A Biker's Reverie

Marne River - History and Geography
  |  Gorp.com
Champagne vineyards on the Montagne de Reims
Champagne vineyards climb and cover the slopes of the Montagne de Reims.

The Marne River is the major artery of the Dipartement of Champagne-Ardennes. It has its source in northeastern France in the Haute-Marne southeast of the city of Langres. Sweeping north and then west to the Montagne de Reims and the heart of Champagne, it spills into the Seine 325 miles later just southeast of Paris.

Pedaling the shores of the Marne means following temptation to places sometimes a short reach from the water's edge. Troyes, former capital of the Counts of Champagne, who ruled locally before France was the unified nation it is today, is a perfect example. The little-used Parc de la Forjt d'Orient just to its east is a maze of hiking and biking trails and home to the large artificial lakes that help control the levels of both the Marne and the Seine.

The Marne is also within easy reach of Reims, whose magnificent and historic Gothic cathedral saw the coronation of twenty-five of France's kings. Reims and Epernay (which sits directly on the Marne) are the two commercial poles of the Champagne region, the only place in the world that can produce wine officially and legally called champagne. The lush and extensive vineyards of the most famous champagne houses Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck, Taittinger, Mercier, DeCastellane, Veuve-Clicquot, Mokt & Chandon, and more than 100 others are an unimaginably beautiful and tempting backdrop when you cycle along the"Route Touristique du Champagne".

Farther west, the Marne cuts across the fields of Picardy, an area devastated three times (1914, 1918 and 1944) by World War battles, past Meaux (the little known home of Brie cheese), within a mouse's whisker of Euro Disney, and then into the suburbs of Paris lively with the music and dancing of classic waterside "guingettes."


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