Post by Christy Holland
So you’ve just booked an Adventures by Disney vacation, what’s next? The hotels are included in the package, as are many meals, and the highlights of your destination. For the obsessive-compulsive, over-planners, planning the extras are just part of the fun of planning your vacation.
Late last fall, my husband and I booked the DIS exclusive “Cities of Knights and Lights with Disneyland Paris Adventure.” Immediately, I knew there were a few “bucket list” items that I wanted to do, but little did I know those few items would turn into our own adventures-outside-the-adventure.
One day, as I was catching up on my “essential Paris” reading – David Lebovitz’s fantastic blog and the HiPParis blog, I stumbled upon an entry about a tiny restaurant in the 19th androssiment that “spoke” to me.
“Mon Oncle le Vigneron” is termed a “cave a manger” or wine shop/gourmet shop/restaurant. After reading the entry, I quickly determined two critical things: reservations are required and they only seat 20 people per evening in one seating. I thought a reservation would be impossible. After all, everyone books their dining reservations 180 days prior to their trip, right? Knowing my French is “beyond terrible,” I took a leap of faith and called, and to my surprise was rewarded with a reservation for our free evening in Paris.
The night of our dinner finally arrived, and it greatly exceeded anything we ever could have imagined. The owner and his chef wife could not have been any nicer. Everything that evening was an adventure – communicating using charades due to their lack of English and our lack of French, the lovely Parisian couple we charmed who acted as our translators, and our willingness to try absolutely everything, because there was no menu!
Image: The Owner/Host of Mon Oncle Le Vigneron slicing bread
The concept of this restaurant is Parisian at its finest; reservations are required because everything is purchased at the market daily. Dietary restrictions and vegetarian requests can be accommodated, but must be noted at the time of the reservation. Everything in this restaurant is truly a family affair – the uncle makes the wonderful wine and the cousin makes the cheese.
Image: The selection of gourmet goodies at Mon Oncle Le Vigneron
Image: The Owner bidding his American Guests “Au Revoir” for the evening after a fabulous meal
The other item on my list was to visit a champagne house in the Champagne region. After spending quite some time on various travel forums, such as Trip Advisor, I finally found a champagne house that fit my requirements: tour, tasting, small production, isn’t available in the USA, reasonably priced, English-speaking, and in a scenic location. Admittedly, it sounds like a tall order, however Champagne Domi Moreau definitely delivered on all points.
Image: Bottles of Rose in the riddling rack in the cellar of the Champagne house
When our official adventure was over, we said au revoir to our fellow adventurers at the Disneyland Hotel and we headed back to Paris to catch the train to Epernay. My husband, who is not a champagne fan, thought I was crazy and gave me many compelling reasons to stay at Disneyland Paris. However, this was an opportunity to see more of the spectacular French countryside that we had only gotten a small taste of as we whizzed by on the Eurostar days earlier enroute to Paris from London.
Image: The amazing views of the French countryside from the Vineyard
We arrived in Eperany and began our five minute walk to the Tourism Office where we met our guide Nathalie from Domi Moreau. For a very reasonable price, she gave us a three hour tour of her family’s vineyards and champagne house. My Disney-deprived husband was in heaven wandering through the vineyards with his camera snapping away.
Our afternoon was spent visiting the family’s vineyard parcels across several villages outside Epernay, each one more scenic than the last, and eating the most fantastic grapes off the vines I’ve ever tasted.
Image: Tour of a working vineyard in a village outside of Epernay, France
Image: Grapes on the vine in Epernay, France
Nathalie’s expert tour guided us through the entire champagne-making progress, from vines to the finished product.
Image: The Owner/Winemaker, Nathalie, explaining the process for pressing grapes in the 100 year old grape press.
While we were very fortunate to have two amazing adventures-outside-the-adventure, it is very important to also note once these amazing places were found and reserved, there was additional research done to ensure that they were reputable businesses. In addition to the blogs and travel website already mentioned, there are a variety of other international travel sources. Most all of the major guide books – Fodor’s, Rick Steves, Lonely Planet – just to name a few, all have forums for travelers to share experiences and compare notes.
** The DIS Unplugged is going back to London and Paris with Adventures by Disney October 8-17, 2012! For more information or to book, visit http://www.dreamsunlimitedtravel.com/reservations/abd_input_pc.cfm or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Adventures by Disney