“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
One of the things I most look forward to when traveling is the element of surprise that inevitably accompanies every trip. I plan and I pore endlessly through travel blogs and Fodor guides to European vacations, I consult Rick Steves, I pull up maps, I plot the best routes, and after all that, in the end, it’s just words on paper. Because nothing, no amount of planning, truly prepares you for the first glimpse of that thing you’ve been anticipating. It’s sometimes a moment of awe, it’s sometimes a small tinge of disappointment because things look better on the internet than they do in real life, but the one thing it always is is unexpected.
Staying at the Chateau de Etoges was nothing like I expected it to be, in a good way. Of course I had looked online, booked the restaurant through the hotel concierge, but what I didn’t know was that we would drive right past Etoges, accidentally, because it was literally a one stop sign town. Or that when we would tell people where we were headed next, even the locals would stare at us blankly. What we didn’t know going in was that the Champagne region of France is filled with teeny, tiny one-church towns that grew up literally 5 kilometers from the next, independent and unique, isolated but still supporting the culture of the land. And maybe no one has ever heard of the town, but it’s still worth going.
After rerouting and turning around, we finally found the Chateau de Etoges right smack in the middle of the town, with a grand and sweeping drive, flanked by trees, leading to a bridge that crossed a moat and pointing us towards a 17th century home-turned-hotel. The inside was both historic and well-appointed, with marble stairs and tucked away rooms with wooden floors and dormer windows overlooking the town below. The restaurant, located in a building a few steps away from the main house, did not disappoint, and the tasting menu was the way to go. I am not sure two days was needed for Etoges, but using it as a jumping off point for visiting Champagne cellars nearby (of which there were many) would be ideal. We only had the opportunity to visit one – Borel-Lucas – and you can see that blog post by clicking here. But we enjoyed plenty of Champagne regardless., because, well, it’s what one does when visiting the Champagne region of France. I highly recommend it, even en route to something else. Quaint, quiet, and, well, effervescent.
For more on the Champagne region of France, and all things France-related, head over to Lonely Planet and research their guide books! I still love buying or downloading guide books because I feel like they have sooooo many options in just one place!