May 28, 2017

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PerchingBar10_InteriorView1Suspended Animation: The uber-cool Perching Bar in Champagne, France takes a walk in the woods to new heights

By: Lynn Elmhirst

A version of this article appeared in Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine’s Spring/Summer issue. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

Ever since I was a kid on the farm, I’ve had a fascination with tree houses, sitting in trees for hours at a time.
Ever since I’ve been a grownup in the city, I’ve had a fascination with champagne, sitting in stylish bars for… well…hmm.
I’ve even been known to say that if I won the lottery, what I would do for the rest of my life is sit in a tree and drink champagne.

PerchingBar5_ExteriorNightNow, I know where I’ll be doing it! The Perching Bar, an avant-garde ‘cabane à champagne’ in the heart of France’s renowned Champagne region. The ultimate tree house for grownups, six meters off the ground, at the summit of a tree walk, atop the district’s highest point, it overlooks hectares of vineyards belonging to the famous champagne houses.

If Tarzan liked bubbly, this is where he’d hang out (pun intended!)

PerchingBar8_InteriorSeating2Like the bubbles in a flute of champagne, design elements, like the Perching Bar itself, are suspended as if floating. Slick white leather and bentwood chairs (high design tree house swings) and even the champagne buckets themselves swing from ropes on the ceiling. The benches and the bar that wraps around a tree growing through the floor, are like stacked plank sculptures – a design that honors both the woods, and the spirit of champagne.

“To appreciate champagne, you need to taste it in a place that’s very special too. When you are in the tree tops, it goes to your head, just like the bubbles in a glass of champagne,” says Olivier Couteau, owner and visionary behind the Perching Bar. The young former phys-ed teacher was so enthusiastic about his idea that he convinced authorities to permit him to build a tree top obstacle course in the Reims Mountain Regional Nature Park.

PerchingBar12_Owner“The climbing park was the first project we developed here, just in front of the vines, so it was a good idea to propose to people to climb in the trees and after to take a drink of champagne.”

Oh, that French ‘savoir vivre’! Who wouldn’t want to end a day in the woods with a glass of champagne? Especially if you happen to be only 20 km from the global headquarters of all the famous French champagne houses in Épernay.

I visited this tree-house-of-my-dreams on a Sunday afternoon, the day on which the French observe their ritual of extended-family lunches followed by a good walk. A few groups had made it to the park and the Perching Bar and the smiling ‘bonjours’ all around made us feel welcomed into a special club.

PerchingBar14_ApproachWe were the only tourists there, participating in this modern French version of the good life: convivial people, walks in the woods, avant-garde design, a glass of champagne, even a new relationship with the environment. The Perching Bar has a zero footprint and produces all its own power from solar panels – enough to provide us with light to find our way back down the tree walk just after sunset.

Tasting bars are a must-do on any trip to Champagne, but the Perching Bar heightens sensations and elevates the world’s most famous wine to another level. Champagne really does taste better in the trees!

I visited Reims and Èpernay in the Champagne region of France following an AMAWaterways river cruise up the Rhône from Arles to Lyon, with a post-cruise extension in Paris. High-speed trains from Paris reach Reims in only 45 minutes; then it’s about a half hour by car from Reims to the Perching Bar. The Perching Bar is open seasonally from May to October.

Check its web site www.perchingbar.eu to confirm.

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