We had great weather for the flight from Dieppe to Epérnay. Like I mentioned in my last post, Fernando and I stopped for Jet A at Reims- Prunay, an aerodrome that was just 15 minutes from Epérnay. I caught a glimpse of the price of fuel: 2.22 euros/liter ($11.24/gal) AVGAS and 1.57 euros/liter ($7.95/gal) JET. Total, one of the 2 major fuel companies in France, provided the fuel for the entire event.
The airport of Epérnay consists of three grass runways (pistes en herbe), and zero hard-surfaced runways (pistes en dur). That meant it was going to be my first time landing on a grass strip! It was a really cool experience. In fact, the well-maintained grass actually softens the landing impact. There were yellow cones marking the taxiway boundaries and white cones for the runway boundaries.
Everyone was excited to visit Epérnay because it is located in the heart of the champagne cultural region of France. In fact, as soon as we landed the first thing we did was visit the cellars of la Champagne de Castellane. The tour was very informative, but the majority of the work was done for the season, so the workers were all on vacation. On top of that, we were prohibited from drinking alcohol throughout the entire HOP! Tour. So, no champagne tasting at the end. The directors had already informed us that there was to be one exception: we would be allowed 1 glass of champagne the next day at the banquet reception at the Hotel de ville (city hall).
The next day we had a flight in the vicinity of Verdun, France. As the flight to Dieppe was our WWII history lesson, the flight over to Verdun was a time to reflect on the First World War that ravaged the French countryside. In fact, the battle of Verdun was one of the longest and most devastating engagements of WWI. It consisted primarily of trench warfare. As we flew over the fields and forested areas, the cemeteries and war monuments testified to the horrible slaughter that took place almost a century ago. From now on, every time I think about the war, I will always have the those images, especially the trenches and white crosses, ingrained in my mind.
Back at Epérnay, we spent the rest of the day interacting with kids, showing off the planes, and enjoying the nice weather. The five of us girls enjoyed a traditional flight in the DC-3. I got the privilege of sitting jump seat during the landing. What a classy plane. Solid and dependable American manufacturing at its finest!
That night, we went down to city hall and had our one drink of Champagne inside an extremely fancy building. I must say, it was well worth the wait!