Champagne & Ardennes region make bikers’ life easier
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Champagne and Ardennes are two North-Eastern French regions that recently decided to join together to welcome bikers in the best conditions possible. Accueil Motard, (Welcoming Bikers) is a new label gathering adapted accommodations and routes chosen by bikers for bikers. Going through beautiful sites you can follow designed itineraries, knowing where to stop for a good meal, for discovering villages, castles, abbeys, lakes, vineyards….
France truly is one of the best places in Europe to go and ride a bike and is easily reached by bikers by boat or aboard the Eurostar. And if French people have a bad reputation for being unfriendly or even unpleasant, foreign bikers will tell you that French love bikes: go to France on a bike and Frenchies will love you for it!
Since 2013 French bikers, including bikers from the French Bikers Federation, have crisscrossed the area to choose some of the most beautiful winding roads in France looking like being drawn for riders. They also selected hotels, B&B, camping sites and rural guesthouses that have to satisfy specific criteria to get the Accueil Motards label. First they all have secured and dry premises to park the bikes, a room to wash and dry all the bikers’ equipment. Then tools must be available in case of breakdown: screwdrivers, battery cables, puncture kit, engine oil, coolant and a foot pump are the minimum. Finally a hairdryer and a shelf to put the helmets on must be available in each bedroom.
At least eight different routes have already been prepared and will take you up and down the low Ardennes’ mountain and the Champagne’s hillsides of vines. You can download the mobile application on http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/ and http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/discover/motorbikes-trips Follow the route and easily find the places of interest, restaurants and accommodations that you want to go to, most of them are thematic and you can combine them depending on how much time you plan to stay there.
Of course in Champagne there is a wine route dedicated to Champagne. It’s a 200 km long round trip starting and ending in Chateau-Thierry going through vineyards and beneath shady forests. Among these forests don’t miss the Verzy forest where very rare trees grow. Called twisted beeches they have gnarled and deformed trunks and their interlaced branches create a bizarre umbrella! Another trip will take you to the Champagne’s lakes and particularly to the Der Lake where in spring and autumn tens of thousands cranes stop in this idyllic place to get some rest during their migration. An incredible sight!
“The Long Ardennes Circuit” is a 400 km long trip starting in Charleville-Mézière where French poet Arthur Rimbaud was born. From spectacular Place Ducale you will leave town and discover awesome sceneries: deep winding valleys, dark firs forests, slate roofed villages, castles and fortresses…
Champagne & Ardennes were the epicentre of terrible battles during World War I. Several of the routes will take you to remembrance places: Verdun, Montfaucon-en-Argonne, the Chemin des Dames… Military cemeteries, battlefields, remains of razed villages or memorials still are painful memories.
Of course gastronomy is not to be forgotten. You will find cheeses of all shapes, sizes, colours and tastes in Champagne & Ardennes. Try the mild and fluffy Chaource, the orangey and strong Langres, the Cendré de Champagne covered with beech or poplar ashes giving it an unmistakable smoked taste, the soft and tender Délice de Mussy and the Rocroi a cheese saved from disappearing by Stéphanie Morin, a devoted farmer who started to make this cheese again in 2008. Known since the 18th century this cheese is made with the whey left after the butter making and is delicious spread on a slice of bread or melted on hot potatoes… Meet Stéphanie at the Harnoterie farm in Beaumont-en-Argonne, www.ferme-la-harnoterie.com
In Troyes you can taste the andouillette, a chitterling sausage, in Rethel they make tasty white sausages, eat a pork trotter in Sainte-Ménéhould (for enlightened amateurs only!), buy some famous Ardennes raw ham to bring back home and many other local specialities that you will discover on your way.
Apart from Champagne this region is also famous for its artisanal beers and ciders. There is even a local whisky maker in Louvois close to Reims: the Guillon make single malt whiskies matured in casks previously used to make wines in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and other French regions. But before succumbing to the temptation please remember that drink-driving laws are the same for bikers as for car drivers and a single glass of wine or beer is enough to be fined! Carrying a breathalyser is compulsory, so get one when arriving in France (they are available in ports and in garages).
More information: http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/discover/motorbikes-trips