Never feed your Tom Tom before you travel, and especially not fromage the night before, because that is when the nightmares begin. Five hours into our journey heading towards the English Channel, the Tom decided we were in Portugal and despite frantic whispers of Estoril (it's vaguely in the right direction) peeped out completely at Mulhouse. Result: a beautiful cross-country drive to Champagne watching the sun set over the cornfields with a cloak of sign hiding darkness settling in all around us.
We despondently arrived at Aupres De L'Eglise at 22.00, a full six hours later than our ETA, envisaging a night in the car eating the melted remains of a kit-kat. The gate, however, stood optimistically open and lights and doors went into action on our arrival.
Crossing the threshold away from certain death (mine) we stepped into a visual feast. Belying its typical French exterior, the Aupres De L'Eglise bears testament to its owners' combined talents and their characters - charming, warm, eclectic, chic and harmonious, and above all comfortable and welcoming.
Despite the hour we sat down to a delicious Confit of Duck - made with homegrown cherries - mashed potato and french beans accompanied by glasses of a local champagne and swiftly followed by a satisfyingly tart rhubarb tartine topped with creme fraiche. Then up the uneven foot worn wooden stairs to soft beds with perfect duvets allowing us to sink into dormouse oblivion.
In the morning, Glenis had prepared the breakfast that would see us through to Hilfield, and amidst talk about costume design - her chosen profession - she gave us a tour of their beautiful garden, whilst the Beetle bounced his heart out on the trampoline.
Anyone who is travelling through France or visiting Champagne should consider staying here. It is excellent value - our one night stay, with two rooms, an anti-camera filled with books, and a bathroom overlooking the church, two three course meals with a bottle of champagne and some white wine + the best breakfast this side of La Manche came to Euro 170. Glenis and Michael are kind, thoughtful and intelligent hosts with that glimpse of humor that comes from not being French (both are from New Zealand) But hurry, the word is out in Paris and its best to book early to avoid disappointment.
[Price in Euros] Double room for 2 with Breakfast...€70 Family room for 4 with Breakfast...€100 Additional foldout beds available for children with Breakfast...€15 Cots and Highchairs available at no extra charge
Evening meals with wine including a champagne aperitif...€30 per adult