Life and Landscape in Champagne-Ardenne

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June 7, 2012 by LeVoyageur

The recent Diamond Jubilee was a great occasion for the whole UK, yet given our limited time to travel (and distaste for large crowds), Alex and I decided to take advantage of the 4-day weekend, add a day, and take a road trip. This time we visited Champagne and stayed at a small hotel in the town of Avize where we first visited last December for a long weekend before the Christmas holidays. These are a few photos from our trip.

A few things stood out for me on this trip as much as on our first trip. First, how hard people work in these vineyards. It is at the end of the day an agricultural life. Most of the villages are small. Often they take on the feel of a walled city. Shutters and gates are closed fortress-like against a flow of tourists, like ourselves, who have sought out the region for its beauty and wines. At the heart of most villages are champagne houses on the one side and a church on the other. Religious iconography is found throughout the region, in the middle of fields and in the depths of the cellars of the Champagne makers.

In the morning we woke first to the songs of birds, then came the peeling of the bells of the local church, a sound which would continue on the quarter-hour until 7 pm. Then came the motors of vineyard equipment driving through the streets and out into the fields. Not all of Champagne is given over to wine-making. Many fields not suitable for grapes are used for other crops.

Driving throughout the region, despite rain and clouds, we were able to take in an abundance of beautiful views. Northern France, tilled and tended by the hand of man, is part rugged nature, part sculpted landscape; to see and to visit is to comprehend the millennia that people have made this fertile region home.

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