Re: how to get there, where to stay?
You are very adventurous combining travel with a 1.5 year old and Champagne. We had a 3.5 year old grandson in tow when we visited a couple of years ago but had a car.
As you are restricted to public transport, Mailly-Champagne is probably not an option because it is “out of town”..
Your education on Champagne will probably be best done at a major Champagne House where you pay for the visit which includes a guided tour of cellars , an explanation of the technique involved ( usually with audio visual beginning to the visit) and a tasting of wine at the end of the visit. The cost of the visit depends on the number and quality of Champagne tasted at the end of tour.
I can comment on Epernay because I have found visits to major houses more convenient there than Reims and because the friends I have taken to Champagne have had a fixation on Moet at Chandon. It is the best known House & everyone wants to visit. However, there are alternatives.
In your case, I would recommend Mercier because of the ease of access to the underground caves which if accessed by stairs involves hundreds of steps. Mercier has lifts (elevators) and a train to take you on the visit of the caves….other Houses require walking on the tour. Mercier visit was Euro 9.00 in 2010.
The major houses are located on the Ave de Champgne located about 800 metres to 1km from the Epernay Railway station. Taxi may be best.
The only hotels we have used are Ibis Eperany ( a 1km taxi ride to the major Houses) and Campanile Dizy (which requires your own transport – 4kms away from Moet).
Have made visits to Houses in Reims (located away from city centre) using own transport. Closest being Mumm which is located about 1.5kms from Reims Railway Station. I suspect visit to the vineyards is not necessary. You will see them from the train if you travel in daylight. They can be totally boring or very beautiful, depending on the time of year you plan to visit.
Of course, you can save the money you would spend on the trip. Stay home. Buy a bottle of Champagne from a different house every week and read about how it was made on the world wide web while you taste.
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