Champagne was named after the hills south of Rome, Compania by the Romans. It’s an ancient stomping ground for Romans and English and Spanish conquerors.
Today it’s a wonderfully wide open part of the north of France that lets you breath easy, nothing feels crowded in these parts.
As we headed north on the A-31 autoroute, and the miles added up, we decided stopping for a break was a great idea.
So we stopped into a town with a giant gateway, surrounded by ancient walls.
It was Langres, and we walked the length of the main street, surrounded on either side by high buildings filled with businesses, and at the end was a statue of Rene Descartes.
He was famous for inventing the encyclopedia, which at one time in history was a vital information tool. No matter how quaint that might sound now.
He towers over a bar where we got a beer in the sharp June heat, and my host Didier told me about this town’s long history.
Langres is a very pretty town, the buildings are all distinctive on the long narrow main street, which has been made narrower to allow for pedestrians to stroll
After we traveled another 75 kilometers, evening began to set itself over the languid landscape.
It was time for a stop at a classic roadside joint, and Hotel des Charmes was perfect. La Grange du Relais is on the main road in the village of Colombey-les-deux-eglises.
This is the country hometown and burial place of France’s beloved former president and WWII hero Charles De Gaulle.
As you drive up to the town, a double cross towers over the fields around it, the settlement had grown up around it.
A farmer crossed by the plane of view just as we approached in a bright morning sun. A lonely soldier is paid to stand sentry duty in front of De Gaulle’s house in a little hut.
De Gaulle was a fabulously frugal leader, and spared no expense in saving expenses for the state. He had an electricity meter put in so that he could separate his personal use from the office.
When he retired he turned down much larger payouts due to former Generals and presidents (he was both!) for a modest colonel’s pay. What a guy!
A Roadside Auberge
There is a very cozy roadside auberge in Colombey-les-deux-eglises, it’s La Grange du Relais, on the A19 Route Nationale.
For 21 years Martine Dambrine and her family have served the locals and especially, the people who drove out from Paris and many of the patriotic French seniors who came to pay respects to Le General or visit La Boisserie, his ivy-colored large former home that is now a De Gaulle museum.
Dinner in the superbly cozy former stables was first rate—very creative cuisine, a generous slice of fois gras and a classy cheese tray with Fromage de Vache and Longres cheeses.
Madame Dambrine was quick to show us the newspaper clipping the day former French president Nicholas Sarcozy was in town for a De Gaulle memorial. There she is, right next to the prez!
Read the full story on my blog GoNOMAD
All credits go to Max Hartshorne from GoNomad