|Sue paid with pennies|
Our second last day in France was spent driving to the south east to the Champagne region.
We had lunch in an Irish Pub - you read it correctly - called The Galway in Noyon, just down the lane from the Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Noyon has a large central square where the Hotel deVille may be found. We had seen these hotel deville's all over France and had thought they were a large hotel chain. It wasn't until today in Noyon, that we realised that Hotel deVille means Town Hall!
Across the road from the pub was a brand new arts centre, Le-Theatre-du-Chevalet (The Bridge Theatre) which looked pretty impressive and had some big names coming to perform.
On into the afternoon and the village which bears the name of its major producer, Mailly-Champagne.
Its not the only producer in the area but its product is very special, holding 17 of the Grand Cru ratings for the vile bubbly stuff. If we thought the streets we had seen and experienced driving through for the previous four days were narrow, our limits were redefined at Mailly, especially given the numbers of trucks, tractors, buses and other cars zooming through them at breakneck speed. The footpaths are about 30cm wide, leaving no margin when a truck full of grapes roars past.
Our visit coincided with the picking season, so everywhere in the abundant fields of grapes, men and woman bobbed up and down along the rows.
Sue went to the showroom and aided the local economy, paying for her half bottle of champagne with change she had collected in an empty chip packet ... and she says I lack class!
We spent an hour walking about the village before returning to our bed and breakfast to crack the champagne and prepare for our last night in France.
On the recommendation of our host, we dined le Relais de Sillery on the Rue dela Gare at the small village of Sillery, just north of the River Vesle. It was undoubtedly the best meal of the trip, accompanied by a lovely Bordeaux: yes, that's correct. In the heart of champagne country, we had a red from a different region. We were treated with great respect by the maitre d, who explained our meals to us and made us feel special.