18th-century timber-framed church, St Quentin
© Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne
Only four hours from London by Eurostar, and less than two hours by car from Paris, Aube-en-Champagne, surrounded by the other départements that make up the Champagne-Ardenne region, takes its name from a major river, which parallels the Seine before finally joining it. The motorways that pass through the area (the A5 from Paris and the A26 from Calais) make this an eminently accessible region.
Central to the area is the town of Troyes, the historic capital of the Champagne region, surrounded by the Plaine Champenoise and Nogentais to the north and north-west, Les Grands Lacs to the east, the Côte des Bars in the south-east, and the Pays d'Othe and Chaourçois more or less to the south.
© Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley
The overall landscape is very varied and probably best known for the production of champagne, though most of the champagne comes from the Côte des Bars, a place of attractive villages, valleys and undulating countryside alternately covered with forests and vineyards that bear the champagne fruit. In contrast, the Pays d'Othe is a region of lush green fields and dense forests, a bucolic landscape dotted with fruit orchards.
The Grands Lacs of Aube-en-Champagne hold more than 5,000 hectares of man-made lakes, originally created to regulate the flow of the Seine and the Aube rivers. These, today, centre on the Forest of the Orient, so named after the Crusading knights who lived, and are said to have buried their treasures, there.
© Chateau Bligny
Everywhere, the countryside is dotted with villages for which ‘quaint’ is not so much a cliché as an understated way of life. They fit comfortably into their surroundings, here and there agreeably ramshackle like lovable old rugosities, but all of them oases of calm, untroubled rurality, as if the last few centuries have passed by unnoticed, so laid back in fact that you might wonder if anyone actually lives here. It is quite beguiling, and a haphazard tour of the numerous country lanes instantly transports you into another, utterly tranquil world.