Sue Cycles the Champagne Trails of France

Cycling the Champagne trails of France | Sue Marr
Cycling the Champagne trails of France | Sue Marr

Sue Cycles the Champagne Trails of France

What a destination Sue chose for a holiday with her gal pals - the vineyards, fine food and rolling hills of the Champagne region of France! Read on to learn more about the highlights of this self-guided cycling tour and perhaps become inspired yourself.
The rolling hills of France's Champagne region |  <i>Fernand Champagne</i>
It all started as a plan to tick off bucket list item, a visit to Paris’s Roland Garros and the very stylish, French Open Tennis Championships, with my sister and 3 tennis-loving girlfriends.  We’d bonded over regular visits to the tennis in Melbourne and a plan was hatched to create a tennis-watching ‘girls away trip’.  
Obligatory photo in front of the Eiffel Tower |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
We didn’t want to travel all the way from Australia to Paris just for a week of tennis so the question was how to fill a week or so before or after the French Open?  
UTracks’ ‘Champagne Trails’ self-guided cycle ticked all the boxes for us, the start in Reims,  just a 45 mins TGV train ride from Paris; a self-guided cycle over undulating country-side with a sprinkle of charming townships; world-renowned champagne houses and caves and a sumptuous choice of food and wine offerings.  
What’s not to like?
French vineyard at sunset |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
The French Open starts mid-May so the timing is perfect for a pre-cycle active week, enjoying glorious baby-blue skies and moderate temperatures.  
Crisp Spring mornings warming to the middle twenties afternoons were ideal for sightseeing and a spin down paved cycle-ways and undulating country laneways.  
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
Our Champagne cycle starts in the city of Reims (pronounced ‘Rance’ with a distinctly rolled ‘R’) in northeastern France, the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region.  
It is definitely worth staying an extra night or two pre-cycle to see the magnificent Cathedrale Notre-Dame, a grand cathedral of stained glass windows and Gothic portals, hosting the coronation of French kings for over 1,000 years.  
Of course, no visit to Reims is complete without saluting a glass or two at one of the many champagne houses headquartered there, followed by a leisurely lunch at an outdoor bistro on one of the city’s expansive boulevards.
The home of Taittinger Champagne |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

Our bikes are delivered to our Reims hotel so we have the chance to check seat heights and gears on a light spin around the block.  The e-bike batteries are fully charged so we are ready to go the next morning after a hearty breakfast of juice, baguette, croissants, cheese, ham, boiled eggs and copious cups of coffee.  
Typical French breakfast |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Art imitating the French lifestyle |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
For this trip, I’ve chosen a standard bike but is more than adequate for experienced riders for the flat to undulating journey.  My novice-cyclist companions are very happy with their chosen e-bikes and slip easily into cruise mode, finding them comfortable, sturdy and stable.  
As our luggage is transferred to each overnight stay, all we need to carry with us are a few useful items to get us through the day such as water, snacks, a jacket and phones/camera.  We invested in gel bike seats (thanks Aldi) and carried our own helmets – although the latter were offered locally if we wanted them.  We dressed in light layers so we could easily adjust as the days cycling and sunshine warmed us.
Cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
The first day’s cycle takes us south along the paved cycle path of the Reims canal, heading south towards the Montagne de Reims natural park, through rural villages to Ay and then to Epernay for an overnight stay.  
Champagne houses in Epernay
The magnificent house of Moet and Chandon is headquartered here so make sure you plan ahead and book a tour of the underground cellars as these are very popular and sell out well ahead, especially on weekends.  
If you happen to miss out on a tour, you can still visit for a champagne tasting in the outdoor courtyard or to find a treasure or two in the gift shop.  It is well worth a visit just to see the beautifully restored building with stunning chandelier, stone floors and lovely gardens.  
The Mumm vineyards |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Mumm Champagne on display |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Cyclist finding a leafy backdrop for a photo |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
The Champagne houses of Pommery and Mumm should also be added to your visit list, the outdoor courtyard at Mumm is especially comfortable for a sip and relax.  
The home of Mumm champagne |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

The smell of French home-cooking from a local bistro or fresh-baked baguettes from a small boulangerie usually decided our coffee and lunch stops each day.  The panniers fitted to our bikes come in very handy when we have an impromptu visit to a local champagne house, courtesy of the Bistro owner’s friendship with the wine maker’s family.  
A highlight of our self-guided cycle was that we were free to follow our noses and set our own schedule with the freedom to experience these special, random moments.
Taking a break from cycling for bubbles |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
Our next cycle day takes us through the beautiful Marne Valley, cycling along the undulating ‘veloroute’ and country roads, through vineyards and fields of waving wheat, framed by charming villages.  
Scenes from cycling France's Champagne Trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
Be sure to plan your day around cycle times between villages to take advantage of rest stops with coffee and pastries from exquisite local boulangeries.  These tend to close in the middle of the day, especially early in the season.  Champagne house tasting rooms close for tours and tastings between 12 noon and 5pm so again, if visits are part of your day’s activity, check ahead for opening hours to avoid disappointment.  
Bistros in the larger towns are generally open for lunch and dinner without a break and offer daily specials on a blackboard menu on the front door.  For a simple picnic lunch, visit a market or boulangerie early in the day to stock up on provisions as there are an abundance of beautiful parks and rest stops along the way.
Delicious French pastries |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

Our overnight stay in the small village of Reuilly Sauvigny was an absolute highlight of our Champagne visit.  
The Auberge Le Relais is a small guesthouse with a renowned restaurant serving lunch and dinner.  We’re told by a departing lunch guest that they had driven from Epernay just to experience the chef’s degustation lunch and congratulated us on choosing such an ideal location for our overnight stay.  Thanks UTracks!  
The Auberge has only 7 rooms but they are very modern and well-appointed with glorious views of the valley through waving willow trees.  So picturesque, so tranquil and so many shades of green, it was a picture post card of loveliness.
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
It was nice to have a break from cycling to wander through the small village, visiting the local church and the manicured cemetery.  
After a short rest to luxuriate in our beautiful rooms, there was time for a glass of bubbles before we were invited to enjoy an incredible, seemingly endless degustation menu, each course presented with theatrical flair by our young waiter, delighting in our ecstatic ‘ooohs and aaahs’.  
After a long day in the saddle and a memorable meal, it was time to check the e-bike batteries were sufficiently topped up before succumbing to the delightful tiredness induced by exercise, great food and conversation.
Oyster in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Enjoying champagne in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Oysters in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i>

The next day’s cycle included a visit to the beautiful Orbais l’Abbaye and the Chateau de Montmort Lucy enroute to the charming town of Vertus with lots of dining options and the inevitable choice of champagne house visits on offer.  There’s also an aquatic centre just outside the town if you feel the need for a swim.  
Highlights of cycling France's Champagne trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Charming wall fronts in France |  <i>Sue Marr</i> Art imitating the French lifestyle |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
The final day’s ride undulates through vineyards and small villages with plenty of options for rest stops to enjoy the valley views.  There are a host of Grand Cru champagne houses to visit or to just to admire the decorative gardens and trimmed hedges along the way.  
Cycling the Champagne trails of France |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
Spring gardens are in full bloom with roses in abundance in multiple hues so if ever there was an excuse to stop and smell the roses on our way to Epernay, the Champagne Trails cycle is definitely the trip to choose!  
As the perfect exclamation point to a fantastic trip, Epernay is hosting a weekend market showcasing the best of the local food and wine producers, so all in all, wonderful timing and an ideal ending to an enjoyable week in the Champagne capital of the world.
Scenes from cycling France's Champagne Trails |  <i>Sue Marr</i>
Do you wish you were with Sue on her girls trip in France? We're certainly inspired! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
France, Champagne Trails, Cycle France, Cycle Champagne, Visit France

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