France Just For You is constantly looking to offer the best experience to our travelers. One element of this includes adding new regions to our tours. To that end, Emilie and I hit the roads in October to visit two areas of France that we will shortly be including in our tours: the Champagne region and Verdun.
Emilie went to university in Reims, the capital of Champagne, and I visited both areas some years ago. But we both felt we needed to update and expand our knowledge of the history, architecture, gastronomy, etc. of these regions. Plus, it is important to us to know all the B&B and boutique hotel owners we work with and to see each room. We also spend time with the guides we work with, visit the places we suggest to our travelers, and eat in the restaurants we recommend.
Reims & The Champagne Region
The City of Reims
The journey began early Monday morning as we headed across France. Our destination was Reims and the surrounding vineyards for two days of intense prospecting. We visited and slept in several B&Bs and boutique hotels.
We like to give our travelers the experience of staying in charming and quaint old-stone buildings. However, this is a challenge in this region, as much was destroyed during the fighting in the successive world wars. Thus, the old-world atmosphere we find in other parts of France does not exist here. Most importantly though, the warm welcomes we received at the accommodations we stayed in more than made up for the lack of aged stones, and we picked some great places that we are excited to share with our travelers.
Which famous person associated with Champagne is buried here?
Hint: it starts with Dom. - © Laura Crotet
Champagne Wine Tasting
We also tested some wine guides and brushed up on our Champagne knowledge. From the famous houses that line the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, to the small family-run winery, we allowed ourselves to indulge in the bubbly and tour the installations. And now we have a nice list of addresses that we can recommend to our travelers that have an interest in champagne. And like, who doesn’t have an interest in champagne, am I right?!
Emilie hard at work in Champagne - © Laura Crotet
We also scouted out some lesser-known and unique sites, some even related to when the whole Champagne area was under the sea! But we will keep these under wraps for our travelers.
The Verdun Area - World War I
On Wednesday, we pushed further east to the Verdun region, in the department of the Meuse. This area is the site of some major WWI battles, especially the American sites of the Argonne offensive at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon and the Saint Mihiel Salient south of Verdun, and of course the devastating Battle of Verdun for the French.
The Ossuaire at Douaumont, near Verdun - ©Emilie Thyebaut
Guided Tour to the World War 1 Sites near Verdun
We had a great guide that took us to the sites and explained how everything happened, bringing this part of history alive for us. We were even lucky enough to meet the current superintendent of the Argonne sites, Bruce Malone. The day was a moving and humbling experience, and it has inspired us to develop a new Memory Tour that will cover the WWI and WWII sites in this area, as well as the North of France and of course Normandy. You will be able to discover this new tour soon on our website.
Bruce Malone, Laura and our guide at Montfaucon - © Emilie Thyebaut
Vedun town deserves a visit
The town of Verdun itself is a lively town, with a beautiful cathedral and the people there were so kind and sharing – a nice balance to the heavy historical context of the area.
Who knew about wine from the Meuse valley? - © Emilie Thyebaut
Lots of history in Verdun-Meuse-Lorraine region
Because I am a history buff, I was also very excited to see the places where the royal family, a.k.a Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, tried to flee from France in 1791 during the Revolution, but were stopped and bought back to Paris to face their sorry destiny.
Joan of Arc also came from these parts and was fully armored by the town of Vaucouleurs before heading to Chinon to meet her future king.
This stuff is like geeky history Comicon to me! So of course I will soon be writing a blog piece, tracing Joan of Arc from her start in the Lorraine region, to the Loire Valley, and then *spoiler alert* her demise in Rouen.
Back to the Loire Valley
On Friday afternoon, we headed back home, pleased with our week of prospecting and very excited to begin planning great trips for our travelers in these two rich and interesting areas.
So check back soon - we will be happy to plan a self-drive itinerary that includes Champagne and Verdun. Contact us to start planning!