Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Trip to the Champagne Region, northern France


What better way to spend three gloriously sunny days than to jump on your motorbikes, take the Channel Tunnel train to France, ride to the Champagne region and drink fantastic bubbly with some friends?

That is precisely what seven of us did last weekend.

05:30 and the alarm shook to life, but as before many long riding trips, I was already awake.  30 minutes later I was loading my new custom bike, Amelia and trying very hard to ride it down my street as quietly as possible, in order not to wake the neighbours.  I probably failed. 


It was chilly as I rode the almost 100 miles to the train terminal and I was glad to get there and warm up while waiting for the train.  Nick (HD Street Glide) and his wife Jane (HD Sportster 883 Superlow) were already there.  Sumit and Raj (HD Sportster) and Keith and Sue (HD Road King) all arrived soon and we were soon speeding through the tunnel on the train to France. After arriving at Calais, we then rode about 200 miles to get to our base, in Reims.

This is Sumit and Raj on some picturesque French country roads....


We spent Saturday riding around looking at the region, the centre of Champagne production.  Only wine produced in the region can be called Champagne, which has been produced here since 1531.  From everywhere else, it is called sparkling wine.  It was pointed out to me that each field is marked with stones, showing who the grapes belong to....


At one point, we saw a huge sign showing the maker of one of the most well known Champagne producers and of course, had to park the bikes right under it....


With the exception of a few crops, almost nothing else is grown or farmed here but grapes.  There are certainly a lot of grapes.....



Overlooking the fields is a strange sight.  At about 150 miles from the sea, stands a 200 foot tall lighthouse, built to celebrate and promote the champagne region.  We climbed its narrow steps and looked over the straight lines of grape vines....


We went to see the Abbey of Saint Hilaire, where Benedictine Monks made the first champagne.  Dom Perignon stayed at the Abbey and gave advice to the monks to improve the quality of the wine.  This is Nick and I, leaning against the wall of the Abbey....


A UNESCO World Heritage Site, we went to see the Cathedral in the centre of Reims.  Rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original building in AD 1211, the ‘new’ Cathedral is a marvel of design and construction....


At 455 ft long, 98 feet wide and about 125 feet high, the interior of the main Nave is huge.  Dark stained glass windows do not let in much light and so the Cathedral is dark and somewhat gloomy, but the side aisles are much brighter....


It was all too much for a couple of elderly oriental gentlemen, who made the most of the quiet and grabbed a quick nap....


Trams run on rails through large parts of the city.  Not good on a motorcycle on a wet day, as the rails become very slippery.  Thankfully it was a screaming hot day when we were there....


This is Nick, the guy who organised our short trip.  Here he is considering the purchase of a new bike....


A graffiti art competition was taking place in the centre of Reims....


We had great food....


.... and even better company....  Sumit, Sue, Raj, Keith, Nick, Jane and yours truly.....


Sunday saw us riding back through France on mainly quiet country roads, arriving back at the tunnel just in time to get the train back under the sea. 

A great trip all round.

12 comments:

Canajun said...

Wow. I'm so envious of your easy access to all those great spots in Europe. For us this would be a 5-day trip by the time we were done with overseas flights, etc.

Thanks for sharing.

Chillertek said...

Man you brits have it tough. Riding through the french countryside sipping wine and relaxing. Ahhh it sure looks good.

SonjaM said...

OK, Gary. Now I am officially envious. I have to admit that I really, really miss France, and all those historic and culturally fascinating places. I guess my next vacation will have to be overseas...
Thank you for taking me along.

I really love that you put your 'show bike' actually to work. Others might just have trailered it down.

RichardM said...

Wow! What a wonderful way to spend the weekend. Very envious. I've never been anywhere in Europe before. One of these years...

Trobairitz said...

Awesome, I too am a little jealous.

You are so lucky to live in such close proximity to so many great heritage sights. The fact that it is in the French countryside and you are sipping Champagne is the icing on the cake.

Our country is too young for truly amazing architecture.

mq01 said...

love love love love love (and a weee bit jealous), love love this! what better way to spend a weekend?!?... fabulous gary! thank you for sharing the roads and pics with us.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

I have said this before and I will say it again, I cannot imagine the thrill of loading a bike onto a train and starting my ride in France, an hour or two later. The shot of the vineyards from the tower was amazing, but I love shots of European cathedrals. I was at the cathedral of Rheims only once before, in a former life, when I was crowned king.

Fondest regard,
Jack/Reep
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Great post and pics Gary!

If I could only turn back time to 1984, when I was but a young lad in Italy with the US Army, except this time knowing the fun of motorcycling....

Dom

Claudio Mccarty said...

I love the fourth shot! Those motorcycles in line must be lucky to have a picture with one of the best places for wine tasting. Well, Europe is one of the best spots, where to go for motorcycle-riding, with its finest places and quiet roads. Great for you to be there and seen those places personally. :)

cpa3485 said...

Looks like a helluva good time. Great Pics Gary,

JImbo

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