Popping the Champagne Cork…on TV!
I’m no stranger to Champagne — the region, not the wine. The trains to Champagne leave from the Gare de l’Est in Paris and it’s easy and fast enough to get there…only one to one-and-a-half hours.
The reason for going: the taping of my 37th House Hunters International episode, but it’s the first time to tape in this part of France. The crew are all people I’ve worked with before, so it’s like “old home week,” but the lovely Canadian couple seeking a rental house, Dave and Christine, are “contributors” I’ve never met untill now.
Christine is a wine expert and freelance writer about wines. Dave is a retired financial analyst and “home dad.” They moved to France for a one year sojourn to deepen Christine’s knowledge of wine and champagne and for Dave to fulfill his lifelong dream of living in France, where he loves to hike among the vineyards, taking in what life has to offer. They have an eight-year-old daughter who is soaking up French culture like a sponge.
We’re taking them on a tour of three homes in and around the town of Epernay, “the principal ‘entrepôt’ for champagne wines, which are bottled and kept in large cellars built into the chalk rock on which the town is built” (Wikipedia.org) located not far from Reims. It’s a lovely town with such serious roots in wine and champagne-making that no matter where you look, there are champagne corks, or symbols of corks, everywhere — such as shrubs trimmed into cork shapes! We stayed in the “Hôtel de Champagne” in the center city. We are surrounded by reminders that we are in one of the major French champagne cities.
One of the principal streets is “Avenue de Champagne,” a one-kilometer long avenue lined on both sides by centuries-old and magnificent champagne houses. Many are private homes of their owners, doubling as their company offices, and all of them reflecting the region’s architectural style. It’s so distinctive that the street is now considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For our meet-and-greet scene we had the pleasure of tasting some of the region’s best champagne at Boizel, a family-owned and operated Maison de Champagne since 1834 run by Lionel Roques-Boizel, the Director Général Délégué and a fifth generation member of the family. Lionel, who introduced himself that way, not as M. Roques-Boizel, was as lovely and gracious, as well as modest, as one might NOT expect. He was clearly very proud of his family, his champagne and all they had accomplished, evident in the meticulously and beautifully designed and decorated tasting room.
In the taping of the scene, his protégé, Liery, opened several bottles of their “Joyau de France 2004,” a 14 year-old vintage champagne they consider one of their “jewels” that sells for 91€ a bottle in their own cellar. It was early in the morning and by the end of the session at 10 a.m., we were all a bit tipsy, but loving every bubbly moment of it, not wanting it to end. I can tell you personally that I’ve never tasted a better champagne.
Dave and Christine were looking for a three-to-four bedroom apartment or home that will comfortably house them, their daughter and their two aging Labrador Retrievers. They also want plenty of space for their friends and family who are sure to visit them in France. With a budget of $2,000, it gets them a whole lot more than it does in Paris — a one-to-two bedroom apartment, if you’re lucky. In Epernay, this budget buys them everything they ever dreamed of.
Our first house tour took us later that day to the center of Epernay’s old town near Place Hugues Plomb. It was a large three-bedroom apartment, with plenty of storage and a huge terrace overlooking the town with views on the hillsides and vineyards. Today and tomorrow, we will visit another property in town and one out in the countryside, adjacent to the vineyards and more in tune with what Dave wants — easy access to ritual hikes. Christine wants to be where “the action” is, but may be willing to compromise with Dave. I think it will all depend on the property itself, and which offers them the most advantages.
Dave and Christine think their time in France is just one year. I have a suspicion they won’t want to leave and will be stretching their stay to much longer, even perhaps a lifetime — like me and a whole lot of others I know!
Don’t ask when the episode will air. It takes time. The crew takes five days to tape twenty or more hours of footage. That will be submitted to the editors who will wheedle it down to about 20 minutes of air time. The network (HGTV) will determine when to air it. Normally it takes months before we see the final product.
A new House Hunters International episode, taped in Nice with John G. Jones last fall, will air for the first time in the United States this coming Monday, March 25, 2019 at 10:30 p.m. EST on HGTV, and will air again three hours later at 1:30 a.m EST.
“Finding a Voice in Nice, France” (Episode 13908): After having a rough year, a Texas man is taking a daring leap by selling his landlocked house and pursuing a singing career in Nice, France. His good friend and property expert, Adrian Leeds, has pulled off many French miracles in the past, but getting his buddy to downsize into a fabulous-yet-affordable home could be his greatest challenge yet.
Consult HGTV’s schedule for more details and be sure to watch!
A la prochaine…
(with contributors Dave and Christine, and proprietor of Boizel Champagne, Lionel Roques-Boizel)
P.S. I’ve appeared in 37 episodes of HGTV’S House Hunters International episodes since 2006 as a French property consultant who helps people realize their dream of owning property in Paris and all of France. Join me at April’s Après Midi Tuesday, April 9, 2019 as I recount combing the romantic streets of Paris to find the perfect pied-à-terre and journey to the French countryside in search of the ideal home for our clients. I’ll show three episodes of House Hunters International will talk about my experiences taping the shows. Plus, there will be an open the forum to ask questions.See our Après Midi page for details. Be there and come early to get the best seat!