Undiscovered France: L’Aube en Champagne
Date Posted: 27/06/2012
Helen Arnold reveals the undiscovered delights of L’Aube en Champagne waiting to welcome you on your next group holiday.
If you don’t get your kicks from Champagne, then it could be that you’re looking in the wrong place.
Boasting small family-run producers, pretty villages and meandering rivers, discover the delights of L’Aube en Champagne on your next group holiday.
Despite being only an hour and a half train journey south-east of Paris, or a four-hour drive from Calais, L’Aube en Champagne is a relatively undiscovered region of France - at least as far as UK group travellers are concerned.
However, it’s the perfect destination for a group trip to France as there is something for everyone to enjoy, from foodies, wine aficionados, history buffs and art lovers, to outdoor and sports enthusiasts.
Follow the beautiful 136-mile Champagne route, clearly marked at the side of the roads, where you will find wine made by families in the traditional Champagne method.
The COTE DES BARS Champagne in the Aube region produces a quarter of France's champagne, and a visit to local producers and a tasting of their prized produce in their homes should not be missed.
A good place to start is Champagne Drappier in Urville, which boasts a wide range of champagnes to taste, including Grande Sendrée Brut and Grande Sendrée Rosé - two single vineyard champagnes. Made from 70-year-old vines, the name derives from a corruption of cendrée, the vineyard having been woodland until it was burnt down in 1838 infusing the soil with ash. Other producers worth visiting include Devaux, and Chassenay d'arce.
Cheese & chocolate
For an alternative to champagne tasting, drop into the chateau at Chacenay or taste the region's pungent AOC Chaource cheese in the village of the same name.
Groups with plenty of time can sample tasting centre at Les Riceys, which is also known for its rosé wine, much favoured by Louis XIV.
Meanwhile, chocolate lovers will be in seventh heaven at chocolatier Pascal Caffet's emporium at 2, Rue de la Monnaie, Troyes.
Knights of the Templiers
L’Aube is not all about food and wine - though it undoubtedly plays an important role.
There is culture aplenty in this part of the world; history buffs - and John Grisham fans - will be interested in the new Templiers exhibition which opened earlier this year, and which marks the 700th anniversary since the dissolution of the very first Order of the Temple, which was established in Troyes in 1120.
If you choose to organise a group excursion to view the exhibition, you’ll be transported back to the heart of the Middle Ages and will be able to find out about the history and life of the Order.
Make sure you make time on your group holiday to wander the old cobbled streets of Troyes - the beautiful medieval capital of the region.
Admire the 16th century half-timbered buildings which were re-built after a fire burned the city down in 1524.
An ongoing restoration effort is uncovering more and more of Troyes’ ancient buildings, and stones still protrude from facades to protect them from bygone chariot wheels.
In alleys such as the Ruelle des Chats, the leaning buildings and gargoyles crowd so closely above your head that you feel as if you’ve walked back in time.
Whether by accident or design, the central area of the town - flanked by the Seine on one side and 19th century boulevards on the other - takes the form of a champagne cork (or bouchon de champagne); a fact in which the locals take much pride.
A city of churches
The city's ten historic churches - including the Eglise St Jean where England's Henry V married Catherine of France to end the 100 years' war - and varied art and history museums should fill at least a day of your group itinerary.
Visit the Museum of Modern Art for its collection of Derain, Braque and Vlamink. Special interest groups won’t want to miss Renoir’s former studio in nearby Essoyes, where he painted every summer for 25 years. Visitors to the exhibition can find out about his life and work, and visit his nearby grave.
The great outdoors
Outdoor types are well catered for in L’Aube: there are three golf courses, endless hiking trails through enchanting forests, a green trail along a canal path of the Upper Seine, and a regional natural Park of the Foret d’Orient to discover by foot, on bike or on horseback.
To the east lie the region's three man-made recreational lakes - reportedly the largest in Europe - with one dedicated to sailing, another to water sports, and the third to fishing and canoeing. The lakes are cleverly linked to nearby villages and all the way to Troyes by a network of ‘Voie Vertes’ cycle paths.
Sample itineraries for special interest groups
Theme a group holiday to Champagne around your party’s interests or passions.
For a cultural trip include...
• A visit to Templiers Museum
• A tour of an art gallery
• A trip to Renoir’s studio and grave
• A walking tour of Troyes, visiting some of the famous churches where the legendary stained glass can be admired.
• An excursion to a champagne cellar followed by tasting & dinner
For a gourmet trip include...
• A visit to champagne cellar followed by tasting & dinner
• A trip to a farmers’ market
• An excursion to a local cheese producer to taste the local speciality cheese
• Lunch at a restaurant specialising in the famous local sausage
• Rose wine tasting
• A walking tour of the vineyards accompanied by a picnic lunch
For an activity trip include...
• A walking tour of Troyes, visiting some of the historical sites
• Cycling around the vineyards, stopping off for a picnic lunch
• Horse riding through the natural park
• Swimming in one of the lakes
• A half-day hike through the national park
Aube en Champagne Tourism:
Photo credits: Nicolas Dhor CDT Aube