Home of the bubbly
From LAX, Air France and Air Tahiti Nui have nonstop flights to Paris. United offers direct flights (stop, no change of plane), and United, Continental, Northwest, American, Lufthansa, Delta, KLM and US Airways have connecting flights (change of plane). Restricted round-trip fares begin at $570.
From Paris to Épernay, drive east on the A4 highway toward Château-Thierry, then take the N3 to Épernay. A good source for maps and turn-by-turn directions is http://www.viamichelin.fr .
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 33 (country code for France) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Royal Champagne, 51160 Champillon-Bellevue, Marne; 3-26-52-87-11, http://www.relaischateaux.com/royalchampagne . A former coach inn with 20 rooms. Doubles from $245.
Le Château d'Etoges, 4 Rue Richebourg, 51270 Etoges Par Montmort; 3-26-59-30-08, http://www.etoges.com . This 17th century castle, with 19 guest rooms, is classified as a historic monument. Rates from $220 per person, including dinner and breakfast.
Le Clos Raymi, 3 Rue Joseph de Venoge, 51200 Épernay; 3-26-51-00-58, http://www.closraymi-hotel.com . A 19th century mansion, with 20 guest rooms, that once belonged to the owner of Moët & Chandon. Surrounded by gardens and a few steps from Avenue de Champagne. Doubles from $160.
Like France's other wine regions, Champagne is popular with tourists, many of them British and American. Many large wineries have tours in English; some wineries, particularly the smaller ones, may not. Area hotels usually can arrange appointments and English tours. When taking tours I never felt obligated to buy the wine.
Perrier-Jouët, 28 Ave. de Champagne; 51201 Épernay; 3-26-53-38-00, http://www.perrier-jouet.com . Tours in English, French, German and Italian from $11-$380 per person ($380 includes lunch and house tour) for groups of at least eight and depart 9 a.m.-noon and 2-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.
Prévoteau-Perrier, 13-15 Rue Andre Maginot; 51-480 Damery; 3-26-58-41-56, http://www.champagne-prevoteau-perrier.fr . Visits by appointment.
TO LEARN MORE:
Épernay tourist office, 3-26-53-33-00, http://www.ot-epernay.fr .
Comité Departemental du Tourism de la Marne, 3-26-68-37-52, http://www.tourisme-en-champagne.com . Weekend tours and Champagne tasting courses.
French Government Tourist Office, (410) 286-8310 (for brochures) or (310) 271-6665, http://www.france tourism.com.
Cecilia Rodriguez is a freelance writer living in Luxembourg.