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Champagne, France

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The Cisneros ladies on a dense foggy morning at the Moët Vineyard.

 After living in the City of Light for over a year at the time, I had to admit that the glittery sparkle of Paris had worn off un petit peu. My cousin and aunt’s visit was the perfect way to awaken my tourist eyes again there and beyond. They wanted to visit the Champagne province just northeast of Paris, so we did just that. The wintry sky in France was unmistakably dense and grey, but with such an invigorating reason to travel, I was perfectly fine with waking up in the freezing cold and so early. Joined by a young Australian couple and our tour guide, we watched the sunrise emerge on our right and anticipated Riems ahead.

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6 am sunrise on the way to Reims.

First, we visited a family owned champagne house where we took an intimate tour and had the magic of champagne making explained to us by the owner who looked just like Michael Caine. The tour of the P.M. Roger & Fils was an eye-opening experience to the intricate and time consuming process it takes for just one bottle of bubbly. The passion and care that they use to make and improve their product is so impressive and was the highlight of the experience. Passed down generation to generation, the family still employs vintage hand techniques that larger vineyards couldn’t dream of using due to volume and time constraints. Roger & Fils still keep the family charm in the art that is champagne making and it was amazing to see the French tradition first hand. Some purchased bottles later and lunch, we headed to the larger, more famous Mercier champagne house in Epernay. Mercier is the most popular champagne brand in France so it only seemed fitting to visit and take the underground tour (15). The underground cellars are never-ending, and with 10 miles of passages and 15 million bottles in storage, this places Mercier as the largest champagne house in the world. I recommend taking the descent down into the labyrinth with the mini train to witness the endless underground hallways and extensive history of Mercier.

With too little light and too much champagne, I’d say I’m happy with what photos I did manage to get from the two tours.

 Santé!

 Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims)

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This Gothic art masterpiece was one of the first monuments registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Notre-Dame de Reims is 800 years old, can you believe it?

Notre-Dame de Reims is 800 years old, can you believe it?

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Prayer candles in the cathedral.

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Beautiful stained glass.

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A cross of Jesus Christ stands over the vineyards.

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Fog for days.

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P.M. ROGER & FILS:

The underground cellar of rosé.

The underground cellar of rosé.

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Ros bottles turned and tilted in a specific way to get the yeast to slowly accumulate in the neck over several weeks. This process is called "riddling."

Rosé bottles turned and tilted to allow the yeast to slowly accumulate in the neck over several weeks. This process is called “riddling.”

Bottle to the light: the wonder shows us the sediment that collects in the rosé making process.

Bottle to the light: the owner shows us the yeast sediment in the rosé making process.

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Michael Caine showing us the riddling cages that (unlike the wooden racks) cut down on the manual turning and tilting time. Still pretty old school.

The Michael Caine look-alike talks about the riddling cages that (unlike the wooden racks) cut down on the manual turning and tilting time.

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More riddling cages.

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Village of D’Ay where P.M. Roger & Fils is located.

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MERCIER:

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At Champagne Mercier later that afternoon.

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Gustave-André Navlet was appointed to carve magnificent high-relief decorations in the chalk. This features Dom Pérignon who was a Benedictine monk who served as one of the most important pioneers in champagne making.

Cold, damp and eerie wine cellar tunnels at the Mercier champagne house.

Cold, damp and eerie wine cellar tunnels at the Mercier champagne house.

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Mercier’s Foudre: This giant vat won 2nd prize at the 1889 L’Exposition Universelle in Paris. The Eiffel tower won 1st.

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