Learning to pronounce Reims like the French and La Maison des Vignes de Verzenay, the perfect B&B.

Mmm, the smell of freshly baked Madeleines and Nespresso greeted us when we entered the candle lit dining room at our B&B, the Maison des Vignes de Verzenay.

Reims. If you're an Anglophone, I can almost guarantee that the name of this city is not pronounced the way that you think, which can lead to some misunderstandings when your French-speaking husband asks if you want to go there when your mind is still groggy after a sleepless transatlantic flight. Riding home in the taxi from Charles de Gaulle Airport last Sunday, Stéphane and I had the following conversation:

St: We should go to Reims (pronounced the French way with a very nasalized vowel sound) next weekend.
MK (struggling to keep my eyes open): I don't know. I was looking forward to being at home. Where is it?
St (reading the Wikipedia entry on his iPhone): "Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France." blah, blah, blah....
MK (closing my eyes to signal disinterest): Yeah, I don't know...
St (undeterred, continues to read): "Some sources regard Reims as the effective capital of the province of Champagne".
MK (starting to perk up): Wait a minute. Do you mean "Reims" (pronounced the English way, like Reemz)?
St: No, I'm talking about Reims (pronounced the French way).
MK: But is it spelled r, e, i, m, s? The place where they make champagne?
St: Yes.
MK: (fully awake) Then, of course, I want to go!

A warm welcome at La Maison des Vignes de Verzenay.

With less than a week to find a place to stay, book tours at the major champagne houses and learn a bit about the region, I was thankful that Carolyn had told me about her visit to Verzenay. Using the small village where grapes are grown for many of the big producers as a starting point, I was delighted to find a bed and breakfast with a couple of glowing reviews on Trip Advisor that included statements such as, "It isn’t so much as a B&B stay as a whole experience" and "take up Emmanuel’s offer of a guided tour of the cellars, champagne making equipment and explanation of how the small, family run business operates from growing the grapes to bottling and labelling the champagne". As we really wanted to visit a small champagne producer, La Maison des Vignes de Verzenay seemed like the perfect destination.

And it was!

After a hard day swilling champagne at Taittinger and Pommery, Stéphane's merman's antics in the heated swimming pool rejuvenated him and provided comedic relief while I lounged under a tree. 

Not only are Catherine and Emmanuel Pithois-Rigaut charming and hospitable hosts, but their comments make it obvious that they're continually searching for ways to improve. With three tastefully decorated guest rooms, an expanded continental breakfast that includes homemade jam, Madeleines and grape juice, private tours of their champagne making facilities and cellar and a lavender scened garden with a heated swimming pool, I can honestly say that I don't see how their B&B could get any better!

Please click here to read my post about our tour of the wine making facilities and cellar with Emmanuel.

Maison des Vignes de Verzenay (Even though the website is only in French, Catherine and Emmanuel speak English.)
4 & 6, rue Veuve Pommery
51360 Verzenay
Tél: 03 26 49 48 63

Our room, the "Balthazar ". It's named after a large bottle of champagne that equals 16 regular bottles.
The bathroom has a tub and a separate shower and toilet.
The smallest of the three rooms, the Salmanazar.
The living room. A cozy spot to peruse one of the guidebooks lining the bookshelves and plan your next outing.
Leaving my spot next to the pool proved to be quite a challenge. The next time that Stéphane asks if I want to go to Reims, I'll have to suggest that we go for 2, 3 or 4 nights!

Comments

  1. Reims is a tricky one! And it's one of those that will probably make you seem uber-pretentious if you adopt it while talking to non-Francophones (staying with the champagne theme, much like the correct pronunciation of "Moët").

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    1. Exactly! And I really don't want to sound uber-pretentious! I've had some interesting discussions/debates with other expats (including my daughter's first boyfriend) regarding the very tricky question - when do you use the "correct" (in this case, French) pronunciation of a word when you're speaking English and when do you just go with the flow and use the English pronunciation. I couldn't help resist calling Stephane's attention to the fact that one of the French tour guides said "Reemz" like an Anglophone when he was talking with our group. I figured that if "Reemz" was good enough for the guide, it was good enough for me! Being a stubborn Swiss, Stephane disagreed.

      Oh! Moet and Chandon is nearly impossible for me to say "correctly". There are just way too many vowel sounds. Needless to say, Stephane had a good time laughing at me this weekend, which was alright because I tease him every once in awhile about something that he says in English.

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    2. I read a funny story once about how to really have a good time in Paris, while "pissing off" all the French people you encounter. I think I've mentioned this before. You do so by pronouncing all the words using English pronunciation rules, reading them just as if they were English words. Oh it makes me laugh to think of doing this but it's actually very hard to do.

      And Reims is a challenge anyway because of the "r" sound. Goodness.

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  2. Just wanted to wish you a happy Labor Day to you and your readers. Richard

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    1. Thank you, Richard. I hope that you're having a good Labor Day weekend in Pennsylvania!

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  3. that looks amazing! I will definitely have to check out Reims next time I go France! That B&B looks lovely

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    1. Reims is a great destination! It's well worth a visit if you haven't been...and it's worth a return visit if you have. I was very pleased to have found the B&B because it made our weekend extra special.

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  4. WHat a nice weekend to welcome you back to France! We are trying out Nice this weekend- hope our experience is as good.
    Kate

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    1. Welcome home! You're off to a running start. With one year in Paris under your belt, you probably feel the same sense of urgency to visit other places that we do because we never know how much longer we'll be in France.

      Have a great weekend in Nice!

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  5. My list of must do's and must stay's in France gets continuously longer Mary Kay. Thank you!

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    1. Then you'll have to come for a very long stay, Baron Akers! It seems that many (most?) of the Australians that I encounter spend at least a month in France.

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  6. This B&B looks lovely MK! I love your story about the pronunciation of Reims... I'm of course on your side and pronouncing it Reemz too. My parents & I didn't make it to the region when they were here but it's on our bucket list for sure... this looks like a place Sir L would love!!

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    1. Reims is a good place to have on your bucket list. For some reason, it was kind of off my radar so I'm really happy that Stephane pushed for us to go for a visit sooner rather than later. After seeing the pics of Sir L in his flippers while you were at the beach, I think that he would probably enjoy splashing around in the heated swimming pool every bit as much as Stephane did. The B&B is a good spot to go with family and/or friends. We really wanted to take our kids there between Christmas and New Year but that's one of the two weeks that they're closed.

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  7. Hmm, I am wondering what is the Freanch pronunciation of Riems now! I agree that unless you are French, pronouncing French words in French during an English conversation just sounds pretentious.

    Wow, wow, and double wow!, for the Samanazar.... I could do with a "surprise" trip like that!

    Sorry, con't possible comment on the Champagne.

    Love Denise

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    1. Denise, If you want to hear the French pronunciation of Reims, you can click on the red words "Pronounced the French way" at the beginning of Stephane and my dialogue. It will take you to a website with an audio example of a French person saying "Reims".

      In spite of not wanting to go anywhere after our trip to the States, I've got to admit that Stephane had a very good idea. Let's just hope that he doesn't read this comment because I'll never hear the end of it! ;) All 3 rooms at the B&B were truly special. It's obvious that Catherine has a flair for decorating.

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  8. Last night, Seb was talking about our future trip to Reims, and I guess this is the first time I had heard it pronounced by a native, and I had to stop him and ask him what the hell he was talking about! Like a typical annoying New Yorker, I was like, "Were going where?!? I thought we were going to "Reeems"!!!"


    Hahahah glad I'm not the only one! We may check out this place you've stayed at, we're looking for a hotel at the moment. Thanks MK!

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    1. Ha! That's so funny that Seb and you had the same "Ra~s" and "Reeemz" discussion as Stephane and me. Like you, I somehow had never heard a French speaking person say it before so it caught me completely off guard.

      Let me know if you need any info about Reims or the Champagne region because I spent a lot of hours last week preparing for our trip. I would recommend visiting at least one of the big champagne houses and a small champagne producer. La Maison des Vignes is a really romantic spot. There was a young French couple staying there at the same time as us and they loved it. The only problem is that you need a car to get there.

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  9. Thanks for the post and the helpful tips on Reims. We'll be there in February (hopefully the weather will be better there than in Boston) and the B&B sounds like a great place to stay.
    Lyle

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  10. This looks like a wonderful place to visit - exactly what we were looking for our upcoming trip through France! Very glad I found your site, and hope to enjoy just as lovely of a visit to this B&B. Merci!

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