Sunday, June 1, 2008

Europe Day 11 (Thursday)

Although a bit delayed, I should probably do my best to catch up this blog before I return home. I am sitting in the Heathrow airport on one of my shorter layovers waiting to leave for San Francisco. I'll do the best I can to recall the events of the trip. I am thinking while sitting here that I am going to require the input of Ryan and Dipper to adequately fill in these days as I am a bit hazy due to the traveling and Paris whirlwind.

Thursday was an improvisational day that we did not anticipate having in the first place so I pulled for a visit to the Champagne country. I had a big fuck-off map of France that Bobby gave me before I left Davis that showed the path he took on his Bike many months ago that allowed me a reasonable idea of where I wanted to visit. Convincing the others that this trip was worthwhile was not actually too difficult as Ryan assumed the roads would be interesting and Dipper loves champagne almost as much as I do. Ryan's sister Nicole and friend Courtney also decided to tag along so we had a very full car for this adventure.

We started the trip by making a valiant effort to leave Paris. By means of a vehicle this is not exactly a trivial or safe proposition. The 5 of us used our GPS and a little bit of luck to get out of Paris as quickly as possible. The drivers/motorcyclists here are insane and most of the roads have no sense of a "lane." There are many roundabouts that have 5-8 lanes merging into 2 and then 5 again with tons of exits at random points and random vehicles tearing in and out of these so-called "lanes." Terrifying, but we made it. Once we hit the A4, it was smooth sailing out into the not so developed portions of France.

As we headed East the countryside got greener and the weather worse and worse. There is simply no helping the rain on this trip. We have endured it for the majority of the trip and have almost gotten used to it. I might add that this did not stop Dipper or Ryan from complaining about it :). We decided to take a more scenic route that was aptly labeled "route touristica de champagne." This took us through many of the smaller wineries and hundreds of acres of grapes in the French countryside. This was pretty incredible experience. The Champagne region is beautiful and has many small roads that take you into portions of the country where you see nothing but rolling hills and vinyards. We stayed on this road for quite some time and as it began to get late we took the slightly more main road into Epernay.

Epernay has most of the most famous Champagne companies (Moet, Perrier etc...) and has some incredibly large mansions that most of those big champagne groups call their home. We went down the main Champagne road by foot and quickly realized that we should have thought ahead if we were to have any chance of being able to take a tour of any of the big wineries. It was still cool to see anyway and most of the tours were pretty expensive regardless. Our spirits slightly down we decided to at least go and see if we could purchase some champagne to drink/take home.

We found a really interesting store that sold champagne exclusively from the smaller growers and given that these were much closer to our price range we chose a few of these (they turned out to be incredibly good). We found a shop that sold the bigger names but grew overwhelmed quickly with sticker shock as most of them were over 50 Euro ($80+). As baller as I wanted to be, the UC job just doesn't make for frequent splash-outs like that. Wanted that Dom Perignon though. Damnit. One of the Dom "Rose"s went for over 350 euro for a bottle. Ouch. Probably would be something like 10 dollars a sip.

We decided to head out after this but ran into a huge church (shocking) that we decided to check out. This was not nearly as cool as some of the other churches that we have seen but it did have a very small spiral staircase that we found by opening a door that its very possible we should not have opened. We walked all the way up to the top and found a door to a room that was filled with spider webs and thus turned around and walked all the way down. Swiftly. Very strange claustraphobic experience. Maybe that was where Jesus has been hiding?!

We finally got back to the car and decided to head out of the Champagne region by means of the normal roads. This was fine aside from he fact that we were stuck behind a really slow bunch of traffic that Ryan attempted to pass which allowed for the opportunity to almost accidently head-on colide with another vehicle at 110 miles an hour. Most of us were pretty spooked but quickly grew tired of giving Ryan a hard time for almost killing us :). It actually wasn't that close but it certinely was alot closer than any of us would have liked.

The rest of the evening was filled with wandering around and looking at the huge Phallic iron light stick and grabbing some dinner. We also phinagled an ice bucket from the Hotel and had two Bottles of the stuff that we purchased at Epernay. This was some of the best champagne I have ever had period. First bottle was definetly better but still amazing stuff. Slightly hammered so we went to bed at around 12:30!

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