The little Epernay, Grand de Champagne!

I like to update this post if for any reason my sentimental value. When in Champagne, my dear late wife Martine family went there when young to work and earned a bit of money smashing grapes and cleaning around; my first instroduction to them , the grandmother took me to Epernay and the great Champagne houses. It has been an ever lasting relationship with the Champagne region and the bubbly. I like to tell you about the little town of Epernay, Grand de Champagne!!

Let me tell you about this small town known the world over as the home of Champagne, actually it is a sentimental favorite of ours. On that first trip we visited the houses of  Mercier and Moêt & Chandon ! Therefore, enjoy  Épernay in the dept 51 Marne, now region of Grand Est in my belle France.

The town is right in the middle of a huge viniculture region essential to its economy and link to Champagne from the 18C. The town originally grew on the left bank of the Marne river but it has grown into the right bank as well . The Marne river is navigable from Epernay with a pleasure marina and into the Canal Latéral à la Marne serving as border with Ay to the north of town.  It is located about 25 km from Reims and about 140 km from Paris.

Épernay can be reach on the road by the Autoroute A4 sortie/exit 21 Dormans and sortie/exit 23 Champfleury,  The autoroute of the English or A26 sortie 17 Fagniéres, the D951 (old N51) and the D3 (old N3).  The town is on the traject of the way of liberty or  Voie de la Liberté, and the route of Champagne.  The train is on the line LGV Gare de l’Est Paris-Strasbourg. In addition to links with Bar-le-Duc,  and  Saint-Dizier as well as Reims, Châlons-en-Champagne, Vitry-le-François, Nancy, Metz, Charleville-Mézières, Sedan , and the Gare de Champagne-Ardenne TGV. The local bus network isMouvéo with 6 regular lines  on the town and nearby towns, it is open Mondays to Saturdasy from 6h to 20h. I have to admit have only come here by car!

A bit of history I like on Epernay ,and I believe gives you something to think and see while in town.

The old documents tell us that the town was founded in the area of Celtic Gaul on the left bank of the Marne river and written evidence from the 5C generally given as  418AD. After several invasions by Germanic people it passes under the domain of the Franks under Euloge an officer under king Clovis that takes it and becomes the first Lord of Epernay. Legend tell us that  Euloge is found guilty of a crime by Clovis and condemn to death ; Euloge ask Saint Remi to intervene and he convince the king to spare Euloge in exchange  gives the town to Saint Remi who don’t  take it but buys it  instead wishing only the castle of Epernay  ; Saint Remi confirmed in his will the taking of Epernay for the Church of Reims. In 1024,the town entered into the domain of the Counts of Champagne with the treaty between the bishop of Reims named  Eble de Roucy  and Eudes II,Count of Champagne . Under the under age of future king Louis XIV, in 1646  Épernay  is exchange with the Duke de Bouillon to appeased the markets to the north and stayed in the dukes’ hands until  1789, the French revolution.

In WWI Epernay is a rear guard town and the point of passage of troops and provisions as well as large numbers of soldiers station there ,as well as a hospital . However, been closed to the front it caused several bombings after 1917, and bring fears to the town of falling  by May 1918.  The attacks to the city destroyed a big portion of the  rue du Commerce (today,  avenue de Champagne) ; the Champagne houses of Chanoine Frères, Mercier, Moët & Chandon  and Raoul Chandon were greatly damage as well as the Notre Dame Church and by the rue du Paulmier.  The courage by the town gave it the Cross medal of the war of  1914-1918  on February 8 , 1920 by President of the French Republic Raymond Poincaré, to again honor the resistance and suffering of the people during the war as well as opening ceremonies for the city hall of Epernay at the  hôtel Auban-Moët.

During the WWII, Épernay  is evacuated on June 12 1940  with railroad cars.  Once the arrival of the Nazis on June 14 the city was dead with nobody in it. Therefore, the taking was of minor destruction with only the bridge over the Marne river that was quickly replaced by a wooden bridge. The town is liberated on August 28 1944 by the 7th Armored Division, under General  Silvester, and the  3e army of General Patton USA.  The town after its resistance and killing was decorated as well with the Cross of War medal 1939/45.

As said, this town is directly link to Champagne more than any other, including Reims. This is the country of the grapes of Champagne , the best in the world ever. A bit into this unique history with the help of faily stories and my books. In  1730, the Chanoine Fréres (brothers) founded the first house of Champagne here, one year after Ruinart at Reims.  By  1778, in the merchant general almanach  of shoppers, negotiators and builders of France and Europe ; the Parisian editor Grangé , you can already find  the main wine merchants here such as  « Marc, Germon (widow), De Parté (oldest son), Gillet, Dautez, Lochet du Chênet, Lochet de Vaudidon, Moette the oldest,  and Villème », that makes it 7 houses of Champagne already.

Other than Champagne houses, the things to see here in my opinion are the Notre-Dame Church b. 1898-1915 and later rebuilt 1922-25 with stained glass windows from the 16C and a wonderful organ at place Mendès-France, and the Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul Church at square Raoul-Chandon. Interesting there is a synagogue here from 1880. Other than that not much, not that it tries, after been pillage and burned over 25 times in its history.  My favorites are the gate or portal Saint-Martin, built in 1540, renaissance style  and only part of the Notre Dame Church destroyed in 1909. The  Château-Perrier, built  1854 in the Louis XIII style,  and later HQ of the British army in 1940 and Nazis 1942-1944, and American army in 1945.  The city/town hall or hôtel de ville,built in 1858 by same architect that did the  gare Montparnasse in Paris with a very nice garden.  The theater of Epernay Gabrielle-Dorziat, built and opened in 1902, one of the rare Italian theaters where the machinery is intact ; and has a ceiling dome done by  Georges Jules-Victor Clairin. The tower or  tour de Castellane, built between 1903 and 1905,one of the highest French buildings and the house of Champagne for workers quarters since 1990. Built from a water tower to give the most visibility to the fields by the  maison de champagne De Castellane that is right on the Avenue de Champagne.

Ah yes the Avenue de Champagne is sublime just to walk it! and to taste is heavens!! Épernay is the seat of several Champagne houses such as the Moët & Chandon  and its orangerie ,  Maison Mercier and the barrel biggest in the world (now part of M&C),  maison De Castellane and its tower, etc.  These mansions have furniture and buildings from the 19C renaissance or classic style. The avenue is also known as the crazy street or faubourg de la Folie, later rue du Commerce,and now Avenue de Champagne.  From 1894 most of the Champagne houses had their place on this avenue ; and most are available for visits and tastings. They have about 110 km of underground cellars dig into the chalk at a depth of 20 meters with some even to 40 meters. They allowed to stock large quantities of Champagne that makes the avenue one of the riches in the world. They ,also, serve to guard the population in times of war or needs. The costumes of light or Habits de Lumiére is an event held on the avenue de Champagne every second weekend of December. Unfortunately due to the virus going around this year 2020 has been cancelled, wait for it in 2021. Webpage:

Other interesting places to see and visit are the museums or as the musée du vin de Champagne,a working museum on the work of the vine and wine. The prehistory and archeology museum or musée de Préhistoire et d’Archéologie housing objects from pre history, protohistory, gallo roman periods as well as merovinians are in the Château Perrier ; the museum of champagne traditions or musée de la tradition champenoise in the Champagne de Castellane housing the museum of trades and printing or  musée des métiers du champagne and  musée champenois de l’imprimerie ; as well as the pressing museum or musée des pressoirs in the Champagne Mercier, that have several grape pressing machines from all origins but only open on exceptional days so check before you go for this one. The theater or théâtre Gabrielle-Dorziat  at 8, rue de Reims with  850 seats.

The City of Epernay on its heritage:

The Epernay tourist office

The Champagne-Ardennes region tourist board on Champagne:

And of course, if you want to know ,learn more about the bubbly, then go in English to the official page of the assoc that protects the gold liquid rights :

Enjoy the wonderful town of Epernay by the Marne river, and the bubbly symbol of France to the world! Hope you have enjoy the black and white post as pictures are elsewhere in my Champagne trail.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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