Historical Stop Overs Along the River Marne

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If you want to spend your holiday immersed in the fascinating history and culture of a region, then look no further than French river cruises in the Marne Valley. This article will reveal just three of the incredible historical sites you’ll visit on a cruise on the Marne.

Reims Cathedral

This impressive Gothic monument is visited by millions of tourists every year. However, you are unlikely to feel cramped within its towering stone walls. The building has a rich history dating back to the 1200s and the town of Reims itself has been an important city since Classical Antiquity.

The cathedral has suffered over its centuries-long life, being buffeted by storms, threatened by fire and partially dismantled during the political upheavals leading up to the French Revolution. Thanks, in part, to Victor Hugo’s campaign to protect Gothic architecture, the cathedral underwent much restoration in the nineteenth century. Sadly, the First World War brought new trials and the building was seriously damaged by bombs – it was later restored, benefiting from a $1 million donation from J. D. Rockefeller.

In 1991, this site was given a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its popularity is understandable, and you will certainly not be disappointed.


French river cruises along the Marne will take you past the charming town of Château-Thierry. It is worth spending some time exploring this historical settlement.

People were already living in this area of the Marne Valley by Roman times. Later, a fortress was built here, but the town was destroyed during the English occupation of the Hundred Years War. In the sixteenth century, Charles V took the town and it developed peacefully under the old regime.

Besides its intriguing military history, the town is known as the birthplace of French fable writer Jean de La Fontaine. A museum honouring de La Fontaine is situated in his old house – a stunning sixteenth-century mansion. Pop in to discover original manuscripts and illustrations. Before leaving, visit the old fortress for gorgeous views across the town and down to the valley.

Belleau Wood

Belleau Wood is the site of the first battle fought by American soldiers in World War One. It was May 1918 and the Germans had penetrated the Western Front just 45 miles away from Paris. US soldiers were ordered to drive the Germans back, out of Belleau Woods. The battle raged for three weeks with each side equally determined to succeed. The Germans brought reinforcements from the rear and both sides employed machine guns and artillery. The American soldiers eventually won back Belleau Woods but paid dearly for it – almost ten thousand men were wounded, missing in action or dead.

Belleau Wood is now an American battle monument and many French river cruises include a visit to this sombre site. It is a peaceful place to contemplate the sacrifice of those who left their homes and crossed the ocean to fight.

French river cruises along the River Marne offer visitors a real historical variety, from ancient settlements and sixteenth-century French literature to reminders of a more recent past.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury French river cruises. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

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