France has its definite drawbacks; a lot of cheese, foi gras and cakes for breakfast and not the best roads for biking long distances, oh and the fact that most people don't speak English. Nevertheless we have managed pretty well, as usual, with the little French I remember from high school, google translate and champagne. At first, by the border between Belgium and France, things still looked a bit like Belgium, people drink a lot of beer, but the landscape became a bit more chaotic, not as structured as other more northern countries we passed by... We noticed right away we were far from the north, touching Latin grounds.
France is truly beautiful and romantic. I have not been to a place where I see the word "love" written in so many different things and places, oh l'amour! We've seen so many amazing castles and villas, lots of flowers everywhere and rustic country homes. Food and drink is probably the most prioritized interest in France, so even though we may not always find restaurants or stores with what we are looking for, there's always some market place with ingredients of incredibly good quality and a lot organic food as well.
Oh, and FYI our bikes are still working really well, we could not feel more satisfied. We've driven them through different terrains, specially here in France. Stones, gravel, sand, grass; they felt it all and still going strong. And I thought I knew how to ride a bike, but after a month riding these electric horses I understood how little i actually knew, but thanks to Asbjørn's biking experiences I am learning a lot of cool new tricks, by the end of this trip I´ll be feeling like a real pro.
When arriving to one of our grand destinations of Europe: the Champagne region; we noticed how places still served us Belgian beer, so we did a little research and found out that it wasnt until we got to Reims that we were going to taste some of their finest drinks. I had a feeling that Epernay was going to be better though, so we went there and yes, that feeling was correct. It was there we decided to take a three nights rest; giving us enough time to bike around the vineyards and visit the champagne producers, a big dream of my grandfather, the champagne collector.
My grandfather, back in Argentina, told us to go visit the small producers, because their champagne is usually of much better quality than the big names you see in stores. Of course, we also wanted to visit the organic and if possible, vegan ones. After some research we found out about these producers in the area: Jaquinot et fils, Jean Bilard and Veuve Cliquot (this one is very well known, but their house is in Reims, not where we stopped).
Unfortunatelly they were closed at the time and we didn't get to see them, but we did found out some positive destails about some producers which are not certified vegan or organic, but in reality they are. Also, there's a nice selection of organic wines and champagne in the biggest stores, like Carrefour.
There are small villages everywhere and in this region the villages are so outstanding. Everything is well taken cared of and people seem to be quite happy and relaxed, but them again they are all drinking champagne. We were told to go to a near village called Ay, to visit the small and best producers. It is also where one of the best champagne producers, Bollinger, has their vineyard; but unfortunatelly they are not vegetarian friendly as they use gelatine from pig.