2015-08-01 Saint Geosmes – Dionville

Today’s photo features the Cross of Lorraine memorial to Charles de Gaulle at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. He is buried in the town’s cemetery and this memorial was erected a few years after his death on a hill overlooking the town. The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol used by the Free French Army that De Gaulle commanded in World War 2.

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Today – 105 km Total so far – 2105 km. Mostly downhill today but late start and even later finish made for a long day’s cycling.

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Time to charge my phones and computer before setting off. The campsite had quite a few 240V charge-points scattered throughout the site.

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Sign for the source of the River Marne In Paris, we had stayed in a hotel overlooking the River Marne. Well, here in Saint Geosmes, about 300 km from Paris, is the source of that river.

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Farmer protest being set up at roundabout near Champigny-les-Langres. France has been in the news recently for it’s taxi driver protests against Uber. But no-one in France can protest as well as their farmers. Here is a bonfire being set up on a roundabout. The sign says “France , save your small farmers”.

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House near Versaignes-sur-Marne. I love the old-style shutters on this huge house in France.

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Faded advert for Credit Lyonnais Credit Lyonnais is the name of a bank and insurance firm in France. In 1992, they sponsored the Yellow Jersey that was won by Miguel Indurain that year. In 1900, Credit Lyonnais was the biggest bank in the world but they nearly went bankrupt in 1993 after losing billions on loans to Hollywood studios. In 2003, they were taken over by Credit Agricole and soon afterwards, the company name was changed to LCL. So, the writing on this poster is at least 10 years old and I would say the original writing is about 50 years old. But rather than trying to restore the original art-deco style advert, someone has lazily scrolled over it and totally ruined this poster. France spend millions on maintaining their war memorials every year but these wonderful old style mural posters are mostly ignored.

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Nissan garage in Savy near Chamount. One of my favorite websites on the Internet is the Propertypin. During the Celtic Tiger, the Pin would often refer to this mythical figure called Canny McSavvy, who was going round Europe buying up holiday homes. Well, if Canny ever wanted a 4 wheel drive jeep to go with his overseas property, no better place to get one than at this Nissan garage in the Champagne region of France.

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Water tower in Chaumont. Just a lick of paint is all it took to transform this ordinary concrete water tower into a landmark. The writing says “Chaumont, the town that means business”

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Sign in Juzennecourt protesting against a proposed nuclear waste dump nearby. No other country in the world generates as much of their electricity from nuclear power than the French. About 75% of all their electricity is produced by 58 nuclear reactors at 19 different nuclear power plants dotted around the country. But all that nuclear power generates a lot of nuclear waste and the French have been looking to build a storage facility for their waste deep underground. The French nuclear waste agengy, Andra, has identified a suitable location 500m underground near the town of Bure, about 30 km north-east of Juzennecourt. They are planning to start work in 2020 and hope to have it completed by 2025 at a cost of €35 billion. However, the proposed dump has generated a lot of protest from locals and environmental groups since the site was first identified in 1991.

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Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises is only a small village but it is known throughout all of France. In 1934, Charles de Gaulle bought a house in this town and after his return to France in 1944, he moved back to this house and continued to live there until his death in 1970.

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The village is synonymous with Charles de Gaulle.  Concorde, the Citroen DS, his kepi cap and the radio microphone I get but I don’t understand the significance of what appears to be a cobblestone in this poster.

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Champagne producer in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. Christian Peligri champagne has been based in Colombey since 1980. You can visit their wine cellar, where they ferment their champagne in huge 18,000 litre oak barrels. On Vivino, their champagne is rated at 3.9 out of 5, which is quite good. They also produce ratafia from the leftover grapes. Ratafia is a red liquer, which is similar to brandy in taste.

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Cross of Lorraine memorial to Charles de Gaulle. The  memorial cross is 45 m tall and can be seen from 20 km away. It is built from blocks of pink granite from Brittany and weighs over 1500 tonne. It was built in 6 months and inaugurated in June 1972, only 20 months after De Gaulle’s death.

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Vineyard near Bar-sur-Aube in Champagne. When you look at all the vineyards along the Aube in this part of France, it is hard to believe that in 1908, the French government proposed legislation excluding these vineyards from calling their sparkling wine Champagne.This early development of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée regulation benefited the Marne and Aisne districts to the significant exclusion of the Aube district. This proposal and a bad harvest in 1910 due to hailstorms lead to what was called the Champagne Riots in 1911. Protests erupted from growers in the Aube district as they sought to be reinstated as part of the Champagne region. The government, trying to avoid any further violence and disruption, sought a “compromise solution” by designating the department as a second zone within the Champagne appellation. This provoked the growers in the Marne region to react violently to their loss of privilege and they lashed out again against merchants and producers who they accused of making wine from “foreign grapes”—including those from the Aube. Thousands of wine growers burned vineyards, destroyed the cellars of wine merchants, and ransacked champagne houses. Protests were still ongoing until World War 1 broke out and that caused all parties to unite in defense of the Champagne region.

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Wine growing regions of France showing the Champagne regions in red. The red region to the top is the Marne and Aisne while the bottom red region is the Aube. Following the Champagne Riots of 1911, the French government set up a classification system for villages in the Champagne region. Villages were rated on a numerical 80-100 scale based on the potential quality (and value) of their grapes. Vineyards in Grand crus villages would receive 100% of the price while Premier crus village with a 95 rating would receive 95% of the price and so on.

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Bunch of grapes in Champagne. 2015 is bound to be a vintage year for champagne after all the sunshine France has had this summer

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Camping du Tertre in Dionville. It was after 8 when I arrived at Camping du Tertre. The place was jammed and it took me over 10 minutes just to find a space to pitch my tent. There must have been about a thousand holidaymakers jammed into a campsite about 3 acres in size. I had intended to stay in the Roulettes campground in Bar-sur-Aube but eventhough it is listed as a campsite on Maps.me, it is only for tourists renting chalets and does not allow camper-vans or tents. I think it may have been a municipal campsite one time but had been converted into a holiday camp recently. Had I checked their website beforehand, I would have realized this as they have no “tariffs” or prices for tents. Instead, I was directed to the next nearest campsite, which was 20 km away in Dionville and tough to get to after already cycling 90 km. Campsites are very rare in this part of France despite all the tourists visiting the Champagne region and this probably explains why Camping du Tertre was so busy.

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