The Portes de la Champagne are full of well-kept secrets. The territory enjoys a beautiful dynamic of frequentation while offering places with human size.
Bucolic landscapes for a total disconnection
Looking for a breath of fresh air and walks in the countryside? Don't worry, you're in the right place! The Portes de la Champagne are crossed by the beautiful Marne, the largest river in France, which offers miles of hiking and beautiful picnic areas. Thanks to the Marne, the surrounding area is rich in nature and greenery, ideal for rest and relaxation.
In theAisne region, when the flowers are in full bloom, a visit to the gardens of Château-Thierry is a real treat for the senses. The Riomet garden with its medicinal plants and the Thibaud IV rose garden with its 48 varieties of flowers make for exceptional and entertaining visits. A little further on, in Brasles, the extraordinary garden of Champagne Joël Michel, nestled behind the castle, seems a dreamlike interlude to the gentle sound of the murmuring water. TheChâteau de Condé also offers beautiful walks and remarkable views of the Champagne hillsides. Keep your eyes open: it is not uncommon to come across squirrels, herons or roe deer. If you are looking for other viewpoints, you will be spoiled. Whether on foot, on horseback or even in a horse-drawn carriage, the effort is worth it. The viewpoints of the Three Valleys (the Surmelin, the Dhuys and the Verdonnelle) make it necessary to take out the camera! Several other hiking trails allow you to discover the panoramas from different angles
Finally, you should not miss some of the natural specificities of the region, including the Hottée du Diable and its strange sandstones that evoke fantastic shapes that could be thought to have been carved by man. The Hottée du Diable is part of a natural area of ecological, faunistic and floristic interest. You must go there with your eyes and ears wide open. Camille and Paul Claudel, natives of the region, often came there to walk and meditate... The Domaine de la Salamandre in Latilly, framed by a canyon bordered by white sand, offers an atypical setting and an exceptional fishing area for amateurs.
Champagne: know-how and production on a human scale
The fine bubbles and the very special flavours make this drink one of the most fascinating there is. Here, it has become an art and a way to redefine a territory that still keeps its secrets. This wine world is nevertheless recognized by the greatest since the "Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne" are registered since 2015 on the Unesco World Heritage list. The entire work of production and distribution of Champagne wine is spread over five departments: the Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne. Many champagne stakeholders have also developed a wine tourism strategy since 2019 to enhance the attractiveness of this land where this exceptional wine was born and continues to be born. The Vignobles & Découvertes label is a good way to find your way among the many addresses. To date, 89 service providers are part of this network, including 45 wineries. By relying on this label, you can be sure of a quality welcome and of finding the best products in the area. The winegrowers, in addition to offering visits of the cellars, propose master classes, discoveries of the vineyards in a Volkswagen combi, in a buggy or in an old vehicle or even to follow sessions of sophrology in the vineyards. It had to be invented!
The Champagne heritage and its illustrious characters
The Portes de la Champagne has so many treasures that culture lovers will not be disappointed. Castles, monuments, historical figures... the territory has known the most prestigious stories. The Champagne region's favourite storyteller is undoubtedly Jean de La Fontaine, whose birthplace is in the heart of Château-Thierry. The house is now a museum and is full of exceptional exhibits. This is also a very special year for the town and its museum, which is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of the author, who was baptised in Château-Thierry on 8 July 1621. A great many events will be organised to mark the occasion
Jean de La Fontaine was not the only one to find inspiration in this exceptional region. Paul Claudel was born here in 1868 and the whole Claudel family regularly spent long periods in the house where he was born, which was the former presbytery of Villeneuve-sur-Fère before the Revolution. Now a museum, the premises highlight the artistic sensibility of Camille and Paul Claudel, two world-renowned artists who both drew their inspiration from this green territory. Many treasures are hidden here. Numerous castles and their estates also mark the landscape of the Portes de la Champagne, starting with the Château de Condé, the former residence of the Princes of Condé, Bourbon and Savoy. It is now inhabited all year round and has become one of the best preserved treasures in France. The castles of Château-Thierry, which in the Middle Ages housed the largest medieval kitchens in Europe, and of Fère-en-Tardenois, as well as that of Nesles, take us back to the Middle Ages. Several churches add to the rich heritage of the area: the church of Saint-Eugène, the church of Saint-Crépin, where Jean de La Fontaine was baptized, offer a journey back in time. The abbey church of Saint-Ferréol in Essômes-sur-Marne, with its 22-metre high vault and its imposing painting The Wrath of Noah, is greatly admired by visitors.
A land of memories and souvenirs
The Gates of Champagne have not always had a peaceful history. The many commemorative monuments that dot the landscape tell of major historical events: the Napoleonic Wars as well as the two World Wars. In 1814 the Napoleonic battles, also known as the French Campaign, began. The museum located in Essises takes up these historical accounts. The tourist circuit "La Route des quatre victoires" also allows a better understanding of these decisive battles by passing by the different monuments, plaques and steles
The land is particularly marked by the second battle of the Marne, sometimes called the Battle of Rheims, very deadly, which took place in 1918. It was one of the decisive victories of the Allies in the First World War. The link between France and the United States has remained strong ever since, with troops fighting together to defend Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry. The Musée de la Mémoire de Belleau 1914-1918 recalls these events. Two exhibitions are held there each year. It is a place for reflection and commemoration. The Belleau American cemetery has 2,289 graves of American soldiers killed during the battle. As a result of the fighting, they were nicknamed "Devil Dogs" by the Germans for their fighting spirit. Behind the chapel, you can also see the authentic cannons guarded by bronze soldiers. A place full of history.
The Côte 204 memorial was built by the Americans on the heights of Château-Thierry after the First World War. It overlooks the valley of the Marne and once again demonstrates the historical link between France and the United States. Under the monument on Hill 204, you can also visit a museum. Its scenography and its 200m2 are really worth the detour.
In Fère-en-Tardenois, the "Oise-Aisne" cemetery contains 6,012 graves. In addition, there are the names of 241 soldiers inscribed on the walls of the chapel, whose bodies have unfortunately never been found. It is the second most important military cemetery of the First World War. Watching all these graves lined up is very moving.
To finish this commemorative tour, you should not miss the Pietà in Fère-en-Tardenois, memorial of the 42nd US Division. Almost three meters high, it is the work of James Butler and represents an American soldier who carries in his arms a dead comrade. A magnificent and imposing work
When can you visit? All year round. If you're a fan of great photography, autumn is the perfect season. In spring and summer, the vines are fully mature and can be seen in their splendour. Winter offers panoramas under the snow.
How to get there. By car, only 1 hour from Paris on the A4. 2 hours from Amiens on the A26. 45 minutes from Reims on the A4. By train, Château-Thierry station. By plane, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports are less than 100 km away
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