I have looked at a number of forums on Trip Advisor to see the best way to do this.
At first we considered catching the fast train to Reims and then hiring a driver for the day. From the forums I read on tripadvisor this is a very expensive thing to do. General consensus is that it's too much to do the whole champagne route in one day from Reims to Epernay - even though it's only 33km or so. Suggestions were to see the cathedral in Reims, go to a couple of champagne houses and have a long lunch. Well you can have a long lunch anywhere. If we are going for the day there will be no long lunch. You don't go all that way from Sydney to have a long lunch in Champagne.
One person on the blog suggested contacting Rachel - an english girl from Raw France. They can pretty much do anything you want. Rachel got back from me with an itinery for a lovely day - driving us, sightseeing etc but it was 160Euros per person - way over our budget!
So back to square one. Andrew offered to be the driver as really we won't be having huge amounts of champagne at each house and I'm not sure how many we will be able to see.
The TGV from Paris is actually very expensive. It would be 140 euros for the 5 of us just for one way. So the plan is now to hire a car for the day in Paris and drive to Reims. None of us are interested in doing an organised tour as we wouldn't be in control of our day. So I will need to look into that which shouldn't be too hard to do. According to google maps it takes 2 hours to drive to Reims.
Not sure which day to go - probably Saturday as Sunday is a public holiday, being Easter Sunday. Need to make sure everything will be open on that Saturday. Will also be easier to hire a car on the Saturday as Sundays in France are pretty dead from memory.
We plan to do the Champagne route. We would like to visit Ruinart, Tattinger and Pommery. Andrew would also like to visit Billiecart but not sure where this is. I will google a whole list of Champagne houses in this area and find out where they are.
I have google mapped this area and also street viewed and it looks divine - little narrow roads and beautiful scenery.
I have now found where Billiecart is - at Mareuil-sur-Ay - right beside Epernay - only 13kms.
I also need to find out about going to the Champagne houses - do we need to book, how much do they cost or is it only if we go on a tour that it costs money. Do we want a tour to see how champagne is made?
I have done 2 posts of tripadvisor in the forum to get some info so will keep reading up on these as well.
Sophie will add her notes as she has the French book!
Sue Jackson recommended doing the Moet & Chandon tour. She said it worth doing a tour and seeing how champagne is made etc. Moet & Chandon would be great - looking at google maps/streetview it looks very regal from the outside. And the streets of Epernay where it is looks divine. The tour goes for an hour and is 16 Euros each which is really good.
We've decided we might do an early tour. I just booked for 11am and have received a confirmation. That will give us time to pick up the car and drive to Epernay which is about an hour and a half I think.
After the hour tour we can then head to Reims for lunch. Have been looking on tripadvisor forums for restaurant suggestions and also posted an enquiry as I wanted to find out whether you can just rock up to the Champagne Houses like you can with wineries here. I also asked what the legal limit in France is.
I have had a reply already to my questions - it's 0.5 in France for the legal limit and if a winery has a sign out saying 'degustation" this means that they are open for tasting. You are obliged to buy however.
I have also asked the difference between bistro and brasserie! This is a good plan for the day. We'll find a nice little French bistro for a nice lunch and then go "degustating"!! What fun.