Your suggested itinerary in Champagne

Visit the EXPO Restaurant Le Cordon Bleu

Major cities-Reims, Epernay, Charleville-Mézières, Chalons-sur-Marne, Chaumont, and Troyes-are accessible by train and by autoroute or majop national roads. From Paris the A4 leads to Reims and Chalons; the A26 continues to Troyes, the A5 goes on toward Chaumont.

The Champagne-Ardenne's climate is as variable as its terrain. Winters tend to be cold, crisp and clear; summers are warm and relatively dry.

The region is laced with 450 miles of navigable waterways. Houseboats can be rented in Reims, Sedan and Charleville-Mézières at a cost of about 8000 FF a week for 4 to 6 people. The lakes of Der-Chantecoq, du Temple and d'Orient provide boating, sailing, swimming and fishing, and the regional forests are known for hunting and hiking.

For the past few years the Regional Tourism Committee has made both funds and an architect available for hotels to upgrade the quality of their lodgings. Dozens of establishments have taken advantage of the grants, with the result that accommodations in the region are exceedingly comfortable. Many private châteaux now receive visitors, as do the more modest homes offering chambres d'hôtes.

Regional cuisine ranges from opulent, Champagne-based recipes to the more rustic, and some say just as tasty, tripe sausage of Troyes. Jambon des Ardennes is an exceptionally fine ham cured with juniper smoke. Regional cheeses include the creamy Chaource, Langres and Rocroi.

Champagne-Ardenne has established various routes that allow the visitor to seek out off-the-beaten-path attractions of special interest. Among the six routes in the Ardenne is the Route des Fortifications. Two circuits for those interested in Champagne-making: the Route Touristique du Champagne, from Reims to Villenauxe-la-Grande via Epernay, and the Route du Champagne dans l'Aube through the southernmost part of the vineyards.

Most big Champagne houses in Reims, Epernay and along the Champagne Route offer guided tours and tastings, almost always for a fee. To arrange tastings it is best to telephone ahead.

Reims sponsors 120 free concerts during July and August, through the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation. From July through September, sound-and-light shows at Reims Cathedral, and in October a month-long rock festival.

Mouzon has an Easter Passion Play. Epernay's annual carnival and flower market is in May. Early October brings a choral festival in Troyes and, every third year, the International Marionette Festival in Charleville-Mézières (it's this year, Sept. 23 - Oct. 2, 1994); and mid-October the food and cheese fair in Chaource.

Troyes has more 16th-century half-timbered houses than any other city in Europe, a wealth of churches with superb stained glass and the Modern Art Museum. In Epernay, the Avenue de Champagne. In Charleville-Mézières, the 16th-century old town with the slate-roofed Place Ducal, and the huge marionette clock next to the International Marionette School. The new laser-guided train tour in Citadelle which brings war history to life. In Reims, the Cathedral, the Basilica and Museum of St-Remi, the Palais du Tau and the Art Deco buildings. Sedan, with the largest château-fortress in Europe. And in l'Epine the Basilica of Notre-Dame.