Friday, August 6, 2010

Day Trip To Champagne Wine Country, August 2010

As We Leave The Autoroute, We Enjoy The Lack Of Traffic
And The Solitude Of The Forest
As We Travel To Boudreville

France Has Many Protected Forest Lands Throughout The Country
This Forest Is Currently On The List To Dedicate As Protected

The Terrain Immediately Changes Once Off The Autoroute
A Two-Lane Good Highway Leads Us Into Forested Land

Flowers And Greenery Greet Us As We Leave The Autoroute For The Countryside
Of Northeastern France Toward Boudreville (West of Langres)

The Ornate Gate Stands Guard For The Abbey of Auberive

Abbey Gate Near Boudreville

Dairy Farms Dot The Countryside On The Route To Boudreville

The First Person Seen In 50 Miles Of Countryside

Country Road On Trip To Boudreville
East Of Champagne

A Small Medieval Home Outside A Village

Another "Clos" Marking The Territory Of A Vintner Of Champagne

Though A Mid-Evil Village, It Has Been Modernized With New Bright Red Lamp Posts

Hay Bales Are Formed Into Rounds By Machinery, Loaded on Trucks
And Stored Under Large Black Tarps On Farmland
Where They Eventually Serve As A Food Source For Cattle

Every Village Has A Church In Its Center

Fences Evidence a "Clos" Or The Area Where The Champagne Products Are Produced

This Woman Is Bringing Her Fresh Bread Home Before The Boulanger Closes

A Farmer And His Dog Are Isolated And Working In A Field In The
Distance. No Farms Houses Are Evident and Farmers Live In
Local Villages, Driving Tractors Out Onto Roadways To Land

Some Villages Display Neither Flowers Or Colorful Decor, Such As Red Street
Lamps and Grassy Areas or Fountains

Many Small Villages, Without Commercial Buildings, Line The Road Into The
Champagne Region Of France

Where Do All The Citizens Go? We Never See People In These Small Villages

The Mayor's Office in Essoyes. The Entire Village Hangs These Hand-Made
Paper Flowers On Fences, Doors, Windows, etc. Very Colorful Displays

Intersections Have Artifacts of Champagne And Flowers, With Mowed Grassy Areas
On The Roads in the Champagne Region

Stone Bus Shelters Dot The Roadside On The Champagne Road

The Aube River, Essoyes (Champagne Country), Home Of Renior

The View From The Café In Essoyes Where We Dined

The Charming Village Of Essoyes

Les Delices de l"Ouce, Along The River Aube Has Delicious Rustic Food

Essoyes, The Birth Place Of Renoir

The Aube River Runs Through The Champagne Region

The Lovely Village of Essoyes

Straight Furrows And Well-Trimed Champagne Grape Vines--It all
Amounts To A Delicious Bubbly Like No Other!

A Close-Up Of Champagne Grapes

The Vines In The Champagne Region Are Trimmed To Expose Grapes To
The Sun and Grown On Slopes To Enhance Sweetness And Quality

Courteron (Champagne Region) Is Representative Of Most Villages of the Region

Houses In Courteron Are Decorated With Flowers For A Colorful Landscape

Two Women Greet One Another With Bises (Kisses) Outside The Church
In Courteron, France (Champagne Region)

Nicely Kept Church In Courteron, Champagne County of France

Lower Flatter Areas Are For Crops, With Higher, Better Draining Terrain
Is Reserved For Champagne Grapes

Driving Through Champagne Region During The French Rest Period
Makes The Drive Eerily Void Of Humans

Small Tributaries Flow Through Villages In The Champagne Region
This One In Gté sur Seine

The Wealthy Champagne Distillers Live In The Villages
Not On The Land, Land Is For Growing

Another Small Village War Memorial Honoring French Solders Of WW2

A Floral Crossing of The Seine River
In Gté sur Seine (Champagne Country)

This Truly Is The Seine River, The Same That Flows Through Paris
Just Nearer The Source

If You've Visited Paris, You'll Find it Hard To Believe That This Is The Seine!

Just In Case You Forget That You're Driving In the Champagne Country, Here's a Large Reminder!

A French Military Vehicle Pays Tribute To Fallen Heros of France

A Jeep From The 40's Flanks A Memorial of France's Heros

Another War Memorial, Honoring France's Fallen Heros Who Fell on Foreign Soil
This is The Center of The Memorial, Flanked By Military Vehicles Above

This Terrain Is Lined With Wild Flowers, Giving Away To Sunflower Crops, and on Higher Ground, Champagne Vineyards Above Wheat Fields

A Small Village Amidst Champagne Vineyards
Along The Seine River Near Its Source

It's Not Unusual To See Religious Markers Near Villages
Evidencing That They Have Been Blessed

This Countryside Rest Space Has Been Blessed

What a beautiful summer day this was. It is August 6, 2010, and we left our exchange home at 8:00 a.m. to drive about 2.5 hours to a small village in a forested area called Boudreville where we had prearranged a meeting with an English chap, who is also an immoblier (realtor), to find out about the areas surrounding the Champagne region.

We left the autoroute after about an hour, and drove west of Langres on a two-lane highway. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we would be driving a long distance through the forest, with periodic breaks where tiny villages abutted the highway. These villages are quite remote and in fact have no commercial facilities at all. If they need supplies, they generally drive into Dijon, according to Paul, our realtor friend. Also, we saw many large vans and people standing along the road in these remote areas. It seems that the Boulanger delivers bread to these remotely located folks, stopping to chat with them about the days happenings. This is also the manner in which the butcher does his business. It's all quite charming.

Most of the homes we saw along this remote road, were dairy and crop farms. We didn't see any post offices or gas stations and only a scant few tabacs or bars along this route. It was mostly isolated and simply put, made for a nice uncongested drive in the countryside.

Once we finished our meeting with Paul, we drove toward the champagne region to check it out. We passed through many small villages along the route. Some were a combination of new, renovated and old structures. Despite the austere appearance of some of the villages, people appeared to add huge multiple ground planters and window boxes overflowing with bright colorful flowers making the otherwise drab stone structures come alive with color. We enjoyed the picturesque drive and I had a difficult time keeping my finger off the camera. Many of the villages also maintained grassy areas along the road, making it less austere.

We noticed that some village homes had huge tractors parked in front (we went through during the rest period when people are home for lunch) and we further noted that we didn't see any farms in or around the vineyards. We surmised that the farmers used every bit of space for growing, chosing to live in villages instead.

The champagne grapes grow on hillsides that slope gently into valleys. The valleys below the grapes bear crops such as sunflowers, hay, wheat, corn, and other grains. The grape vines appear to be trimmed of branches, making them less bushy than the red grape vines we saw in Burgundy last week. We guessed that perhaps it is important to expose the champagne grapes to the sun as a means of sweetening them, something unnecessary for good red wine. The variation in crop varieties made for a lovely landscape that resembled a gigantic patchwork quilt. It was quite striking.

After several hours on the road, we became somewhat weary and our friend Paul had suggested a stop in Essoyes for lunch. His suggestion was perfect. We settled in on a terrance dotted with small tables, each covered with a colorful umbrella. The café was located aside the Aube river and we were able to dine and enjoy the sound and beauty of the water. The specialties of the day were posted on a chalk board and while our server spoke french and told other french speaking customers what the choices were, she handed the board to us to decide. It was a three-course meal, but we opted out of the duck paté, though it looked delicious, and instead had two courses: a well-seasoned breast of chicken, grilled perfectly leaving it moist and tender. It was drizzled with a small bit of creamy mustard sauce that was very tasty and served with a generous portion of pomme frites. The real topper was the second course, a creamy rich serving of mousse au chocolat that melted the moment it hit your tongue. Wow! We finished with a dark rich petit café and were soon on our way. After riding in the car for three hours, it was a wonderful respite.

Essoyes is the birthplace of Renoir and unfortunately we arrived just as the rest period began, so couldn't go through any of the shops memorializing him. However, the walls of many buildings bore hand-drawn copies of his famous paintings. It's quite amazing to see and the artists did an excellent job. We think this small champagne country village is well worth traveling to see.

We followed the Seine river, which paralleled the highway (D70) to its beginning. At this point the highway meandered along and led us back through more farm country and ultimately into Dijon.

Although the Champagne region is beautiful, we found it too remote to our liking as a potential place to invest in property. We were happy to crest the last hill overlooking the Dijon valley and see the vast, but reasonably populated region unfold before us. Dijon is alive and vivid in comparison to the tiny villages which, though picturesque, bore little sign of life.

More pleasure awaited us as we drove up to our exchange home, parked and stepped inside where we opened a chilled bottle of the bubbly delicious crémant of the Bourgogne. It is champagne at it's finest, it just can't be called such because it was produced in a region other than champagne.

It's a beautiful warm day in Dijon, a great beginning to our first weekend in the Bourgogne. Stay tuned for more of our travels. Even we don't know what tomorrow will bring.

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