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Tag Archives: travel

Champagne tour and tasting at Taittinger in Reims, France.

On our recent drive home from Grasse to Calais, we decided to stop over at Reims. Here’s a photo of the beautiful Reims cathedral.

I was last in Reims more than 10 years ago for a French wedding, and all I could remember was a small quaint town, lots of feasting and the customary champagne sampling.

Well, how times have changed. Reims is now bustling with shops and restaurants. One thing has remained the same though, and that is the Champagne. champagne tour in Reims We were kindly invited to tour the major Champagne house Taittinger, and to sample their champagne. Taittinger is one of only five Champagne houses to cellar its wines in the famous “Crayères” of Reims – chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans.

Champagne merchants found that the caves provided the perfect conditions for aging wine. The Taittinger cellars are located in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, built in the 13th century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits that dated back to the 4th century.

The Abbey was destroyed during the French revolution, and all that now remains are the cellars.

Above is a reconstructed model of the Abbey. It’s now the location of Taittinger champagne house.

The Taittinger Champagne house did not exist until 1932. champagne tour It was originally founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux, then his grandson Jérôme and Antoine Forest started the business, and finally, Pierre Taittinger bought it over.

Today Taittinger is one of the most famous and largest family run Champagne Houses in Reims.  The vines that make Taittinger Champagne cover 712 acres distributed among some of the best 34 villages in the Champagne appelation area. I was interested to read that Taittinger extends the aging time of their champagnes beyond the legal minimum time, with three to four years for the Brut Réserve and nearly ten for its prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne. champagne tour taittinger During the tour we descended deep into the caves. The lower we went the colder it got. champagne tour The caves were previously used as air raid shelters during the war. You can still see the etchings and carvings on the chalk walls,  made by people who sheltered there. champagne tour Can you spot a face amongst those chalk walls? The tour was so informative,

Did you know that the names on the labels indicated the sweetness and dryness of the Champagne?

‘Brut’ refers to dry Champagne with low residual sugar. ‘Brut Nature” champagne has the least amount of sugar.

I also learned that “Sec” indicated the sweetness of the Champagne, with ‘extra Sec,’ ‘Sec’ and ‘demi-sec’

Extra Sec is the driest of Champagnes with a sugar content of 12-17 g/l, Sec contains 17-32 g/l and demi-sec is the sweetest with a sugar content of 32 – 50 g/l. champagne tour How many bottles of champagne do you think are in this tunnel?

Well, the answer is 100,000. Scroll down to see the mirror image of this tunnel, so you can appreciate its depth. champagne tour Amazing right? Imagine, making so many bottles of champagne to fill up this void. Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne is one of their most recognized and premium Champagnes, and we were lucky to sample it after our tour.

Made from top quality Chardonnay grapes grown in ‘Grand Cru’ vineyards, Comtes de Champagne is one of the greatest Blanc de Blancs champagnes.

Comtes was first produced in 1952. A Champagne with the potential to age for decades. It was absolutely delicious with light sparkling bubbles and floral citrus notes. We bought a few bottles.

Finally, I leave you with another fun fact:

Did you know that Champagne bottles have names according to their sizes? For example, a Magnum is 1.5 litres, a Jeroboam is 3 litres and a standard bottle or Champenoise is 75cl.

If you fancy a short break, then I recommend a visit to Reims and a tour of Taittinger.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

A trip to Devon staying at Kentisbury Grange.

Happy September.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful break with the family in Devon.

We were kindly invited to stay at Kentisbury Grange, a luxury hotel at the edge of Exmoor National Park in North Devon. Kentisbury Grange is located in an idyllic English countryside location, within a short driving distance of some of Devon’s most beautiful beaches.

This is the hotel’s main house, with its beautiful stone walls. The main house was built in 1894 by Lancashire cotton merchant Oliver Openshaw.  Its architecture combined a mix of understated Regency and Victorian Gothic. Behind the main building was the Coach house, a renowned restaurant by top Michelin starred chef Michael Caines.

We were very fortunate to have been able to sample the food there. 

The dishes served up were both a visual feast and treat to the palette.

We ate from the set à la carte menu, and here are a few of what we loved: For starters we tried the Cured Mackerel with fennel, dill, avocado and lime.

It was delicious and almost too pretty to eat. For the main course, I had this pan fried bream with caramelised cauliflower, raisin and a split chicken jus.

I loved the contrast of textures between the fish and its crisp fried skin. This Beetroot risotto was as tasty as it was vibrant . Dessert was also a triumph, with this light and fluffy Banana soufflé and Black Forest treat. Michael Caines also offers a 6 course tasting menu for dinner at his restaurant.

This Exmoor beef fillet, watercress , ox cheek with beef red wine sauce was one of my favourites from the tasting menu.  

The beef was melt in your mouth tender and delicious.  We got to stay at one of the newly built Cottage suites at Kentisbury Grange. The bedroom had been beautifully decorated by local interior designer, Karen Grey. The style of the bedroom was contemporary, and the bathroom was luxurious, with its own walk in shower and roll top bath. There was so much to explore locally. 

On the first day, we visited Woolacombe beach. It was a beautiful sandy beach, with rolling waves that were perfect for surfing. On our second day, we stopped over at the coastal town of Lynton, where we also had some amazing fish and chips.

We later burned off those calories with a scenic creekside walk at Watersmeet.

All in all, it was a wonderful end of Summer holiday break for the whole family. 

We had a brilliant time exploring Devon, and enjoyed our stay at Kentisbury Grange.

( all my own photography. Our stay at Kentisbury grange was complimentary but all opinions here are my own).

An afternoon in Penang – an Insider’s guide of the best things to do.

For as far back in my childhood as I can remember, we always take a family holiday in Penang.

If you are new to Penang, it is an island off the Malay Peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca.

If you are staying longer than 24 hours, then there are loads of beach resorts. We normally stay in Rasa Sayang hotel at Batu Ferringhi.

If you are only there for a short visit, I thought I’d show you my favourite places. The capital of Penang is George Town. What I love about George Town are the beautiful British colonial buildings with a Chinese twist. The colonial buildings are all scattered over George Town. I love how colourful they are. Penang street art Another fun thing you could do in George town, Penang, is the street art walk.

Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town’ in different locations of the old town.

The little children on the bicycle art by Ernest can be found in Lebuh Armenian. Nearby on Lebuh Cannon is ‘Reaching up’, also by Zacharevic. Isn’t it adorable? Strangely nostalgic too.  This “I want Bao” mural , found in Armenian street is by Ming Xiang Tai. I really love this ‘Prayer’ street art, found in Armenian Street art alley.

As yet, I am unsure who the artist is. If you like seafood, then head to the Da shu xia (Tree shade) seafood restaurant at 177C Lebuh Victoria in George Town.

You know the seafood is fresh there because, you get pick your own fish or crab from the aquarium before cooking.

Hidden inside the restaurant is this mural by an unknown artist. The tins of Milo and Ovaltine malted chocolate drinks brought back childhood memories. I’m sure you would be hungry after a busy morning of street art.

Here is a hidden gem, only known to locals for lunch. Ha! The secret is now out.

This is Mo Teng Pheow located in Jalan Masjid, off Chulia street in Penang.

This is Penang’s famous 60 year old kuih factory. Kuih are bite sized Malaysian cakes made from rice or glutinous rice, and they used to be sold by street vendors as illustrated in the mural. Penang hidden gem restaurant Behind the kuih factory lies this canteen – the secret!

Check out the decor. Love the tiles, brick wall and pops of yellow and red. At a very affordable price, you get to sample all the Malaysian classic dishes, cooked in the traditional way.

On the right hand side, you can see the colourful plate of kuih.

We ordered Nasi Lemak (my favourite dish) – coconut rice with, spiced anchovies and tamarind prawns. Then there is assam Laksa – a noodle dish with a spicy and sour fish broth, and Nasi Kuning (yellow sticky rice) with a chicken curry.

Goodness me, I’m feeling so hungry now.

Finally, hope you have enjoyed this post and will find it useful when you visit Penang in Malaysia.

There are lots to do in Penang, but I thought I’d just share my favourite from this Summer.

Have a lovely week all.

( All photography are by Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell).

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