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Champagne Itinerary

Day 2

Sunday: Lac de l'Ailette to Pontavert

A short cycling day, but a big day. 

We leave the hotel on a bike path alongside a lovely lake, and very soon we'll see the ruined Abbey de Vauclair. It's a Cistercian abbey, founded by St Bernard in the early 12th Century. Self-sufficiency was always a big thing for Cistercian Abbeys, so they are always somewhere beautiful, and Vauclair is no exception.
Bombed into ruins during the First World War, it's still worth a walk-round, and it's an introduction for what follows.
We'll climb up onto the Chemin de Dames. We're really cycling along one of history's great crossroads here.  Named for the daughters of Louis XV in the 18th Century, who travelled along the newly paved road to visit the Château de Boves, this ridgeway was the site of the Battle of Craonne where Napoléon defeated the Prussians and Russians in 1814.
The Chemin des Dames gained further notoriety during the First World War. It was the scene of three massive battles, including the disastrous second battle of Aisne in 1917, where the French and German armies lost over 400,000 soldiers dead, wonded or missing in just 12 days.
We'll visit a museum called the Caverne du Dragon. The French do these things so well.
Leaving the Caverne we'll pass a statue to France's favourite 'hero', Napoléon, and visit the panoramic viewpoint of Californie, where we can see first-hand what a hopeless idea it was for the French to attack in 2017. Heartbreaking. But so interesting.
The village of Craonne was obliterated. After the war, the huge number of shells in the area led the Government to conclude it couldn't be brought back into use. The village was constructed a few hundred metres away, and the site of the old village is now the arboretem that sits on the top of the plateau.
From Craonne it's just 4 miles or so to the Relais de Fleurette in Pontavert. Superb food this evening!
Distance:  25 Km / 15 miles.


Click this link for Day 2 route map on mapometer.

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