Planning Your Champagne Tour

Champagne region of France

Verzenay mill in the Champagne vineyards – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

One side trip scheme for our next adventure in France involves a long weekend jaunt from Paris to Champagne country with our good friends.  Working on that one escapade entails a rather sizeable amount of research and, possibly, makes me realize why some still choose travel agents in planning their trips.  Certainly an experienced agent offers a real value for those who haven’t the time or inclination to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

I fall into a different category, though, because the anticipation, research and even some of the angst become part of my overall experience.   So many choices, so much delight!

Taking the train eastward is a given, and Rail Europe – the perfect partner.  Assuming the plan remains simple; I find the 1 hour-fifteen-minute trip runs $56 – $84 round trip.  For such a short journey, I would choose the less expensive economy rate.  I can live without first-class comfort for a little over an hour!

Right away this process leads me to think about other possible train trips during our 3-week stay.  A week in Provence, perhaps?  That could mean a TGV ticket to Avignon.  A day trip to Chartres?   A weekend in Bruges?  Oh the many choices one has, when planning a trip!  The real point here is comprehensive research and planning, because multi-day and even multi-country passes purchased in advance of your trip offer considerable savings.

Troyes, Epernay, Reims France

The St Jean district in Troyes – shaped like a champagne cork, when seen from the air – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

Back to our original plan, we might well want to rent a car to explore the Champagne region with our friends, taking in not only Epernay but Reims and Troyes, as well.  The area offers spectacular scenery, interesting Champagne tours and lots of riverside views for a picnic stop.  Euro Railways offers a combo program – France Rail’n Drive – but it really pays to compare.   For example, they offer a 2-day car rental and 2-day first class train tickets at $333 per person for a compact car.  Included are:   2 days of limitless train trips, unlimited mileage and basic liability, four categories of car and pick-up, drop-off in different cities inside the country where you rent the car.  You also have 30 days to complete your trip.

Let’s look at our original train ticket – $56 per person round trip between Paris and Epernay.  Add two days of car rental – a 4-door Peugeot, for example – would run $99 with liability coverage…  and that’s not per person.   Overall, then, the same 2-day rail and 2-day car trip would cost $56/person for rail and $25/person (sharing the cost) for the car rental.  No, please don’t hold me either to the rates nor the math (!), but clearly the trip for four to travel to Epernay, explore the region for two days via rental car and return by train to Paris would cost no more than $110/person for first class.

Two main points to take away from this mini-planning ‘epistle’:  look at your whole trip to see if multiple train treks might be part of your itinerary and research train and car options to get the best price with the greatest latitude.  While you’re at it, enjoy the whole trip preparation process!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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