A day in & around Ay, France

In En-Route, Europe, France, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

A quiet little Champagne surprise.

I’ll be upfront to start with, Ay is reasonably small, but size isn’t everything.

Gary and I had briefly visited Ay a few years ago on our Champagne road trip, so we sort of knew what to expect. However, we had just spent two memorable weeks travelling mostly around Provence and Côte d’Azur, and thought we’d slow the pace down, before heading back to the UK.

Built on Champagne, Ay, Champagne Region, France

We’d allowed ourselves a full day to discover the charming streets of Ay and also to explore the rolling vineyards along the “Route Touristique du Champagne”.

Few hours in the vines

So, jumping in the car, we head to the lush valleys beyond. It isn’t long before we pick up the route, as it winds its way across the countryside.

Vineyards just outside Hautvillers, Champagne, France

If you don’t fancy following a specific route, and you want to go with the flow, I really don’t think it matters, as it is so scenic all around. However, there are some delightful views you don’t want to miss.

A roadside stop at Ambonnay, Champagne, France

Verzenay

As you weave your way closer to Verzenay through the patchwork vineyards, don’t be surprised to see a lighthouse and a windmill start appearing in your view.

The G.H. Mumm Windmill on the hill in Verzenay, France.

The lighthouse now houses a museum, but, it was initially built by Joseph Goulet to promote his brand of champagne. A little strange, however, it certainly made a statement.

The lighthouse at Verzy, Champagne Region, France

Did you know

That the Champagne wine harvest is controlled by Institution Comité Champagne. They instruct the Domaines on which date the grape picking will start. In 2018, the wine harvest began on 25th August and finished on 9th September.
 
The 2018 Champagne harvest became only the fifth vintage in the last 15 years to begin in August (25th).

Manicured scenery

As you continue to twist and turn along the route, you pass through some very picturesque villages and towns. Keep a lookout for the vine tractors, they seem to appear from nowhere.

The “Route Touristique du Champagne” covers quite a large area of the region.

From the north-west of Reims, south through Epernay and then all the way further south to Sezanne.

Early days on the vine, Champagne, France
Mumm Perrier Jouët, Épernay, France

The route was a little quieter than a couple of weeks earlier, as the grape harvest had finished on 9th September.

A little bit of Info

The Institution Comité Champagne, also decides the quantity of the yield, which for 2018 was 10,800 kg/ha, the same figure that was set in 2017.
 
So, even though 2018 was a bumper crop, only a limited number of grapes can be picked, so the excess grapes are wasted.

Marfaux

This region of France is not only recognised for being rich in its terroir but, it is also rich in its history. Dotted along the sides of some of the roads, are memorials to the fallen from the First World War. You don’t often see a German cemetery, so we had to step out and take a look.

The German Iron cross,  Marfaux Cemetery, France
In memory at the German Marfaux Cemetery, France

Back in Ay

Well, we’re back in Ay, and we’re going to see what we can discover.

The Town Hall, Ay, Champagne Region, France

Our first little nougat of information was that René Lalique (the French glass designer) was born in Ay. Although Lalique left Ay at an early age, he used to return each summer for his holidays.

René Lalique trail, Ay, Champagne Region, France
René Lalique – fact marker, Ay, Champagne Region, France

Have You?

Visited any beautiful towns or villages in Champagne that you’d love to share? I’ll add them to my wish-list?

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere

Ay is a very charming little town to stroll around, and it will not pass you by at all that you are in the heart of the Champagne region.

The cutest of towns, Ay, Champagne Region, France

Tractors were bouncing through the town and rows of barrels lined up in courtyards.

Sticking to the old ways, Ay, Champagne Region, France

For connoisseurs of this tipple, you may know that Ay is one of only 17 villages with a Grand Cru status.

Domaines are dotted around everywhere, down little lanes, behind large wooden doors. Ay is also home to one of the most renowned Champagne houses – Bollinger.

The Bollinger Domaine, Ay, Champagne Region, France

Bollinger has two plots which produce their exclusive Vieilles Vignes Françaises cuvee. One of the plots is just in front of the main house and is a named Clos Saint-Jacques. This site escaped the disease that ravaged almost all the champagne wine-growing area in the early 20th century.

Clos Saint-Jacques, Ay, Champagne Region, France

These ungrafted vines are tended entirely by hand.

Good to know

Restaurants are reasonably limited in Ay, and often are not open early in the week. So, you may need to head into Epernay for the evening.

Strolling around

While we were having a wander, we came across Place de la Liberation. This is such a delightful little square, in the middle of the roundabout is a fascinating globe which is a water feature and rotates. And with my obsession with globes, I could have sat and watched it all day.

All around the world, Ay, Champagne Region, France
The War memorial, Ay, Champagne Region, France

This is a tranquil little town, we didn’t see many people while out strolling, you felt like you had the place to yourselves.

Charming homes, Ay, Champagne Region, France

As quite often with France, and even in some larger towns, everyone just seems to vanish.

Saint-Bryce Church, Ay, Champagne Region, France
Le Clos – Saint Georges, Ay, Champagne Region, France

Tempted to?

Discover more of France and create your own memories? It’s so easy to do this on a road trip, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the two nights in Ay, was in the heart of the town, at Domaine Sacret. It was a lovely friendly guest house, with attractive, spacious rooms. Domaine Sacret, produced their own Champagne and each evening offered free wine tasting.

Free parking was available on site.

Why not?

Start creating your own French adventure and discover the beautiful Champagne region for yourself, by, jumping on Le Shuttle and tour through France under your own steam.

Where we dined

As Ay is relatively small the choice of dining is reasonably limited; however, there is a fantastic restaurant in town named Rotisserie Henri IV’.

Friendly atmosphere, lovely location and a great selection of food, we highly recommend it. Gary enjoyed his traditional French favourite, of foie gras.

Ay for us was also memorable as we enjoyed a great couple of hours mixing with the locals in the D’Aytona Bar. There was a bit of a language barrier, but a smile and laughter go a long way.

Inspired to visit Ay?

Enjoy a few hours exploring the charming town and then head out to discover the rolling Champagne vineyards beyond.

Why not stay at Domaine Sacret, and enjoy their free Champagne tasting of an evening?

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A day in & around Ay, Champagne, France

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight.Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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A day in & around Ay, France was last modified: October 29th, 2018 by Janis