After the frenetic pace of the past few days, it’s almost a relief to be back on the road. We leave Paris in the morning and it’s surprising how quickly we’re back in farmland. The business district passes in mere moments, then it’s open fields.
It seems extraordinary that Paris stands in her giulded Belle Epoque elegance amongst farmland and forest.
I’m in two minds about our time here. Whilst I adore Paris, she is best seen from a central location, I think. There’s too much pressure when you’re a distance away, to cram everything in to one outing, whereas when you’re central, you can pop in and out all day. It’s much easier, fortified with a wee afternoon rest, to launch a fresh evening assault.
We have news from home unexpectedly this morning. Friends are arriving in France this week and our paths will cross on Thursday, in Epernay. It’s a lovely surprise – we’ll get to catch up with them over dinner. Can’t wait.
It’s not long before we’re in the Champagne region, the greenery of the vines replacing the bare and dried corn fields east of Paris.
I love the vine plantings – their symmetry is incredibly pleasing to the eye. It’s start of harvest time and some fields are busy with pickers – many of the champagne houses still hand pick their grapes.
Our first stop runs into unexpected problems – the site won’t accept payment by international cards, so we drive a little further to Verneuil, to stay at a champagne vineyard, the house of Jacques Copin in the Marne Valley.
Nestled with vines on one side and the river Marne on the other, it’s a great spot. A fabulously good champagne too, with a slew of awards to its name. A quick degustation and purchase later we set off to explore.
There are champagne houses all around us: six within a kilometre or so.
The river Marne is a glorious copper green patina in the late afternoon sun. Local fishermen dot its banks and there’s a bike path we’ll explore tomorrow. There are wildflowers too, tiny little things, covered in bumbles.
We meet the local Tom, a fabulously serious looking bruiser who seems master of all he surveys.
Our pace slows, then stills with sunset over the vines. Farmers roll home on their powerful tractors, the pickers play boules nearby, their working day done. Afternoon cocktails call.
Country living is a sharp contrast to the pace of Paris.