In the department of Haute-Marne (France), the peaceful village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises owes its fame to Charles de Gaulle who made it his haven of peace. Fifty years after his death, the memory of the General is still very present: his family home, a memorial or the famous monument in the shape of the Cross of Lorraine pay tribute to him. These are fascinating visits which, through the life of the General, allow us to understand a century of French history.
But Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises is not a frozen mausoleum to the glory of de Gaulle. It is a lively village where it is good to recharge one’s batteries, where one can sit at gourmet tables or enjoy a glass of locally produced Champagne.
What to do in Colombey? What can you visit? And what are the good addresses? Here is a guide to prepare your next getaway!
This travel guide is produced in collaboration with Haute-Marne Tourisme, I reserve the right to make my own comments, so the opinions and suggestions for activities in this article are entirely sincere.
Colombey in short
- How to get there ? By train, get off at Chaumont station (about 2h30 from Paris) then take a bus to Colombey, line 4 (about 30 minutes). See schedules and rates on cmonbus.com
- How long to stay ? One day is enough to do the visits related to General de Gaulle but I recommend you to stay one night to take advantage of the restful setting of Colombey, and to make a gourmet stop.
- When to go there ? La Boisserie, De Gaulle’s family home, is closed in winter; and the Memorial is closed in January, so it is best to go to Colombey between spring and fall.
- Who is it for? A visit to Colombey is not just for old-timers! The life of de Gaulle is fascinating and allows to understand the history of the 20th century, which is interesting for all generations. Moreover, the gastronomic addresses allow to find in Colombey a restful and greedy frame.
Why is the village Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises associated with General de Gaulle?
Charles de Gaulle married Yvonne Vendroux on April 7, 1921. The couple quickly started a family: Philippe was born the same year, Elisabeth in 1924 and Anne in 1928.
In the early 1930s, Charles was a lieutenant-colonel, a job that required him to travel regularly to Paris and to garrisons in eastern France. The de Gaulle couple was looking for a house located halfway between Paris and the French border, a haven of peace, conducive to reflection and writing. In addition, their daughter, Anne, is a carrier of trisomy 21. At the time, this syndrome was not well known: the doctors advised the de Gaulle to go and seek fresh air and a restful setting.
Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises met all these criteria and seduced the couple who bought the house at La Boisserie on June 6, 1934. At that time, Charles and Yvonne did not have the means to finance the 50,000 francs of the sale, so the house was bought as a life annuity from the former owner who died less than two years later, which allowed them to become owners at low cost.
Under the spell of this house, which he had restored to his taste, de Gaulle continued to visit Colombey at least every other weekend, even when he was President of the Republic.
This is my home. In the tumult of men and events, solitude was my temptation. Now it is my friend. What other friend can one be satisfied with when one has met history? Besides, this part of Champagne is all impregnated with calm: vast, frustrated and sad horizons; woods, meadows, crops and melancholic wastelands; relief of ancient mountains very worn and resigned; quiet and not very fortunate villages, of which nothing, for thousands of years, has changed the soul, nor the place. Thus mine.” – Charles de Gaulle, War Memoirs
What to do in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises?
In the footsteps of General de Gaulle
La Boisserie, the family home of the De Gaulle
La Boisserie still belongs to the de Gaulle family who continue to visit it regularly. If the first floor is totally private, the first floor and the garden are open to the public.
The rooms on the first floor have been preserved in the same state as in the time of General de Gaulle. Visiting La Boisserie gives one the strange feeling that the General is still there and could appear at any moment. One can see some of the gifts he received privately from many heads of state; the autographed portraits of personalities he may have met; the desk on which he wrote his memoirs or the table where he collapsed on November 9, 1970, victim of an aneurysm.
A walk in the garden of the house also helps to understand the quietude that Charles de Gaulle found here.
Rue du Général de Gaulle
Every day from 10:00 am to 12:45 pm and from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm – Schedules may change according to the season, it is recommended to check on the website before going there
Rates: 6 € / 4 € for children under 18 / free for children under 10
The Charles de Gaulle Memorial, to know (almost) everything about de Gaulle
Located on the heights of Colombey, the memorial looks back on the life of Charles de Gaulle and not only on the life of the general. That is to say that we discover his childhood, his military life and then his political career. And since de Gaulle – born in 1890 and died in 1970 – lived through almost a century, his story is also the story of France in the 20th century, so that the visit to the memorial is particularly fascinating and helps us to understand how our society was built today.
From February to December, opening hours vary according to the season, see the Memorial website
Prices: 13.5 € / 11 € for students / 8 € for children under 12 / Free for children under 6
Grouped ticket Memorial + Boisserie: 16.5 € / 15 € for students
The Lorraine Cross
The last level of the memorial allows access to the Lorraine Cross. This impressive 44 meter high monument built in pink granite dominates the mountain and can be seen from afar!
De Gaulle had said “If one day, after me, we want to mark this place, it is here that it should be done, but very simply, no statue … perhaps a Lorraine Cross”. It is thus in respect of his wishes that this cross was erected in 1972 – two years after his death – according to plans by the architects Nebingen and Mosser.
Access to the Lorraine Cross is from the Memorial. Entrance fee (included in the price of the Memorial).
Why did the Lorraine Cross become the symbol of de Gaulle and the resistance?
In the 1940s, the Nazis used the swastika as a symbol. They were looking for a symbol of Free France that would be opposed to the Nazis but also to those who obeyed Marshal Pétain. General de Gaulle was then presented with this cross which was also the insignia of the tank regiment he commanded from 1937 to 1939.
The cemetery and the tomb of the General
In the center of the village, right next to the church, it is in the small cemetery of Colombey that de Gaulle is buried. He is buried in a white grave, very sober, next to his wife Yvonne and their daughter Anne. The (very!) numerous tribute plaques are placed at a distance, to respect the General’s wish for sobriety:
I want my funeral to take place in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. If I die elsewhere, my body will have to be transported to my home, without the least public ceremony. My grave will be the one where my daughter Anne already rests and where, one day, my wife will rest. Inscription: Charles de Gaulle (1890-….). Nothing else.” – Will of Charles de Gaulle
Other things to do in Colombey
Stroll in the village
Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises is an extremely pleasant and peaceful village. It is easy to understand why the General chose to live here! The stone houses are not lacking in charm, the streets are quiet, we cross some animals on our way, and some views on the surrounding hills are magnificent. In short: take the time to stroll around!
Visit the Peligri champagne cellar
In the Haute-Marne, nearly 80 hectares of vineyards have the “Champagne” appellation. In Colombey, you can go to the Christian Peligri and daughters winery which sells its production directly. And here, we produce from father to daughter! Indeed, two girls of the young generation have taken over the family business.
This visit is also a very good plan since you can buy champagne at only 14 € the bottle!
Enjoy a meal in the stars
Colombey is also lucky enough to have a starred restaurant: the NATALI restaurant. In a beautiful 17th century stone building, the chef Jean-Baptiste Natali prepares a tasty and accessible cuisine. It is indeed one of the cheapest starred restaurants in France with a three course menu, proposed at 38 € at lunchtime and 48 € in the evening.
If one could expect to find in Colombey a dated cuisine, stuck in the time of the General, it is not so! The chef has indeed traveled a lot and elaborates modern dishes where the good matches with the beautiful.
To fully discover the chef’s palette of flavors, the 5-course “Je vous ai compris” menu at 87 € is a sure bet!
Children’s menus are available from €15 or €25 (depending on age) to allow the youngest to taste adapted portions.
10 rue de Pisseloup
Best places in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
In addition to the starred restaurant mentioned above, other good addresses – more accessible – await you in Colombey. However, it is strongly recommended to book in advance: these good restaurants sell out quickly, especially during the summer!
Maison et Tartine
Here is an original address! Maison & Tartine is both a restaurant and a decoration store: here, you can buy the objects that surround you as well as some local products offered for sale.
In the plates, a generous home cooking awaits you. Not much choice on the menu but only fresh products and at low prices: only 22 € starter – main course – dessert. A delight!
6 place de l’Eglise
A refined cuisine awaits you in this bistronomic restaurant where a menu of the day rubs shoulders with an extensive menu. The dishes are excellent with a particular attention brought to the dressing, the whole in a cordial environment.
18 place de l’Eglise
The beautiful address in Colombey is the Hostellerie La Montagne – the hotel attached to the starred table. In this 4-star establishment, spacious and comfortable rooms await you with, as a bonus, an excellent breakfast in the form of a small buffet made up exclusively of fresh products.
10 rue de Pisseloup
Accommodation around Colombey
Enter the dates of your stay to see the available establishments:Booking.com
The map of the best places in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
Don’t lose your way! Find all the addresses mentioned in this article on this map:
To see around Colombey
Extend your stay by discovering the surroundings!
The prefecture of the Haute-Marne may be your arrival point if you come by train. Take the opportunity to discover this city.
Opposite the train station, dare to push the door of the Signe, the National Center of Graphic Design. This high cultural place, installed in a former bank, is an establishment which presents free exhibitions, for all! You will also find a bar as well as a free coworking space and activities for the youngest. A must-see stop!
In the neighboring department of Aube, Troyes is a city full of charm with its half-timbered houses and its numerous stained glass windows.
In Meurthe-et-Moselle, discover Nancy and its art nouveau architecture.
The capital of Burgundy is a nice cultural destination, especially thanks to its Fine Arts museum.
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Article produced in partnership with Haute-Marne Tourism.