On the loose in France's countryside, we drive up Alsace's Route du Vin for miles of vineyards, half-timbered villages and feudal fortresses. We head to Verdun to walk the trenches of World War I before visiting Reims Cathedral to marvel at Gothic splendor and Chagall's stained glass. Our final stop is Epernay, the bubbly birthplace of champagne.
- Read the script from the show.
Restaurant Le Rapp
1 rue Berthe Molly
tel. 03 89 41 62 10
12 rue de l'Ange
Tel. 03 89 41 58 72
Fax 03 89 23 15 83
L'Ossuaire de Douaumont
L'Ossuaire de Douaumont is the tomb of 130,000 French and Germans whose last homes were the muddy trenches of Verdun. The artillery shell-shaped tower and cross design of this building symbolizes war and peace. Park at the rear, look through the low windows for a bony memorial to those whose political and military leaders asked them to make the "ultimate sacrifice" for their countries. Enter down the steps and start with the thought-provoking 20-minute film that seems particularly relevant today (ask for English headphones — you can adjust volume). The little picture boxes in the gift shop are worth a look if you don't visit Mémorial-Musée de Fleury. Climb upstairs and experience a humbling and moving tribute to the soldiers who were convinced that this war would end all wars and that their children would grow up in a world at peace. The red lettering on the walls lists a soldier's name, rank ("Lt" is lieutenant, " Cal " is corporal, "St" is sergeant), regiment, and dates of birth and of death. Skip the 204 steps up the tower unless you need the exercise and a decent view (tel. 03 29 84 54 81).
Moët et Chandon offers tours with three tasting possibilities. From the Epernay train station, walk five minutes straight up rue Gambetta to place de la République, and take a left on avenue de Champagne (how fitting). According to the story, it was near here in about 1700 that the monk Dom Perignon, after much fiddling with double fermentation, stumbled onto this bubbly treat. On that happy day, he ran through the abbey shouting, "Brothers, come quickly...I'm drinking stars!" (20 avenue de Champagne, tel. 03 26 51 20 20).