, we would love to recommend her) and she got a cruise set up fo us starting September 1st.
We had a nice evening with our hosts and then went to bed. In the morning we said our farewells and headed back to Troyes to return our car. This presented new problems. Our directions to Monique and Gerard's house went like this: "Take the road to Bar Seine. Then take the road to Essoyes." We unfortunetly didn't have this type of directions back to the car rental place (nor a map). Troyes is a large city, so we didn't have too much trouble getting to the city, but we did drive around looking for a gas station in order to ask for directions to the train station once we were in Troyes. With the time for our train quickly approaching, we eventually found an open gas station and Eli pantomined needing to get to the train station with the gas station attendant while I filled up the car. We drove like maniacs to the train station and made our train with barely a minute to spare.
And so began our journey to Reims, another small town out in the country.
Until next time.