Category Archives: Travel

Who wants Champagne?

One of my guilty pleasures in life is… obviously… champagne. Why? More than the good taste, it gives me the feeling of royalty. You know how we always open a bottle of champagne only for really big events? Why? Well, because it’s expensive… and… it’s expensive. So, we keep it for the important moments that we want to celebrate with.. sparkling!

And when I’m into something, I like to dig in a little to find out more about the subject matter, in this case, champagne. So I planned a little day trip in Champagne-Ardenne, the region of France where champagne is produced. So, Route du Champagne, here we come!

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In a little town, called Epernay, which is about 150 km est from Paris, you will discover the home city of the devil’s wine. In the 16th century in was called like that because that bottles wouldn’t stop exploding. And, no…it was not invented by Dom Perignon, as he was born much later (a century later). He had only a very good nose and a talent in mixing grapes, which contributed in having the champagne we have today. As mush as I would like to think this is the birth place of champagne, it isn’t. This magical liquor was born down in the south thanks to the Benedictine Monks in the French region Languedoc-Roussillon and it’s called Blanquette de Limoux. That’s just a tiny piece of history before heading up to Avenue De Champagne.

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Of cours, the first stop is at Moet&Chandon, one of the biggest producers of champagne, including the one and only, the Dom Perignon vintage champagne label. Lucky Claude Moet, who established his winery in the middle of the 18th century, had a lot of demand for it’s sparkling wine in the noble circles, aristocracy and of course, at the royal court. This is how champagne became similar to royalty. In our days, Moet&Chandon can brag about the fact that they are the suppliers of Queen Elizabeth II. Yeah, the business is going well. Nothing much, just being part of the largest luxury company in the world (LVMH), with only 1.6 billion euro revenue (numbers for 2011). And they sure know how to throw luxury in your face.

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Prices start from around 35 euros for a normal Moet&Chandon and they can go up to …. more than 7000 euros for a vintage Dom Perignon.

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But if you’re interested on a budget high quality champagne, I found an offer you can’t refuse 🙂 Riding on that Route de Champagne, we found an independent champagne house, called Jean Pierre Lalouelle. I had the chance to speak with the owners and they tried to explain me this champagne thing over an ice cold coupe.They have a wonderful fairy house all covered in ivy and they are more than glad to invite you to a tasting in their improvised bar. I really regret not taking more pictures, but i took advantage that my husband was driving so i didn’t want to be rude and refuse all those sorts of champagne… so I was too into the moment and I kind of forgot to take more pictures. But that’s ok, I wouldn’t want to ruin your surprise if you pay them a visit. You must call first as they are working on the vineyard or in the production area almost all the time! We were really lucky to find someone home (as they said). Prices for Lalouelle champagne go from 16 to 30 euros per bottle and you have a discount if you get a 6 pack 🙂

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One of the most interesting things I have learned on this field trip is that the way bubbles go up can tell you if a champagne is high or low quality. The trick is to watch the bubbles if they go straight up… that means you’re having a good champagne. Spiraling bubbles are a bad sign so keep away from those. How to choose your champagne? Always look for the blanc de blancs, which is made by 100% Chardonnay. It costs a little bit more, but it’s worth. Trust me, after you have a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, it’s hard to forget that force in your mouth, making your whole body and spirit feel like they are invaded by the stars in the sky! (be ready to pay around 60 euros for a bottle).

After all that tasting, you must be hungry, so I have a little place to recommend you just a few steps away from Avenue de Champagne: Le Bar Parisian. I ate the best Croque Monsieur of my life. We payed around 70 euros for four persons including drinks and tip and… champagne for me. This post is not about food so i’m not going to mix thing up. We’re keeping it sparkle so no photo food. (Ok, I admit it, I was too hungry and I forgot to take the pictures… yes, too much champagne, so always drink wise 🙂 ). If you want something quick for the road, you can hit Paul bread and pastry shop, or any other open pastry shop and you can have a decent meal under 10 euros. But I do insist going to Paul’s because right next to it you have a wonderful champagne shop which offers almost every kind of champagne you can think of.

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Weather we’re talking about a wedding, an anniversary, or sometimes just the presence of the loved ones, champagne makes everything festive and turns any event into a special one! That’s the role of champagne! Make everyone’s heart sparkle and dance with the stars in the sky! Santé!

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How to get to Epernay? By car and by car only because the magic is to follow the Route du Champagne

Don’t take the highway, you will miss all the beauty in French landscapes.

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Moet&Chandon – 20, avenue de Champagne, 51333, Epernay

Jean Pierre Lalouelle – 50 Route de Vinay, 51530 Saint-Martin-d’Ablois, 03 26 59 92 20

Le Bar Parisien – 9 Rue Porte Lucas, 51200 Épernay ( always check schedules first because the second time we went there was a Monday, and they’re closed, that’s why we had to eat at Paul’s) .

Paul – 1 Rue Gambetta, 51200 Épernay

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Example of using right a Moet&Chandon 🙂

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Menton, le pays du citron!

You know how we always say if life gives you lemons you should do lemonade. Well, let me tell you that I’ve discovered a place this summer where people were given the land of lemons and they didn’t stop just by making lemonade.

Menton, the last coastal town of the French Riviera, at the boarder with Italy, is renowned by its lemons.

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Menton it’s full of color, mixed cultures and lemon products.

The old town of Menton, as you can see in the photo above, has a colorful Mediterranean architecture, beautiful landscapes, tiny uphill streets which you can hike (yes, you can really consider it hiking), and one of the most beautiful clear blue water. Maybe the one thing that lacks perfection is the beach, as they have no sand, only rocky beach, which sometimes makes it difficult to take a walk or a run. But it would’ve been heaven on earth 🙂

As I said, Italy is just around the corner, which makes Menton the perfect mixture between the two cultures from people’s attitude to food and local products. No matter what time it is, you should start you holiday with a cocktail on one of the terraces along The Promenade du Soleil . Even though it’s a bit over the average prices, you should try The Buddha Beach Bar, with a magnificent view over the beach and the surroundings. They have the most comfortable sofas and the presentations is not bad. It makes you feel… exotic:) You can also try a snack, Jambon Melon , which is prosciutto and melon, suitable for cocktails and one serving size is more than enough for two.

Average prices: 14 euro cocktail ( it worth) Bonus: lower prices for the food

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If you’re not that much into alcohol, you definitely need to try the Alcohol Free Mojito in one of the best local products store, Au Pays du Citron. It’s located in the old town center, where all the restaurants and shops are. You can’t miss it, trust me. Outside they sell lemonade, granitas and alcohol free Mojito ( 2,50 euro… and it’s a big one). But it’s inside where the fun, where lovely young ladies offer you shots of limoncello – THE lemon liqueur- and invite you to taste their food products- from sweets to pesto sauces, I assure you you haven’t tasted things like this before. You can’t miss their lemon tart! It’s really a must! No, I mean it!! As I write I feel my mouth watering! The next step is having a mini spa in the next room, where you can have a hand scrub with their natural lemon based product. Their skin care products are home made (just like everything else) just in the lab behind the register. The smells, the textures, it’s really a blast! The prices are not that cheap but it’s worth having one ore two thins, as you don’t know when you come back.

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Another must of local product is soap. Beside the lemon scent soap, of course, there is no scent in this world that you can’t find it in a soap here, from fruits and flowers to donkey milk soap. I, personally found it grouse, but that’s just me.

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Well, it’s about time to eat, don’t you say? The first night I landed in very Italian restaurant, Al Dente. If you’re looking to have an Italian experience, this is the place. It’s run by an Italian family and they really know how to do it. First of all, you feel like you entered a theater, they recite and they sing and they create a wonderful atmosphere. The food is wonderful, I had the best pepperoni pizza and a great seafood cocktail, and everything at very low prices. The serving sizes are large so you can share almost everything. We paid around 45 euros for two persons with drinks (a delicious Côte de Provence Rosé, which comes in small bottles also) and dessert (a wonderful tiramisu that we shared. For a late dinner it was more than we needed. Oh, and don’t forget, water is free anywhere you eat.

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Since we left Paris, my best friend ( hey Dee, what’s up, I know you’re reading this), was craving for a good burger, she loves burger and she is always anxious to discover whole new interpretation of a burger. So as we were watching people’s plates on a side way alley in the same area, we discovered another family run restaurant : A boire, A manger. I really can’t describe the feast we had there. She had the Camembert Burger with home made fries and salad. Let’s just said that her boyfriend could be jealous with the sensations she had devouring that melted Camembert burger. I had the most delicious pork meat I have ever eaten, marinated in herbs and olive oil, accompanied by french fries and salad, it was really a feast. I also asked for some barbecue grilled bread, because I was drooling at someone who softened his bread in the meat sauce. I was happy to see they didn’t count it on the bill:)

I can’t finish talking about it without mentioning the Café Gourmand dessert: three whole pots of orgasmic desserts: chocolate and caramel mousse,meringue lemon pie in a pot, and red berries panna cotta plus a piece of some sort of tart and coffee. You just get an extra coffee and the rest you can share. Average cost: 20 euros per person

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And the show goes on… with Les Artistes! Just across the street of the Casino, along the Promenade du Soleil, you have nice place with nice prices:) I recommend you the shrimp and avocado cocktail (big size, low price), the Octopus salad, and frankly, their pizzas are not bad at all. The view is magnificent, as you are practically 20 meters from the sea:) Average price (with drinks): 20 euros per person.

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If you are into a late snack, nothing fancy, just to grab a bite while having a glass of wine I can suggest going to Mylady. (just at the base of the small uphill alley who leads to Al Dente)Their bruschettas are delicious, big, and cheap- like about 8,5 euros each. You can a have or not a Greek salad aside. We couldn’t help not try it with the salad:) 2015-08-09 09.02.09

Menton is the perfect to relax! there are people off all ages, all nationalities, and everywhere you turn you have something to see or do; you can go for a hike and visit the old town cemetery, you can pay a visit to Jean Cocteau’s Museum (which is worth visiting only for his drawing exhibition downstairs, expressing his sexuality),  you can read book at the open library on the beach (near Jean Cocteau’s Museum), you can take your chance at the Casino, and you can also explore the surroundings! And speaking of the surroundings, I can’t finish this review without mentioning one the sauvage beaches we discovered.

On the coastal road (which is like ambrosia to your eyes… it’s Côte d’Azur, after all), between Menton and Monaco, you have the Plage de la Buse. You can get there with the no.18 bus or any bus that goes to Monaco or Nice. You can hop at the Casino, on the promenade du Soleil. The ticket costs only 1.5 euros and you hop off at the 2ème Escalier station. On the other side of the road there are stairs which lead to the beach. You’ll have like a 10 minute walk. You will discover a wonderful rocky beach with view over Monaco. There are not many people as the beach is kinda hidden, so it’s only for the connaisseurs . The descent itself it’s an experience. If got thirsty on the road you got to have a Limoncello on the rock at the only terrace that is there: Le Cabanon. If you’re courageous enough, you can swim to the jumping rock and take a look over Monaco. If you get there, you’ll know what I mean by jumping rock. One last thing, be careful to your planning, as the last bus back to Menton passes by at 19:45 and the stairs back to the main road are now going up, so it’ll take more time:)

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I was just thinking about how much we ate and we haven’t gained not even one pound! I think this is Mediterranean breeze effect! You forget about stress, you forget about the routine, you forget about paying bills, you just lose yourself in this magical world, because Menton is really magical.

Yes, of course I got a little something for back home 🙂

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Practical Information about Menton

Nearest Airport or TGV train station: Nice

You can take the bus directly from the airport and it will drop directly to Menton (20 euros ,1h15, takes the highway)

Or you can take a bus to the center of Nice (6 euros), have a walk, see a bit of Nice, go to the harbour (Le Port) and take the normal no. 100 bus ( 1.5 euros, 1h45, and you get to see all the coast between Nice and Menton).

If you arrive by train to Nice, you will have a TER at each 30 minutes that goes to Menton and it costs approx. 6 euros.

Accommodation: We stayed at the 3*** Narev’s Hotel with about 100 euros per night (for two). But I’m sure you can find a good deal on http://www.booking.com. Be sure to check in somewhere close to the beach, Promenade du Soleil or Old Town, because this is where all the action and magic takes place.

And don’t forget, Sharing is Caring:)