Having booked our summer holiday in France, Julia could actually see no further than our first night in Reims and having a glass of champagne in Champagne. A few months ago we had seen a photo of a couple sitting at a table by the cathedral in Reims drinking champagne … and from that moment this was our aim. So, having arrived in France, driven all the way to Reims, booked into our hotel, walked into the city centre, found our way to the cathedral … we are sitting at a table in an open air restaurant, on a glorious sunny summer evening, with a wonderful view of Reims Cathedral, ready for dinner … but first a glass of champagne. ‘Do you have some champagne?’ Julia asks the waitress in her now excellent French. The waitress looks at Julia with her ‘this is the region of Champagne, what else do you think we sell’ look on her face and says, ‘Ehhh yeah!’ We sit in the sun, drink our champagne, enjoy an excellent dinner, and walk back to our hotel.
The next day, we walk around Reims, have a tour of the Cathedral with its wonderful Chagall window, take in all the sights, and then head for the champagne domaines. We are specifically looking for the Veuve Clicquot domaine – commonly known by us ‘champagne experts’ as ‘the Widow’ (after the Widow Clicquot) – because it is Julia’s favourite champagne. We are thinking of splashing out and buying a bottle or two. Courtesy of our SatNav Kate (named after the Duchess of Cambridge) we easily find our way there. We park in the domaine car park and find our way in to the impressive Veuve Clicquot centre. There is a tour of the cellar available but it only last an hour or so and costs 30€, although you do get a free glass of champagne at the end. We graciously decline and just visit the shop instead.
We pass lots of Ferraris parked outside – some kind of promotion going on rather than customers we think – and Julia immediately spots the Ferrari she wants!? Fat chance! We look the part – elegantly dressed Brits, obviously very wealthy, just the kind of customers the shop staff is interested in. Julia enquires after a certain type of champagne (she knows about this kind of thing) and, looking at all the other people around us sipping glasses of champagne whilst awaiting their purchases to be packed for them, enquires if it is possible for us to have a tasting of said champagne. ‘How much are you looking to buy’ asks the highly efficient posh bloke who has latched on to us? ‘Half a bottle?’ says Juila, (at 60€ a bottle we think this is acceptable). Monsieur raises his head, lifts his nose, looks down upon us (or, unfortunately for him, upwards towards me because I tower above him), and says, ‘I am sorry Madam but we only offer tasters for those buying at least a box or more!’ Stuff that we think … and buy two plastic yellow Veuve Clicquot goblets and a Veuve Clicquot non-slip tray for considerably less than 60€. Nobody will notice when we walk out of the shop, past the Ferraris, past all the posh models lolling over the cars for the photo shoot, carrying our purchases in our unique posh yellow Veuve Clicquot bag. On the way out of this very impressive set up a very posh couple ask us top take a photograph of them on their iPhone. We are happy to oblige … and they then reciprocate by taking a photo of us on my far posher looking camera!
A week later we buy a really cheap bottle of champagne in the local supermarket for 12€ … and sit drinking it on our chalet veranda in our new yellow plastic Veuve Clicquot goblets for all to see. Well, no one can possible tell from a distance that they are not genuine glass and that we are not drinking expensive real Veuve Clicquot champagne … can they?