On the road

MARNE DEPARTMENT (51)

Population: 570,900

Prefecture: Chalons-en-Champagne

Sub-prefectures: Reims, Epernay, Vitry-le-François

Surface: 8,169 km²

Specialities: champagne, Ardennes ham, Reims ham, Bouzy red (wine), vinegar, mustard, croquignoles, nonnettes, roses of Reims (cakes), potée champenoise (stew), lentillons, pied de cochon.

Sports clubs: Stade de Reims, Champagne Châlons Reims Basket, Entente Family Stade de Reims athletics (Yohann Diniz, Mahiedine Mekhissi), Reims Basket Feminin, Reims Champagne Handball, Rugby Epernay Champagne,

Events: 2019 women’s FIFA World Cup, meeting des sacres (athletics), Reims international show-jumping, Boucles de la Marne (cycling), Run-in of Reims, Foulées des sacres (running), Epernay motor rally, Epernay criterium (cycling)

Festivals: Itinéraires, Habits de Lumière in Epernay, Flâneries musicales in Reims, champagne en fête, Music from here and elsewhere in Châlons-en-Champagne. Music in Champagne in Aÿ. Pied de cochon fair in Sainte-Ménéhould, Moissons Rock in Juvigny.

Tourist sites: Reims and cathedral, avenue de Champagne in Epernay, L’Épine basilica, cathedral of Châlons, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux cloister, Valmy windmill, monument to the First Battle of the Marne.

Economy: champagne, food industries and agro-resources, Paris-Vatry airport, research and pharmaceuticals, plastic packaging, floors, automobile equipment, high quality magnifying glasses.  

Websites and social networks: www.marne.fr / www.tourisme-en-champagne.com

Km 17.5

Bouzy (Pop: 950)

Almost entirely devoted to champagne, the wine village of Bouzy is remarkable for the production of a red wine, Bouzy rouge, made from pinot noir. It is considered as the most northern red wine in France.

Km 26.5

Vraux

The small commune was during WWII the site of an RAF air base and a museum retraces the highlights of the history of the base and aircrafts during the period.

Km 28.5

Juvigny (Pop: 1,000)

Château de Juvigny
From the old chateau de Juvigny, where fighting took place during the Hundred years war, the moats are the most visible vestige. Property of the Dorigny family in the 16th century, the estate was acquired in 1631 by war commissioner Jean Clozier, who built a chapel in the church and died in 1660. His son and his nephew Charles Roland, councillor at the Paris parliament, built the current castle. During the Empire, the domain was purchased by Alexandre Godart, who became mmayor of Châlons and retired in Juvigny.  It now belongs to the children of Henri Henimann, the direct descendent of Godart.
Like most castle in the area, the castle of Juvigny, located at one end of the village, is a peaceful and modest-looking residence.

Km 37.5

Châlons-en-Champagne (Pop: 45,000)

Châlons was named after the Gaul tribe of the Catalaunes, who lived on the oppidum (fortress) of La Cheppe. Around 20 BC, one of the main Roman roads, Via Agrippa, went through Châlons. The presence of a bishop saved Châlons from oblivion in the Merovingian period and to thrive from the 9th century. From then on, Châlons became a prosperous market on the square known as Place du Marché au Blé (Wheat Market Square) until the 19th century, when it was renamed Place de la République. The merchant activity of the city was such that King Charles the Bald allowed the creation of a monetary workshop in 864. From the 12th century and throughout the 13th, the wealth of the town rested upon the fabrication of high quality linen sold throughout Europe thanks to the big fairs of Champagne. The boulevards surrounding the town today correspond to the medieval rampart. The cultural and religious life in Châlons in the Middle-Ages was brilliant as seventeen churches were built at the time. But the Hundred Years war and a shift in the commercial roads towards Paris stopped the expansion of Châlons. In the 17th century, the bishop was replaced by the Intendant of Champagne, representing the King. The last intendant, Rouillé d'Orfeuil (1764-1790), embellished the town and turned it into a regional capital.

With the Revolution, Chalons lost its name of Châlons-en-Champagne for Châlons-sur-Marne. In the 19th century, as its economic life was declining, Chalons, prefecture of the Marne department, became one of the largest garrison towns in France. It is the birthplace of Leon Bourgeois, the 1920 Peace Nobel Prize, of humourist Pierre Dac and cartoonist Cabu.

The Tour de France stopped in Châlons twice in 1974 and 1993, crowning two Belgian riders, Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw.

SIGHT

Notre-Dame-en-Vaux Collegial
Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as part of St James Way, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux was built from 1157 to replace an older building that had collapsed. The reconstruction was completed in 1217. Started in a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic, it was entirely finished in the Gothic style. It is remarkable for its beautiful Gothic apse flanked by two Romanesque towers (influenced by the cathedral of Toul), but also for its 16th century canopies. The church also has one of the oldest chimes in Europe, composed with 56 bells and dating from the 19th century. Until the Revolution, when its Renaissance portal was maimed, the church had four spires. Three were destroyed during the Revolution to recover the lead for military purposes. One was rebuilt in 1852 by Abbott Champenois and the other two have yet to be rebuilt.

Km 64.5

Saint-Amand-sur-Fion (Pop: 1,000)

On the river Fion, this picturesque village with its half-timber houses is also remarkable for its imposing St Amand church, liste as a historical monument since 1875. Of Gothic style, it is noted for its porch, a kind of cloister set at the front of the building, and its important dimensions.

Meuse department (55)

Population: 189,055 (2016)

Prefecture: Bar-le-Duc

Sub-prefectures: Verdun, Commercy

Surface: 6,211 km2

Specialities: madeleines of Commercy, sugared almonds of Verdun, red current jam from Bar-le-Duc, Mirabelle (fruit and spirit), locally brewed beers (Charmoy, Nettancourt, Rarécourt, Chaillon, Dun, Morley), Côtes de Meuse wines (IGP), strawberry toffee from Revigny-sur-Ornain, Brie de Meaux (cheese), Meuse truffle, Polmard meat, Bergère de France (textile), Essilor (optics)

Sports: Aeronautics, gliding, ULM, paragliding/ Cycling (mountain bike, cyclocross), Grand Fondo (Itinérance Meuse à Vélo), Equestrianism, climbing, motorcycling, trekking, Triathlon. / Rowing, Canoeing, angling, yachting, diving.

Events: Semi-Marathon Meuse Grande Guerre, 10 km of Verdun, Trail of the trenches, Fééria barisienne, Trail des Ducs, Tour de Madine, Echappées en Meuse, Route des Hommes….

Festivals: Festival RenaissanceS in Bar-le-Duc, Grand Festival in Verdun, Festival des Granges in Laimont, Crib  Festival in Muzeray, Vent des Forêts (Forest wind) in Fresnes-au-Mont, Des Flammes à la lumière (Fromflames to light) in Verdun, Les Vieux métiers (Old trades) in Azannes, Ma rue prend l’Aire in Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, Air Balloon Mondial in Chambley, Bielles meusiennes in Madine.

Economy: food industry, aeronautics, energy and agriculture, chemicals and wood. Innovation in optics, agriculture and defence.

Websites and social networks: www.meuse.fr / twitter.com/deptmeuse /  www.facebook.com/Département-de-la-Meuse-89337608659 / www.tourisme-meuse.com / twitter.com/cdt55 / www.facebook.com/tourisme.meuse/

Km 95.5

Revigny-sur-Ornain (Pop: 2,860)

The town of former academician Pierre Gaxotte and former minister Gerard Longuet houses a major necropolis paying homage to the dead of the Battle of Verdun. Some 1,300 are to be found on the site. The town also has a statue of former war minister André Maginot, infamous for the defence line thought to defend France against a German invasion. Maginot is lesser known as the president of the International Fencing Federation from 1921 to 1924.

Km 112

Bar-le-Duc (Pop: 15,220)

City of art and history, Bar-le-Duc conceals masterpieces of the 16thcentury architecture like the mansions of Place Saint-Pierre and Rue des Ducs-de-Bar. The history of the city dates back to the 10th century, when the Counts of Bar built a castle and fortified city to defend their territory against the kingdom of France. The Romanesque Gate and the Clock Tower are the last vestiges of this tormented period. The medieval castle gave way to the Neuf Castel dating back to the 16th century and today houses the collections of the Musée Barrois. From there, a walk around the ramparts offers an unusual visit between Upper Town and Lower Town. The valley is crossed by the Ornain and its seven bridges, the most emblematic of which is the Notre-Dame birdge, remarkable for its miraculously preserved chapel. The Marne-Rhine canal or the Canal des Usines, flowing leisurely across the City Hall park, are also floods taking you to other horizons. Cycling fans will also come to Bar-le-Duc on a pilgrimage to the Michaux monument, located at the corners of rue Maginot and rue du Bourg. In 1861, Pierre and Ernest Michaux had the brilliant idea to add a crank to the front wheel of a balance bike, thus inventing a new vehiclle known as the velocipede.

The local specialty since 1344 has been jam made from red currants deseeded with goose feathers. Maison Dutriez perpetuates this ancient local tradition in the Marbeaumont district.

The prefecture of the Meuse hosted the Tour de France in 2001, for a team time trial from Verdun and won by French outfit Crédit Agricole. Bar-le-Duc is also the city of the old track rider Magali Humbert, several times medallist at the track world championships in the 1990s.

Km 150

Commercy (Pop: 5,700)

One of the sub-prefectures of the Marne, Commercy knew its golden era in the 18th century when exiled King Stanislaw of Poland, the father-in-law of French king Louis XV, settled in Commercy and made the castle one of his royal palaces in Lorraine, in which he received Voltaire among other celebrities. The town is famous for its madeleines, made from a recipe inherited from Duke Stanislaw’s pastry cook.

In 2001, Commercy was the start of a Tour de France stage won in Strasbourg by Jaan Kirsipuu.

Château Stanislas
Built in 1662 on the site of a 12th century fortress by cardinal de Retz, rebuilt and embellished from 1708, the castle became a real palace with the arrival in Commercy of King Stanislaw of Poland, who made it the site of his royal court. With architects Boffrand and Dorbay, he decided that the new castle will rest upon the towers and curtains of the medieval fortress. Burnt in 1944 after being turned into barracks, the castle was restored from 1957 and inaugurated in his current aspect in 1972.

Km 154.5

Euville (Pop: 1,670)

La localité est notamment célèbre pour sa grande carrière, dont la pierre de taille a notamment été utilisée pour la construction au XIXe siècle de nombreux bâtiments et monuments parisiens comme certains bâtiments du Louvre, le Grand et le Petit Palais, l’Opéra Garnier ou la Gare de l’Est.

Meurthe-et-Moselle departement (54)

Population: 733,821

Prefecture: Nancy

Sub-prefectures: Luneville, Toul and Briey

Surface: 5,246 km²

Specialties: bergamots, macaroons, plums, rum baba, saint Epvre (cake), pâté lorrain, quiche lorraine, steak and kidney pie. Daum crystal factory.

Sport clubs: AS Nancy Lorraine (football), Stade Lorrain Université Club Nancy Basket (basket-ball Pro B), Grand Nancy Métropole Hand Ball, Vandœuvre Nancy Volley Ball, Grand Nancy Volley Ball

Events: Stanislas athletics meeting, Nancy-Metz walking, Saint-Nicolas race. Semi-marathon of Grand Nancy.

Festivals: Nancy Jazz Pulsations, Nancyphonies, Livre sur la Place. Saint Nicolas Fair. Festival of Froville. EuroBD Festival in Longwy.

Tourist sites:  place Stanislas in Nancy, villa Majorelle, École de Nancy heritage, château de Lunéville, Saint-Nicolas-de-Port basilica, Longwy rampart, national stud farm in Rosières-aux-Salines, Pont-à-Mousson Abbey.

Economie: steel industry, mining industry, financeand law, building, logistics and commerce, business tourism, cultural industries, digital economy, raw material, health engineering. Tourism. Universities.

Websites and social networks: www.meurthe-et-moselle.fr / www.tourisme-meurtheetmoselle.fr

Km 179.5

Toul (Pop: 16,000)

An important Roman city (Tullum), then a bishop-see of the Holy German Empire, Toul became French in 1552 before being annexed definitely in 1648 by the Westphalia treaty.

From its medieval splendour, it retained the beautiful St Etienne cathedral, the St Gengoult collegial and Maison-Dieu, home to the town’s museum of art and history. The town hall, an 18th century bishop palace, is also worth a visit. A garrison town and the hometown of famous generals (Marcel Bigeard, Gouvion-Saint-Cyr) and several ministers Toul has the largest photovoltaic plant in France and produces AOC wines (Côtes de Toul, Gris de Toul).

It is also the hometown of  Pascal Lance, who took part in five Tours de France between 1990 and 1997 and now drives the car of race sports director Thierry Gouvenou. Toul is also the place where Octave Lapize, 1910 Tour de France winner was shot down in July 1917.

Km 203.5

Villers-lès-Nancy (Pop: 14,500)

The green lung of Nancy, the city is remarkable by the presence on its soil of seven castles, most of them built in the 19th century and perfectly preserved: château de l’Asnée, housing the seminary, Tour Greff, a 19th century mock-medieval tower, lchâteau Madame de Graffigny, château Simon de Chatellus, château Saint-Fiacre, château de Brabois (18th century) and the most interesting of the lot, château de Rémicourt (18th century).

Km 206.5

Laxou (Pop: 14,300)

Part of the Nancy agglomeration and widely covered by the Haye forest, it is the third largest town of the agglomeration behind Nancy and Vandoeuvre. Set in an old wine-growing valley, the city of Laxou was already occupied in the Merovingian period. The Knights Hospitaller built a castle in the 12th century and the town developed under the helm of the Duckes of Lorraine. Once renowned for its vineyards, Laxou later developed its iron mines and quarries. While benefiting from its proximity with Nancy, the town has its own architectural charms like the Pottery of the former mental hospital of Mareville or its Art Nouveau district.

Sportswise, Laxou is the birthplace of former alpine skier Marie Marchand-Arvier, Super-G silver-medallist at the 2009 world championships and of former 125 cm3 world champion Arnaud Vincent.

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