The French Riviera in 72 Hours

 

The French Riviera is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The water is so turquoise you can practically see the bottom, the houses are some of the biggest and most gorgeous in the world, the beaches are stunning and everywhere you turn there is an Instagram-worthy view.

Vinn and I spent a weekend in Nice, France with some friends from America and had the most incredible 72 hours. The French Riviera didn’t even cross my mind to visit when we were putting together our travel bucket list but now I can’t wait to go back! It’s seriously one of the most amazing places we’ve been so far on our European adventures and even if you can only visit for a few days, it is definitely worth it.

We stayed at our friends friend’s home, which was super lucky because we could stay for free, but I really want to go back at stay at a hotel on the Nice promenade. If you’re interesting, here is TripAdvisor’s list of the top hotels in Nice.

Here’s our trip breakdown with some tips in case you make it to Nice some day, which you really should!

Day One

The first day was fairly low-key. Our flight arrived in the early afternoon and we headed straight to the house to check it out, get settled and enjoy the beautiful weather. We soaked up the sun in the pool (Copley, too!), walked around the little village where the house is located and grabbed dinner at a cute little Italian place.

 

french_riviera

 

copley_nice

After dinner we headed back to the house and our friends tried to teach us how to play euchre. I say attempted because cards aren’t really my thing, but I did end up enjoying the game, but I particularly liked sitting outside, drinking and chatting.

nice_france

Day Two 

Our second day was similar to the first with taking it easy in the morning, doing a patio workout together and then heading to the beach. The weather was windy and chilly on the coast, but we had lunch in the sand at a beach club, which can’t really be beat. We went to this restaurant and had fun looking at the water. It turned fairly gray after we ate, so the pictures did not turn out so well.

When going to the beach in Nice, it’s best to go to a beach club because you can rent lounge chairs for the day. The beaches aren’t sand beaches, they are actually rocks, so you definitely need a lounge chair.

For dinner, we went to Le Village in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the town where the house was. It was recommended to us by the owners of the house and it did not disappoint. Cagnes-sur-Mer is a little village outside of Nice and if you want to venture out of the big tourist areas, it is a great town.

nice_france_dinner

The square where the restaurant was has Thursday night jazz outside, so we had dinner and a show. The music was fantastic, they even played Snoopy! It was a great dinner, too. Vinn and my friend ordered the spare ribs and said they were delicious, with an even better ambiance.

Day Three 

Our last full day was our promenade day. We went to the famous Nice promenade and spent half a day on a boat tour through the Mediterranean Sea.

nice_promenade

I mean, the water! So stunning.

nice_France_beach

We met our boat tour at 2 PM and headed immediately out on the water. We reserved with Nice Boat Tour and I must say, Vincent was amazing. He was very informative, pointed out Elton John’s house, shared stories of his life working on yachts and had snacks and wine. Our tour lasted 4 hours and we were able to see Monte Carlo, Monaco from afar.

The wealth 0n display in the water is something I’ve never seen. The yachts are huge, mansions on water. The one below has a swimming pool!

yacht_french_riviera

The water was a little choppy, but once we got to a cove it was perfect and we just laid out for a few hours. My friend, Caitlin, and I had some amazing conversations while sunbathing and it reminded me how much I love our heart-to-hearts. It was really special and a testament to how life has changed. When we were in high school, we were talking about boys, girl drama, which college to go to and now we’re talking about mortgages, debt, career. Nuts.

french_riveria

france_boat

Thankfully, no one got sea sick and once we were on land again, we grabbed a snack before having a quick photo shoot on the beach. This picture is seriously one of my favorites of all time.

nice_france_beach

We had our final dinner at the house, played more card games and reminisced about our trip. It was the perfect end to a vacation with amazing friends.

Day Four

We had a little while before our flight and headed to a lookout point at the end of the Nice promenade. This is the best place for a view in all of Nice. There are a fair amount of stairs and I do not recommend wearing jeans like I did.

nice_france

Obligatory Copley picture.

dog_french_riviera

After a quick bite, we headed to the airport for our flight home. It was our first time flying KLM and I must say, it was fantastic. The flight attendants checked on us throughout the flight since we were traveling with our dog and made sure we were comfortable. We fly a lot with Copley and this was the first time anyone has ever asked us if there’s anything they can do to make our flight easier. I was pleasantly surprised.

Our time in the French Riviera was definitely too short, but it was fantastic. I cannot wait to visit again.

nice_france_weekend

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Champagne District Travel Guide

 

I already shared my long weekend trip recap where I posted lots of pictures and more storytelling about our time in the capital of the Champagne district, Reims, France.We learned so much about the champagne making process, the history of some of the biggest producers and what the different types of champagne (extra brut, brut, demi-sec and vintage) mean.

For this post, I am going to share more details, including some general tips, where we stayed and our itinerary. I hope this helps if you are ever looking to visit the Champagne district in France. And, trust me, you should!

But first, here are some quick facts about champagne:

Champagne is only considered champagne if it comes from the Champagne district in France. Prosecco, cava and sparkling wine are made with a similar process but because they are not produced in the district, they cannot be called champagne. In fact, in some countries it is illegal to call a sparkling wine champagne.

Three primary grapes make up champagne: Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Harvest happens between August and September depending on the weather.

Extra brut contains all three grapes but only has up to 8 grams of sugar per 75 cl bottle.

Brut also has a combination of all three grapes but has between 8 and 12 grams of sugar. Many of the houses we visited included 9 grams. This is the most popular type of champagne.

Demi-sec is the sweetest of the bunch with 35 grams of sugar. It is very sweet and has fewer bubbles.

Vintage is the only champagne that is from only one year of grape harvest. The makers at the vineyards decide during harvest if the grapes are a high enough quality to be used as a vintage.

Now that we have an idea on how champagne is made and the what the different types mean, let’s jump into what you should do and see when you visit.

 

travel_guide_france

 

My overall tips:

– Pick your top three champagne houses you want to see. There are over 100 champagne producers, so there is no way you’ll be able to visit all of them in one trip! The tours get repetitive after a while, so planning one large tour per day and then visiting other tasting rooms and restaurants is an ideal way to go. We visited three houses in one day and by the end we weren’t as interested in the tour as we were in the beginning.

– Book in advance. After you’ve chosen your top choices, book a tour in advance. Some of them you pay online and some you can pay once you get there but you should definitely reserve your slot ahead of time. With Veuve Cliquot especially because you have to select your date online, they send you an email and then you reply to the email as a confirmation.

– You don’t need a car, necessarily. Reims is very easy to get to from Paris, a 45 minute train ride to be exact. The major champagne houses in Reims are within a half hour walk of city center. In fact, Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot and Pommery are all in a row and take 10 minutes walking to get from one to the other. If you want to visit Epernay, where Moët & Chandon is, you can also take a train from Reims and it takes about 35 minutes.

– Make at least one dinner reservation. We didn’t run into too many problems with finding a place to eat but some restaurants did have long waits. TripAdvisor is one my favorite resources for finding restaurants because you can filter by rating, location and cuisine. Sometimes you can even make a reservation directly on the site.

– Pack a jacket, even in summer. When you visit the champagne caves, you go up to 90 feet underground. The temperature went from 80 degrees outside to 50 degrees once we were in the caves. I brought a jean jacket, which was perfect to put on while on tour and not a pain to carry otherwise.

– Bring snacks. If you’re going to be drinking all day, during the tastings you receive at least one glass, eating in between stops is a must. Our first day we were starving and had to run into a bakery to hold us over until we could get more substantial food. I wish we had packed some fruit and granola bars to keep our energy up (and our blood alcohol level lower).

– Take notes on the ones you like. Many of the champagnes are exported to the USA and other large countries, so the odds are good that you will be able to find a bottle you love when you get home. Shipping bottles back to the States is not cost-effective, unless you are buying a case or two, but if you have a list of your favorites, you can bring it to your local liquor store and see if they have it or can order it for you.

Lodging:

We rented an AirBnB because hotel prices were a little high, especially when bringing a dog. It ended up being perfect for us because it had two large bedrooms, a washer and dryer and more space for Copley. Two minor issues with the one we chose was that there was no air conditioning or fans (luckily I emailed to ask about fans before we left and we brought two with us) and the bathroom didn’t have a hook for the shower head. You had to hold the handle while taking a shower. Nothing too awful that it upset our stay, but just something to think about when you’re booking an apartment online. If you’re interested, this is the apartment we rented. And if you’re planning a trip, use this link for a credit on your next qualifying stay. (Disclaimer, this is a referral link.)

Itinerary: 

Day 1, Thursday 

We arrived in Reims around 4 PM and picked up our friends from the train station. The train station is super easy to access and was one of the nicest train stations I’ve seen. We loaded up the car and drove about 10 minutes to the apartment.

Once we were all checked in and a little more settled, we ventured out to do some exploring.

 

reims_france

 

It seems like everywhere we go, there is scaffolding! But the Reims Cathedral is still gorgeous.

After walking around for a little while, we decided to grab dinner at L’Apostrophe.  The restaurant was just okay food-wise, but it’s location is awesome. It’s right on the main street, Place Drout D Erion, and has amazing outdoor seating. 

After dinner, we headed to Le Wine Bar, which was right by our apartment and recommended by the apartment owner. It was the perfect place to try some lesser known champagnes and start to get an idea of the tastes we all liked. I asked the waiter for a dryer champagne and he instantly recommended one and it was delicious. We also had a dessert place that was amazing. The Nutella toast…yum! So simple, yet so perfect.

 

chocolate_plate

Day 2, Friday

The second day is when the fun started! We started with breakfast and getting ready for the day before heading out on our champagne adventures.

Our first stop was at Taittinger. We booked a tour at 11:45 AM online in advance and I highly recommend it. You have several options with varying tasting levels. We chose the tasting that included two different tastings at the end. This tour started with a movie about the history of the house, which started in 1734, and then we went down to the caves. Our tour guide was fantastic, had a wealth of knowledge and was quite funny! We downed our two glasses, purchased a few bottles and made our way to the next stop.

 

taittinger_visit

Our next stop brought us to Veuve Cliquot. I had tasted this champagne several times before and really enjoy it. It’s more on the expensive side and only buy it to celebrate something. So, I was really looking forward to this one! And it did not disappoint. This tour was smaller, so we got to really ask some questions. The history of Veuve is very interesting because it is said to be the producer to really modernize the way champagne is made, specifically the fermentation process that happens in the bottle. Other fun fact, after the founder’s son passed away, his wife, Madame Cliquot, took it over. She became the first woman to run a champagne house, basically the first wonder woman. And since the 1980’s, Veuve has been owned by Louis Vuitton.

*Side note about Veuve. There are two locations in Reims. There is the headquarters where they have a tasting room and is right downtown. The caves and the tour are outside the city, 3o minutes by walking or 10 minutes by car. When you book online, they send you the correct address for the tour, but just wanted to explicitly say this. I was confused when I pulled up Google Maps and saw two different addresses.

 

veuve_champagne_visit

 

Our last stop of the day brought us to Pommery. This was a different type of tour because the house decided that in order to differentiate themselves, they should include art and art installations in the caves. It was very interesting to see but a little distracting. We didn’t spend too much time at the tasting because we were tired and hungry.

Our dinner after all of that drinking was necessary and what better cuisine than Italian! We picked up Copley and then headed to Il Gusto. It was a tiny restaurant but the food was amazing. I ordered the truffle risotto and everyone else’s meals were also tasty. We also switched it up and ordered red wine instead of champagne.

Day 3, Saturday 

Our last full day was spent in Epernay. We drove there and immediately grabbed lunch with my best friend and her dad who came up from Paris for a few hours. It wasn’t anything spectacular and I don’t even remember the name but it was filling. Then we stopped at a small tasting room for R&L Legras where we ordered a bottle of brut to split. It was very delicious and the owner brought out a bunch of little appetizers, which was such a nice touch.

And then we visited Moët and Chandon. The grounds are absolutely stunning and the tour was quite nice, too. Moët is also owned by Louis Vuitton so it was interesting to compare it to Veuve. Dom Perignon is under the same umbrella, as well. This tour included a video to start but it was more of a commercial for the house and showed the process but didn’t go into details. This tour was very informative but it was my least favorite tasting. Even though you are still in the caves, which is cool, there was no where to sit and the lighting was really bad for pictures.

 

moet_chandon_visit

 

After our tour, we went to two more smaller tastings to try some more champagne before taking the scenic route back to Reims. This drive was incredible! We took the less direct road, through Ditzy, so we could drive through the vineyards.

 

champagne_vineyards

 

I didn’t notice we were basically matching during the day until this picture. We did not plan it, promise. Also, thank goodness for self-timers.

When we made it back to Reims, we were all hungry, so we went back towards the main street and grabbed another table outside. This time we visited Le Cafe de Reims. Again, the dinner wasn’t anything spectacular, but the dessert was amazing. We ordered a chocolate lava cake and a soufflé. These were worth it and I would go back just to order those!

Day 4, Sunday 

Our final day was short since we had to drive back and our friends had to take the train back to Paris. We grabbed McDonald’s breakfast, which was actually delicious, got ready, checked out and then went to search for an open store. I really wanted to buy a few bottles of champagne that I couldn’t get in Germany or the States and found the perfect store to do just that! The store was Nicolas and the owner there recommended three bottles. I can’t wait to try them!

We then grabbed a quick lunch at Bistrot du Forum before saying our goodbyes.  It was an amazing trip, with great friends and I would love to go back.

After reflecting on our trip, here are my top favorites:

– Best Tour: Taittinger. Probably because our guide was so amazing. It was the most informative and I liked starting with a video on the house’s history.

– Best Tasting: Veuve Cliquot. This was the only tasting with places to sit. It was almost like you were sitting in a cute little store. We really got to hang out while trying our champagne and taking a break.

– Best Champagne: Pommery Brut. Of course, this is personal preference, but I thought this brut was the best. I actually found it at the grocery store the other day and I’m excited to try it again!

I hope this guide is helpful if you ever plan a visit to Reims and/or Epernay. If you go, please let me know if you find any other cool spots.

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Long Weekend in Champagne

 

Celebrations both big and small happen every single day. Maybe you were recently promoted, the offer on your dream house was accepted, it’s your birthday or your child is leaving the nest, anything should be celebrated. And how do you celebrate? With a champagne toast, of course.

I love champagne and Prosecco, basically anything with bubbles. It’s my go-to drink order at a bar or restaurant. I love it. So when two of our really good friends were talking about planning a European trip and asked what cities were still on our bucket list, I was quick to say let’s go to the Champagne district. I figured we could celebrate being with dear friends and, let’s face it, there would be lots of champagne consumption.

This past weekend, this trip that we’ve been planning for months finally happened!

We spent four days in Reims, France (the unofficial capital of the Champagne district) visiting several larger Champagne houses, seeing sights, laughing, eating and drinking lots of bubbles. I thought I would break up our trip into two posts: a more photo dense post (this one) and then a more detailed post with information on where we stayed, tips and details about our tours.

Vinn and I drove to Reims from Germany, which only took 4.5 hours and arrived just in time to pick up our friends from the train station. We headed to the apartment we rented (more on that in my next post) and set out to discover the town.

 

reims_france

 

The Reims Cathedral is absolutely stunning, minus the scaffolding, and looks a lot like the Notre Dame in Paris. It is in the center of the small town and even has a light show at night during the summer.

Our plans were fairly flexible. We didn’t have too many expectations or set plans. We did book tours in advance to Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot and Pommery on Friday and then to Moët and Chandon on Saturday. The tours went through the champagne making process, which is fascinating but repetitive once you’ve been to several and then the history of the house. Each of our tours ended with a tasting and great photo ops! It was a great combination of set plans and flexibility because we were able to stop into places that looked good to us and try some smaller houses’ champagne.

Did you know that sparkling wine is only considered champagne if it comes from the Champagne district in France? Fun fact.

 

 

champagne_france

 

Friday was go, go, go since we had the three tours planned and I definitely would have spaced them out more. But it was so fun to see how different the houses are from each other, what they do to separate themselves and just how different the champagnes do taste. More detail will be coming soon because I want to write more of a travel guide and that’s just too much information in this post.

On Saturday, we drove 30 minutes outside of Reims to Epernay, which is more vineyard like and less city-like. We actually also met my friend, Megan, and her dad there because they happened to be in Paris at the same time for the Paris Air Show. What are the odds?

 

champagne_tasting

 

I want to point out how special these two ladies are to me. Megan (on the left) and I have been inseparable since the first day of college when we lived next to each other. We just went to her wedding in Chicago. And Caitlin (on the right) and I have been super close since like 5th grade! We were in each other’s weddings and talk all the time. It is rare to have such close friendships and we are so lucky to be able to pick up right where we left off no matter how much time has passed. I am blessed to have them in my life.

 

vineyards

 

The same can be said for having “couple” friends. You definitely learn about people when you travel with them and when you end up being closer friends at the end of the trip, then you’ll be friends for life. These two are definitely in that category.

After our time in Epernay, we drove the scenic route back to Reims for dinner and to pick up Copley. Yes, despite what these pictures show, Copley was in Reims with us. She wasn’t allowed in the houses, so she stayed back at the apartment.

 

champagne_france

 

It was absolutely gorgeous to see the vineyards and the grapes that will eventually be champagne. Stopping for pictures on the side of the road has started to become our thing! We grabbed Copley and dinner for our final night in Reims. We woke up on Sunday, had breakfast and bought a few more bottles to bring home.

Our trip was exactly what we wanted: relaxing, full of laughs and delicious drinks. Check back on Wednesday to see exactly what a tour is like at a champagne house, tips for planning a trip here and my favorite champagne!

 

champagne_district

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Friday Favs {May 19}

Thank Goodness it’s Friday, right? The first full week back from vacation is always hard and this week was exactly that. I’ve been super tired lately and spent this week thinking that Monday was Tuesday and Thursday was Friday. I absolutely hate when that happens. This weekend I am looking forward to some relaxing couch time, hard work outs, a dinner with some work colleagues and a wine walk through a nearby vineyard. It’s going to be a great weekend!

But before we get to that, I’m going to share my Friday Favs for this week.

Coffee shop reading

 

starbucks_coffee

 

There is something about coffee shops that make me want to go back to college and study for exams. But only the fun, marketing exams. Coffee shops also make me want to sit in a big, comfy chair with a good book and a decent latte.

Copley was getting a haircut and I had some time on my hands so I swung by Starbucks to read for about 30 minutes. This book, Dark Money, is extremely interesting but scary and I’ve had a hard time getting into it but I’m determined to finish it.

Copley’s new raincoat

 

cute_raincoat_dog

 

My mom got Copley this raincoat and it is great because it zips into itself, so it’s super easy to transport. I love the color and the little hood. And as my dad said, “It looks like she’s going to serve fish at Long John Silver’s.” This look didn’t last either because there are elastic strings that go under her legs and she hated them. She walked funny for a few steps and then she would just sit. It was hilarious. But this picture is amazing.

Little Venice in Colmar, France

 

little_venice

 

This weekend we went to Colmar, France and walked around the Little Venice area. IT was very small, like two blocks long, but super quaint. It really did look like Venice, there were even little boats like gondolas on the water.

I also just love the rows of colorful houses. This city is just so picturesque and I could seriously visit every month. The great thing is that it’s only a 2 hour drive for us.

I think that will do it for this week! What are you up to this weekend? 

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Two Days in Alsace

Travel, travel, travel. That is the theme of 2017. And I love it. We are only living in Germany for a short amount of time, there’s no time to waste. It seems like most weekends are filled with some kind of event (like this weekend’s Craft Beer Festival in Stuttgart) or travel. And this past weekend, we headed to the Alsace, France region with another couple and had the best time exploring the towns, grabbing a waffle or crepe, drinking wine and reading on fountains.

We left on Good Friday around 10 AM and drove just about two hours to make it to our hotel, Hotel Arnold, in Itterswiller.

alsace_france

This hotel is just magical. It is small, dog-friendly, has a spa and a restaurant and amazing views of the vineyards. Itterswiller is very small, there is only one street, so we walked around with Copley to explore.

 

alsace view

 

That yellow building on the right is our hotel. Does it get much better than that? I don’t think so. This region in France has a similar climate/layout to Napa Valley, which is why it makes for a great wine growing region. I can’t imagine what this place looks like during harvest.

We also noticed on our walk down the main street this gorgeous church with a mural dating back to the 1330’s. It is a mural of Judgement Day with Jesus welcoming people into Heaven and damning others to hell.

 

alsace_mural

 

It is small, but it is quite powerful.

After our walk, we met up with our friends and then hit the road to head to a bigger city in the Alsace region, Colmar.

 

 

Is this not the cutest place you’ve ever seen? Colmar is on the water and even has a section called Little Venice. We didn’t venture there because it was too cold, but I can’t wait to go back. We walked around Colmar for a decent amount of time, stopping to buy chocolates and grabbing a glass of wine.

 

colmar_church

 

colmar_france

 

Then we visited the Beauty and the Beast fountain, which I wrote about earlier this week. I wouldn’t say this fountain was life changing, but it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

 

 

alsace_fountain

 

I want to give a shout out to Vinn again and thank him for being so thoughtful and giving me this Beauty and the Beast book before we left. I love it!

 

beauty_beast

 

Here I am pointing out Chapter 3, just like Belle does in the song! “But she won’t discover that it’s him ’til chapter 3!”

After the Beauty and the Beast moment, we went back to Itterswiller and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was incredibly good. The best part was the chocolate mousse for dessert. I didn’t take any pictures of it because it wasn’t honestly pretty, but it was amazing!

 

hotel_arnold_restaurant

 

The next day, we drove to Strasbourg to spend Saturday night there before driving home for Easter. We had a great time walking around, drinking wine, eating Nutella waffles and having Italian for dinner.

 

strasburg_france

 

Hi Copley! These are our friends, Shannon and Stefan. They are a great couple and so much fun. We spent so much time laughing and on the hunt for the perfect chocolate croissant.

 

on_the_water

Overall, our weekend in Alsace was wonderful. It was great to spend time with friends, to explore a new region, drink wine and eat too much chocolate. I definitely plan to go back.

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