The Champagne region in France is famed for one thing – of course that one thing is the drink that is produced here. Other than that, tourists are not widely aware of all that this region has to offer and it remains little visited when compared to regions further south – many visitors simply pass through this region on their way to a different holiday destination. But the Champagne region has a lot more to offer than just the sparkling wine, though some of its intrigue does of course lie in the cellars of Reims and Epernay.
Photo Courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Verzenay_moulin.jpg
Interestingly, although champagne is famed for the sparkling wine, the idea did not originate in the area but is thought to have been brought up by monks from the Languedoc. Though it was widely agreed that this regions sparkling wines were better than those produced further south. Perhaps there is no region anywhere in the world whose name has been made so famous by a local product. Strange to say though, especially considering the high-society reputation connoted by the word champagne, the region is actually one of the lowest scoring regions in France in terms of GDP – it comes 17th out of the 21 regions of continental France . However, this is misleading. This region actually comes 8th in terms of GDP per inhabitant. Champagne is just a relatively sparsely populated region.
The capital of the modern region is Châlons en Champagne though Reims is by far the larger city and is a general focal point and hub for business and tourism in the region. Reim, or Rheim as it is often spelled in English, is one of the great historic cities in northern France – this city is the exception to the rule and most of the tourists who come to champagne will be found here. Outside of Reim the region is a quiet and rural area. It has attracted people from Paris or from Belgium and Holland to buy second homes in the hillier areas, but for the most part people do tend to just pass on through, which is a shame. Passing straight through Champagne means that you will miss out on many lovely places.
There are many lovely and relatively little known towns in the region: Charleville Mézières with a picturesque old town, Troyes with its 13th Century gothic cathedral and, perhaps top of the list, Langres, a beautiful, fortified hill town which is sometimes called the ‘Carcasonne of the north’ and yet is inexplicably off the main tourist track and suffers none of the crowds by which Carcasonne is sometimes plagued.
In addition to the historic towns you will find much beautiful countryside, vineyards and farmland, Sedan, a chateau-fort built in the early 15th Century said to have been the largest ancient fortress in Europe, the Lac du Der, largest reservoir in Europe and a favourite bird watching spot as well as the burial place of Charles de Gaulle and Nigloland, the largest theme park in France. So why not consider stopping in champagne for your summer holidays?
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