Château-Thierry is located in Champagne, a word that traces its root to the Latin for “open field.” It also translates to “battlefield.” Either term is very accurate for the area. Not only is it a land of wide open spaces, but it’s also been long crisscrossed by battlefields. The grapes of Champagne have been nourished by the blood of soldiers for millennia.

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La Ferté-sous-Jouarre

La Ferte-sous-Jouarre has a bizarre claim to fame. It used to make the world’s best millstones. On a roundabout when you enter the city, you’ll see your first millstone, but nothing is made of it.

The Guide de découverte du patrimoine meulier is a nice leaflet with maps that indicate interesting places and information from La Ferte-sous-Jouarre’s heyday as the millstone capital of the world. Unfortunately, some of the things listed in the guide are in the process of being built, while others don’t exist any longer!

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In the late 12th century, Chretien de Troyes wrote the first French versions of the Arthurian legends down, many of them the same stories that are told today. With this kind of native son, Troyes cannot help but delight with its fairy-tale beauty and vibrance.

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Épernay, located on the south bank of the Marne, lives for champagne. The avenue de Champagne, though the buildings along it are drab and functional, is a veritable treasury of the world’s finest champagnes, and are filled with treasures if one only goes belowground.

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Located ninety miles northeast of Paris, Reims was magnificent before the first World War, when most of its historical buildings were flattened and replaced by more modern buildings.

Today, the greatest of the remaining historical buildings is the Cathedrale Notre-Dame, blessedly spared; from the first French king through Charles X in 1825, coronations were held here and only here.

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Langres is a walled town built on a limestone promontory overlooking the Mediterranean, and its history stretches back about two millennia. Its walls include a veritable march through history, from the second century Roman Triumphal Gate (when the city was known as Andematunum) to fifteenth and sixteenth century towers, and then other gates dating back to the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

The most interesting building in town, the 12th century Saint-Mammes Cathedral, has an 18th century façade. You can almost smell history as you walk down the streets.

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Chaumont was originally called Calvus Mons, or Bald Mountain, and sits on the edge of a plateau where the Marne and Suize rivers come together in the upper Marne valley.

Chaumont is built around a 10th century castle. It was first a stronghold for the counts of Bassigny, and later became the residence of the counts of Champagne until 1329, when the French crown took it.

The alliance between Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia promising to push on with the Napoleonic War until they were victorious was signed here.

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Condé-en-Brie is located only an hour from Paris, and is nestled in the middle of the vineyards of the Marne Valley’s Champagne Tourist Route. The town itself is very small and sleepy, but nearby the chateau of Condé can be visited. It’s a privately owned residence listed on France’s historical places registry, and does allow public tours. And it’s worth going through.

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