A Spirited Landmark Celebration in Champagne

Hutoshi Kotwal recounts her experience of celebrating her 70th birthday in the land of the bubbly!

I have the travelling itch, and luckily for me I’ve been able to indulge my passion since I had worked at Air France for almost 2 decades and had the incomparable benefit of rebated tickets. So, when it came to figuring out what to present to me for my 70th birthday, it being a landmark year, my wonderful colleagues at Atout France India didn’t have to think very hard – they unanimously decided to present me with a holiday, in France (External link) , bien sur!!!

And my well-known love of champagne made it a no-brainer – so it was at 70, I set off for Reims, the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-growing region, for a few days with a dear friend and travel buddy. On the first day, we made a beeline for the heart-breakingly beautiful landmark of Reims- the Cathedral of Notre Dame- which, by the way, is famous for being the traditional location for the coronations of 33 kings of France for over 1000 years – it’s an indescribable feeling of going back in history, standing there where kings had trod, gazing raptly at the intricate rose stained-glass windows, and marvelling at the architectural brilliance of the stonemasons of yesteryear.

And then it’s down to business – what’s Champagne without the champagne, after all? We made the trek to the prestigious house of Mumm, where we did a lot of tasting (and bought a fair amount of the bubbly too) and learnt a great deal about the making of a great champagne. But the highlight of the trip was a car-ride in a chauffeur-driven car, where the chauffeur was the female version of Jeeves – impeccably turned out, and incredibly knowledgeable of the area we were driving through on our way to Verzy through narrow country roads with typical Champenois homes and smaller champagne houses, which welcome you to tour and taste, which, of course we did, at the charming but little-known small family-run champagne house of La Maison Penet. (External link)

La Maison Penet

And then, the piece de resistance – a trip to the Perching Bar (External link) , which, as the name suggests, is perched in the tree-tops, accessed by rope and slat walkways, which are a little scary to negotiate after one has imbibed a little too freely – my tipple of choice was the Bollinger champagne, which is the champagne of preference of none other than James Bond! Made me feel a little dangerous and a bit like a vintage Jane Bond!

Perching Bar

After an incredible few days of wandering around the city on their quaint trams, stopping to eat and drink at small cafes, we reluctantly went back to Paris to fly home with wonderful memories of my landmark celebration, a fantastic holiday and the best birthday present…EVER!