Belgium,  EarthCaches,  France,  Geocaching,  Summer

European Adventure, Day 4 – Chateau-Thierry, France

On to France, but first…

While starting in Belgium, by the end of the day, we planned to be in France. A bit of a drive, but I wanted to visit a town called Chateau-Thierry (more on that later). While my wife slept though, I woke up a bit early and went for a quick walk down to an EarthCache that was nearby.

Here my love of history collided with geocaching again, since the EC was near an old city gate built in the 14th century. There were a few people out, walking their dogs or going to work, but the city was quiet. Answers in hand, I looked at the gate a little more then went back to the hotel. We ate breakfast and then we were off for a day filled with more adventure!

The Scenic Route!

The trip to Chateau-Thierry was supposed to take about four hours…until I decided to geocache. Just south of Brussels, near Charleroi, there was a concentration of challenge caches, which I am a sucker for. I figured…okay, let’s go look. I’ll spare you the details, but in the end, after looking for a number of them, I couldn’t find a single one.

Disappointed in not just finding any, but also wasting our time, we had to get back on the road. We could have backtracked to the highway, but we decided to take the scenic route. Of course it would take a bit longer, but we hoped the scenery would make up for it.

Can we get a translator up here!

On the way, eventually we started getting hungry and hit a small dilemma. Do we stop and potentially have a lengthy meal, or find somewhere quick and easy? Then we saw a McDonalds. Typically, we like to stop and eat more locally, but we were pressed for time and we knew it would be quick.

We entered and thankfully there were kiosks to order at, because our French is…not so good. We place our order and try to pay…and it wouldn’t take any of our cards! We had to do it the hard way.

My wife approached the counter and asked, in French, if the cashiers speak English. There were three of them and all became very wide eyed. Eventually, with her broken French and a bit of pointing, we received our meal…but it made us laugh.

Caves and Champagne

After what seemed like an eternity in the car, we finally made it to Chateau-Thierry. This was more of a pilgrimage. As a Marine, the location holds a particular place in my heart, because a significant battle, involving Marines, occurred there during WW I. I had been here before, 20 years ago, but I thought it would be great to return and bring my wife.

We quickly checked into our hotel, the Chateau De La Marjolaine, made reservations for dinner, than hurried off. We wanted to see if we could still make it to the Pannier Caves before they closed.

We made it just in time. Although there was a longer tour in English earlier in the day, the staff was kind enough to give us an abbreviated tour followed by a tasting. During the tour, we learned about the different types of Champagne, how it is made and the fact that the caves hold over 2 million bottle of Champagne as part of the fermentation process.

WW I Monument

After the caves but before dinner, we made our way over to the massive WW I monument that overlooks Chateau-Thierry and the Marne river. The thing is massive and a stark reminder to the lives that were lost during that period. On site, I was able to find a traditional (my first find in France!) and I worked on the requirements for the EarthCache (GC7H6YB) associated with limestone used in the monument.

While working the requirements, I actually received help from some locals. Clearly, I was looking for something, because I was studying the limestone blocks with a magnifying glass. A family sitting down asked if I was looking for fossils and I said yes. So, they started helping! Eventually we all located several and that was more than I needed.

I also took the time to fly my drone at the monument and was able to capture some beautiful aerial photos of the monument with the river valley behind it.

Night Caching

After a scrumptious meal at our hotel, it was late, but the sun was just starting to set. We figured a great way to spend some time would be to go for a drive…and of course do some geocaching! So, off we went down the road, driving away from the town. For the most part it seemed like we had the entire road to ourselves. We stopped several times to look for geocaches along the way and never saw a muggle. It was awesome, just to take our time driving from village to village without a care or concern. Just as much as I enjoyed the scenery, I was enjoying the fact that I was increasing the number of caches found in France!

Eventually, we had to make our way back to the hotel since tomorrow was going to be another long day of touring and driving. By tomorrow evening, we would be in Luxembourg.

Jon Burgess

Jon is one of the team members of Let's go Earthcaching.