2015-08-02 Dienville – Chalons-en-Champagne

Today’s photo shows just some of the hundreds of wind turbines located on the hills to the south of Chalons-en-Champagne. In Ireland, wind turbines tend to be bunched together in small parcels of land and are set back and hidden away from the main roads. Here in this part of France, the turbines dominate the landscape and some were right beside the main road.

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Today – 80 km. Total so far – 2185 km. Another Super Sunday of cycling on mostly quiet roads until I got near Chalons-en-Champagne and found myself on a dual-carraigeway.

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Sunday morning at Camping du Tertre. There was quite a crowd watching a boules match as I left the campsite. The reception had bottles of champagne for sale but they were quite big and heavy, so I decided against buying any.

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Napoleon and Brienne-le-Chateau. Napoleon was born in Corsica in 1769 and at the age of nine got a scholarship to the military school here in Brienne-le-Chateau. He stayed here for 5 years before going to the military Academy in Paris in 1784. He returned here in 1805 on his way to Milan to be crowned King of Italy. He also fought a battle here in 1814 against the combined forces of Russia, Prussia and Austria. He won that battle and almost captured the Prussian commander, General Blucher at the chateau in Brienne where he was having his dinner. It was Blucher who lead the decisive cavalry charge at the Battle of Waterloo the following year. Had he been captured at Brienne, the course of European history in the 19th century may have been totally altered.

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WW1 memorial in Rosnay-l’Hopital. This memorial was unusual in that it featured the “Tricolore” French flag. It also had a rest area with tables and chairs so was an ideal place for a spot of lunch.

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Roadside memorial near Arzillieres-Neuville. To most people, 9-11 signifies the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. But to the Serindat family, 9-11 will always be associated with this accident. The road alongside this memorial was quite good condition and there was very little traffic, so it was the last place you would expect to come across such a memorial. Maybe it is accidents like this that explains why I have come across very few other cyclists on my travels around France. Despite the incredible scenery and beautiful weather, I came across only one other cyclist today. 8 million people in France watched the Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France on TV so there is huge interest in cycling here. But this was my third weekend of cycling on the Tour de Travoy and once again I was surprised just how few other cyclists there where out and about. You certainly would see a lot more cyclists out on the roads in Ireland on a Sunday than you would in most parts of France.

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Notre Dame church in the centre of Vitry-le-Francois. The church was built in the 17th century and is modelled on Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Vitry-le-Francois was built by King Francis 1 after the nearby town of Vitry-en-Perthe was totally destroyed by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles in 1544. Francis, who also built the chateau at Chambord, designed the town in an Italian Renaissance style with wide streets and a huge central square. The town suffered a lot of aerial bombing during WW2 but it was totally rebuilt after the war and there is no trace any damage nowadays.

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Sign alongside road near Chalons-en-Champagne. There were a lot of signs today for the tourist routes but only a few vineyards. Chalons-en-Champagne used to be called Chalons-sur-Marne up until 1998 and is surrounded mostly by fields of wheat and relatively few vineyards. It is only to the west of Chalons-en-Champagne that champagne is  grown so despite all the signs, I came across very few vineyards today.

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Wind turbines south of Chalons-en-Champagne. France produces about 15% of its electricity using wind-power and is the third biggest wind-power producer in Europe after Germany and the UK. There are many more turbines on the hills here in the north of France than there would be on the mountains in other parts of France, probably because of the greater population in the north.

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Source: thewindpower.net

Wind farms in France. You can see from the map above that there are no wind-farms in the Alps or the Pyrenees maybe because those areas have a lot of hydro-electric power. The majority of wind-farms are along the Atlantic coast just like in Ireland but in France there are a number of wind turbines on offshore islands, something that has yet to happen in Ireland.

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Camping de Chalons-en-Champagne. The sign has 4 stars on it and if it was down to me the sign would have 5 stars on it. The campsite is simply stunning with loads of shade, lots of space and spotless facilities. Simple things like charge-points for shavers and a clothes line beside the laundry area are provided unlike many other campsites. The willow trees and old style water pumps with a twist around handle add a real charm that is often lacking with municipal campsites. All in all, it was a great place to stay after such a hot day’s cycling.

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