Champagne, Lorraine and Alsace, France
Jun 5, 2005
|Champagne: Some myths were dispelled for us, through a tour of the underground storage caves, but the tasting was still the best part. The town of Epernay is famous for its champagne houses that line the major street. They say there are at least 200 000 bottles of fine champagne, aging under the main street. Dispelled myths?? Sekt is just as flavourful and sparkling, don't let them tell you otherwise. Champagne is run as tightly as OPEC. We can buy champagne for a similar price in Calgary as in the Champagne region.
We cycled (up...what was I expecting in a region of vineyards) to the small town where Dom Perignon first perfected the process. Beautiful views, fine weather and fine wine. It doesn't get much better.
Question of the day. What was Dom Perignon's first name?
A short cycle to Chalons-en-Champagne was a bit unnerving as we had to travel the regular roads, but the town is quaint and historic. They even have a status of providing the first french governor of Quebec, before it became lower Canada. The campground is outstanding with tennis courts and good showers. It is amazing how important the little things have become.
The Lorraine Valley was for us a quick train ride to Nancy (too many hills and no bike path). This city describes itself as having the most beautiful central square in all of Europe. Pretty high statement, but I (Werner) do have to admit it is lovely.
We stumbled on a big bicycle rally in Nancy, on the main square. There we received the expert information that it is not wise to cycle out of Nancy - too many hills. But only a half-hour train ride would bring us to Sarrebourg, the start of a canal system with accompanying bike path, that would bring us all the way to Strasbourg. Strasbourg is on the German border, where we could access the Rhine bike path system. So, we off we went with that plan.
That short train ride took us over the ridge that divides Lorraine from Alsace. We stepped off the train into a new world. An almost...German world. Alsatian villages truly sparkle. The people speak some strange language but willingly switch to french or german for visitors. We rode 80 km alongside the canal. It had small locks every 5km or so. We saw many rental boats out - people live on the boat for a week and travel up or down the canal. Looked like it would be fun for the first day but then a bit repetitive. With so many locks the boats travelled much more slowly than we. That is, until a spoke broke on Werner's back wheel. One broken spoke at the wrong time is worth 5 km of carrying a bike, $60 CAN for a new wheel (faster than a repair) and 3.5 hours out of what should have been an easy cruising day. But we met some very nice bike repair guys...
We still made it to Strasbourg that day. Seat of many European councils and groups, this city really hops. Their main cathedral is known for its 'Astonomical Clock', a mechanical wonder, 15 m high. Every day at 12:30, a series of chimes, gongs and dancing mechanical people and animals puts on a great show for 15 min. In the cathedral. The clock has been doing this for hundreds of years, with a few small interruptions for repairs.
We really were not ready to leave France; it has been fun for Haley and Kelsey to practice their language skills and act as the official communicators. However, France has not worked out for cycling as well as we had hoped and Germany can offer a safer, gentler cycle touring experience. So we will cross the bridge over the Rhine and re-enter Germany.