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.
The vineyards start just beyond Château-Thierry and continue down the Route du Vin, or Wine Road, through the Marne Valley to Epernay and Reims. For the forty miles or so from Château-Thierry to Reims, you’ll find many wine cellars to tour and shop at.
Château-Thierry is famous in history for many things. It’s the birthplace of Jean de La Fontaine, teller of fables, and the furthest point reached in the German offensive during World War I. Joan of Arc came through here, and it’s mentioned in Dumas’s Three Musketeers.
Things to do in Château-Thierry
Château-Thierry is primarily a great day trip, and a wonderful place to have a picnic with some of the champagne you’ve picked up along the Route du Vin. The town is located right on the Marne River, on the slopes of a hill topped with an old castle ruin that is supposed to have been built by Charles Martel for his puppet Merovingian king Thierry IV. You can have a great picnic with a perfect view of the river and the Marne Valley here, and later visit the Musee Jean de La Fontaine, a sixteenth century mansion in which La Fontaine was born.
The Musee Jean de La Fontaine is furnished with 17th century period antiques, and contains La Fontaine’s bust, portrait, and baptismal certificate. It also displays rare and beautiful editions of his fables illustrated by Oudry and Dore.
Château-Thierry is also the site of the Belleau Wood War Cemetery, where many of the American dead from World War I are buried. If you’re a world war buff, you can find several sites of interest by walking around in the area. Check the library and the local tourist bureau for more information.
Château-Thierry is on the main railway from Paris to Nancy and Strasbourg. It’s located on A4 northeast of Paris, about halfway or so to Reims, and it’s a nice place to stop if you’re headed straight to Reims from Paris. A very nice day trip to take is driving from Paris up through the Route du Vin, stopping for a picnic lunch at the Merovingian castle ruins in Château-Thierry. Here you can sit and dream about the history that occurred on the hill you’re sitting on and the plains below it. You can also enjoy some of the excellent champagne sold in the shops in town.