Champagne tasting in Aÿ, France

The Goutorbe family presents its exquisite bottles which contain your most secret dreams. All the love of the earth, all the mystery of creation.

These are the words written in the brochure for the champagne house of H. Goutorbe, located in Aÿ – famous as a centre of the production of Champagne.

It is no secret that the French are proud of their wine. And the reputation of champagne has given the region with the same name even more of a reason to be proud. Marketed as a luxurious beverage, this sparkling wine is so much more than just sparkling wine. Champagne is a protected trademark and a symbol of France as a country of high quality produce.

We visited the house of H. Goutorbe because we needed to buy a few bottles of Champagne for our upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebration. We could have just gone to the nearest supermarket to buy a few bottles, but as my partner’s parents live just a one hour drive away from the Champagne region, we figured we’d might as well join them and buy our golden bubbles straight from the producer. My partner’s parents are loyal satisfied costumers who visit this particular producer annually to stock up on the good stuff. It was easy to see why.

Along with a group of British tourists, we were given a tour around the production site before heading to my favorite part of the visit: the champagne tasting. The guide described the traditional way to produce champagne compared to the modern way, the process of fermentation, bottling, and explained the difference between vintage (blend of grapes harvested in a particular year) and non-vintage (blend of different wines from different years) champagne. She took us to the cellar and explained the process of the second stage of fermentation. I’m not gonna tell you everything as there’s already a great video on their website documenting the entire process!

During our tour we noticed a fun detail that made me like this family even more. A gallery full of gorgeous travel photos. Just like me, they love to travel. Once a year they travel to a new destination and bring a bottle of their trademark champagne with them. Wherever they go, they capture a photo featuring a bottle of their champagne in front of beautiful landscapes, a volcano in Hawaii (!), monuments and even in front of penguins and glaciers in the Antarctic. How cool is that?!

Moving on to the champagne tasting we were welcomed to a cozy room with a large fireplace, and ended the visit with a taste of the golden bubbles before placing our order and taking home some fine bottles waiting to be shared in good company while celebrating those special occasions with our loved ones.

Would you like a tour?

Website: H. Goutorbe 

Visit: 9 bis, rue Jeanson / F. 51160 Aÿ-Champagne

Phone: +33(0)326552170

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The old press device

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The modern ones

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The cellar

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Champagne Bubbles: Christmas market in Reims, France

Starting the afternoon with a champagne tasting in the region of Champagne, followed by a trip to the local Christmas market in Reims – now, that’s quite something!

According to multiple articles online and offline in local newspapers, the Christmas market in Reims ranked better than all the markets in the French capital. Reims, a city known as one of the centres of champagne production, is already quite touristic and already knows how to attract guests….besides the golden bubbles!

With the Christmas market centered around the beautiful Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – you’re already off to a good start. Stay until darkness falls, and watch the magical sound and light show that illuminates the Cathedral. Make sure you find a good spot to watch it from, as the market gets very crowded in the evenings!

Are you visiting with small children? Do they like ponies? Who am I kidding…who doesn’t like ponies, right? At the Christmas market in Reims the little ones can go for a pony ride. I wanted to take a selfie with one of the ponies, but they were all surrounded by kids who wanted to pet them, so I decided to be an adult and walk away.

Speaking of entertainment for the little ones: they can meet Santa Claus here!

With over 120 chalets displaying local produce, ornaments, souvenirs and ideas for Christmas gifts (I fell in love with a backpack that I didn’t buy) it is certain you’ll find something to take home with you. And if you’re hungry for a sweet treat, there’s plenty of cookies, nougat, candy, churros, Belgian waffles and crêpes for you to dig in. However, if you want something savory, your options are limited to tartiflette, raclette and panini sandwiches. But don’t worry, there are quite a few restaurants conveniently located right next to the market, which gives you the option to leave and come back, just as you want.

And in terms of champagne tasting; you can do that at the Christmas market and around the corner from it too – whichever you prefer!

more information: Reims Tourism

when: until December 24th

where: Reims city centre (TGV train to Reims Centre)

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“Anything You Want” is everything I wanted (French theater, English sub!)

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What: French theatre play with English surtitles. Romantic comedy starring Bérénice Bejo and Stéphane De Groodt

Where: Théâtre Édouard VII, 10 Édouard VII Square, 75009 Paris

Plot: From the moment successful author Lucie finally became happy, she’s had terrible writer’s block. In the past, she had only ever written about her troubles and ever since finding happiness she’s lost all inspiration. If only someone could just make her a little sad for a while. Fortunately, life is unfair, and the arrival of Thomas – her new neighbor – is about to change everything.

About the actors:

Franco-Belgian, Brussels born actor Stéphane De Groodt is mostly known as the creator of the series “file dans ta chambre” but has also had a lot of supporting acts and guest roles in movies and TV-shows, including “Asterix at the Olympic Games”(2008) and “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia”(2012). This talented actor wasn’t always an actor, though. Before starting his acting career, he was, in fact,  a professional racing driver!

Bérénice Bejo was born in Buenos Aires and is the daughter of Argentinian filmmaker Miguel Bejo. She embarked on a successful acting career in the 90’s, with various roles in French television and film production. Her Hollywood-debut was in 2001’s “A Knight’s tale” but it was the award-winning movie “The Artist” that gained her international recognition. Bejo herself was nominated as Best Supporting Actress of the Year at the Golden Globes and the Oscars!

My Review of the Show: If you love French comedy, you’ll love this one. The lines are sharp and witty, and the characters are impossible not to fall in love with. Bejo does a great job playing Lucie, the depressed writer who refers to herself as damaged goods. De Groodt makes an excellent “annoying” yet caring and positive-minded neighbor. These two characters are the complete opposites and disagree on…mostly everything. The dialogues are hilarious and the chemistry between the actors is perfect. I laughed from the very first line until the very end of the show. Honestly, I hope someone will eventually turn this play into a movie. I give it a 5 out of 5!

About the theater: 

Théâtre Edouard VII is located in Paris between the Madeleine and the Opéra Garnier in the 9th arrondissement. The theater was first opened by the English King Edward VII, as a performance hall in the early 20th century. It was first opened as a cinema and shortly after converted into a theater. The theater is supposedly haunted by Orson Welles. I can reassure you, I didn’t see him when I was there. At least I don’t think I did…

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Theatre in Paris – The Authentic Parisian Night Out

“Break the language barrier and experience French theatre like a local”. The company Theatre in Paris offers you selected plays from the Paris theater season with English surtitles. Now you and your expat friends or partner, travel buddies or family members who don’t speak French, can all enjoy fantastic French plays in gorgeous theaters like this one!

Before the show started, we were given a quick presentation of the show, the actors and the history of the theater, by a lovely English speaking hostess. She suggested following the company on social media for updates on the latest theater news –  and upcoming social events!

So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets and enjoy a fabulous evening at a Parisian theater  – without barriers.

(although tickets were complimentary, all opinions in this review remain my own)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Personal: Paris is for lovers

It was a sunny afternoon in April 2015. My train had just arrived in Paris Gare du Nord, and I was so excited to finally see my Parisian boyfriend again. We had both been counting down the days for several weeks. We had Skyped, WhatsApped, texted, shed a whole lot of tears and felt the blues while we were waiting for April 15th to come along.

Norway is my country of origin. However, it’s been a while since I could call Norway my home. I’ve always traveled a lot and changed my place to call home whenever I got sick of the current location and lifestyle – or climate, for that matter. I have lived in the UK and the US, and I couldn’t stand the thought of moving back to my hometown in Norway after a fun year in Florida. So I traveled. To Poland. To Czech Republic. And it was in Prague which I had spent four amazing days with the man who ended up becoming my boyfriend. We had talked online for several months while I lived in the US, and we finally met in the romantic capital of the Czech Republic. This man was my soul mate. I felt it. And I was willing to take a risk for him. I was willing to move to Paris, so that we could be together.

I had been to Paris before. Briefly. In 2013 I had seen the Eiffeltower, eaten at touristy restaurants, seen the Louvre without entering the museum and seen the Notre-Dame. I remember falling in love with the city, mostly because of the lovely pastel macarons, delicious tarts and warm, buttery croissants. I was in love with the smell of crêpes and the taste of good fruity red wines. The small Parisian apartments in the Hausmannian buildings with their little balconies – often beautifully decorated with flowers – had become my biggest day dream. I wanted to live there. I wanted to be one of those people who were sipping espresso and eating jam on toast on the balcony while watching people pass by on the streets below. And I don’t even like espresso or jam on toast. I still wanted to be one of those people.

Moving to Paris was a whole different experience than what I had imagined it to be. My boyfriend took me to his apartment. My new home. It was not in the centre of Paris, but in the southern suburbs of the city. No Hausmannian building, but a yellow four storey brick. Not quite the idea I had in mind. At least the inside of the apartment was neat and modern. And the person living there was the man of my dreams. Which was a lot more important than the architectural style of the building I was moving in to.

Little did I know how much of an emotional roller coaster this would be, this new life in France. I took French lessons, made friends, lost friends, learned the language, got lost in translation, learned the local costums, made a fool of myself several times, laughed, cried as I’ve fallen in and out of love with Paris. And back in love again. And so it goes, on and on. All my friends in Paris are expatriates, like myself. We all share the same story. Boy meets girl, girl moves to Paris to live with boy. We all complain about the same things. About how Parisian girls won’t even give us the time of day so we’re just stuck with other expats. About how French bureacracy is a pain in the butt. About how going on strike seems to be the national sport here. And last but not least, how much we miss our traditions from home. France is not really a country of traditions. It’s a country rich in culture, but not traditions. Who would have known I’d miss my Norwegian holiday traditions as much as I do now?

Thanks to LinkedIn, I got headhunted for a teaching position in Paris. I now teach Norwegian to French students who are planning to expatriate to Norway. I teach them not only my language, but also about the traditions, the culture and the Norwegian gastronomy. The things I hold dear and miss the most when I’m away from the place I used to call home.

I still don’t call Paris my home. Paris is still my roller coaster ride. And only time will tell if the roller coaster ever stops, or if I’ll eventually evacuate – together with the love of my life.

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Incredible Caverns in France

When we first made plans to visit Dordogne, we had two main purposes in mind. One was the obvious food and wine tasting. The other is obvious only to those who already have a bit of knowledge about this region and know what makes it so unique as a destination for both local and international tourists.

The Dordogne department has hundreds of caverns. Some of them were discovered quite recently, while others were known as a tourist attraction already in the early 19th century. While some caverns are not open to the public, others have become popular tourist attractions and attract curious visitors from all over the world.

I visited four different caverns during our week in Dordogne and nearby. All four were unique and fascinating in their own way. The first cavern I got to explore was the Gouffre de Proumeyssac . We were given the option to walk down a tunnel together with a guide, or pay extra to be lowered down in a basket from the ceiling – the way the explorers did when they first discovered the cavern. As much as I would have wanted to choose the basket, my fear of heights made me chose the tunnel instead. The first sight that met me as I entered the cavern was a sign that said “No photos allowed”. How disappointing. The tour itself was no disappointment, though. In complete darkness, we were guided to a view point inside of the cavern. A light show entertained us as it illuminated the cavern and its different formations, in harmony with relaxing music.

The second one on the list was Les Grottes de Maxange . These two caverns were named after the man who discovered them, whose name was Angel – and in honor of his father; Maximilien. Les Grottes de Maxange was without a doubt my favorite visit. All along the narrow cavern are thousands of very small eccentric concretions. They are tiny stalactite-formations which instead of growing vertically, they grow in all directions. A display like this is very rare, and it’s as beautiful as it is unusual.

Third one up was supposed to be the prehistorical famous Lascaux , but unorganized as we were, we forgot to check the opening hours before arrival, and got there almost two hours before the first tour. We changed our plans and visited castles and nearby villages instead of caverns that day. However, the following day was a new opportunity to explore another cavern: Gouffre de Padirac .

To enter the Gouffre de Padirac, we were given the choice between a whole lot of stairs, or an elevator. As I’m terrified of heights, I chose the stairs – as it gives me a stronger feeling of control. A feeling of exhaustion and relief as I descended what I thought was the bottom of the cavern. But then there was another set of stairs. People had already gotten in line for the gondolas and we spent perhaps forty minutes in line, waiting for our turn. But it was worth every minute of the wait.  The gondola ride on the lake (completely formed by rain) was romantic and felt somewhat supernatural. What a unique way of exploring a cavern!

The final cavern we visited was Les Grottes de Lacave . The cavern is entered on a small electric train, which itself was a fun experience. Inside of this large natural cavern, there’s an incredible display of stalactites and stalagmites. During one part of the tour, visitors enter an area where there’s no light except from ultraviolet – displaying the incredible formations in a whole different way. A magical way.

I never thought I’d ever see anything as supernatural looking and incredible as the things I saw while visiting these caverns. And yet, there they are, underground, in the southwest of France.

Les Grottes de Maxange

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Gouffre de Padirac

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Les Grottes de Lacave

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