Exploring the French Ardennes

The French Ardennes, in north-eastern France, proper subsequent to Belgium, is a area of rolling hills and deep valleys. Dense forests cowl nearly half of the area and the meandering River Meuse, working from north to south, is residence to fortified castles and church buildings with quite a few colourful cities and villages on its banks. The biggest of those is the capital, Charleville-Mézières, really a mixture of two former cities.

Culinary delights additionally await within the area. Bask in conventional dishes such because the well-known Ardennes ham, succulent wild boar stew, or the area’s famend creamy Rocroi cheese. Pair your meal with a glass of domestically produced cider or beer for a real style of the area’s gastronomic treasures.

Entry from the UK is comparatively simple by practice and can be environmentally pleasant. I take Eurostar to Paris, round two hours, then TGV to Reims and at last a neighborhood practice to Charleville-Mézières. Whole transit time, 5 and a half hours.


In 1606, Charles de Gonzague, the Duke of Mantua, based the town of Charleville as his private residence, reverse the city of Mézières on the banks of the Meuse. Designed by famend architect Clément II Métezeau, the town has a geometrical format, vast avenues, and chic squares, reflecting the grandeur and ambition of its founder.

The grandest is the majestic Place Ducale, a splendid sq. impressed by the Place des Vosges in Paris. It is lined by arcades, housing elegant retailers with a central fountain and it is a vibrant hub for locals and vacationers alike. Stroll by way of its cobbled streets, cross the river, and admire the spectacular 15th century Basilique Notre-Dame d’Espérance, in Mézières. It accommodates round 1000 sq. meters of stained glass created by René Dürrbach, a buddy of Picasso.

Arthur Rimbaud, the famend French poet was born in Charleville on October 20, 1854, and spent his youth within the city, earlier than working away to Paris when he was seventeen. He died younger in Marseilles and his stays had been introduced again to the city’s cemetery in 1910. His grave of him, and the home the place he grew up, kind a part of the Rimbaud Path and there is a superb museum in an outdated watermill on the banks of the Meuse.

Charleville is a significant worldwide puppetry middle and each two years it hosts one of many largest puppet festivals on the earth, the Competition Mondial des Théâtres de Marionettes in September. For ten days skilled troupes from all around the world stage round fifty reveals a day each in and out. The Puppet Museum has a group of intricately crafted marionettes and there are occasional performances on the Institut de la Marionnette.

Ardennes Regional Nature Park

Charleville-Mézières is the gateway metropolis to the Ardennes Regional Nature Park, within the north of the division, with a floor space of ​​117 200 hectares, and residential to 92 small cities. It is a lush inexperienced territory stuffed with forests, hedged farmland, dry grassland, peat bogs, rocky escarpments and rivers. Out of doors leisure actions akin to strolling, biking, mountain biking, horse-riding, fishing and kayaking are well-liked right here.

Strolling Map

The Park counts over 1000km of marked footpaths, some simple however others tougher. These embody 4 GR’s, lengthy distance trails – the GR12 connects Amsterdam to Paris and the GR354 goes all the way in which to Santiago de Compostella, the Manner of St Jacques.

One of the vital well-liked locations is the 150 hectare Vieilles Forges Lake. It provides a number of actions together with swimming, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, canoeing and kayaking and you may also fish from its banks. The lake is surrounded by forests however a path runs alongside its banks for practically 12km, a simple afternoon stroll

Close by within the coronary heart of the forest, simply exterior Signy-l’Abbaye is one other round hike, Le Sentier n°56 “La supply de la Pichelotte” It is nearly all contained in the forest, a mixture of beech and pine, and crosses streams and valleys. You are unlikely to fulfill different walkers and permit 4 hours for the stroll.



North of Charleville, the Meuse winds by way of deep valleys with dramatic wooded cliffs on either side. The city of Monthermé is true within the coronary heart of the Ardennes Forest, and the river makes a large loop right here. Canoeing, biking and strolling are all on supply and the paths are more durable right here. The Paths of Legends Loop is a 5 hour strenuous hike beginning and ending within the city.

The stroll begins with a steep climb as much as the Roche à Sept Heures, value it for the panoramic views of the river bend, with the city unfold out beneath. Comply with the ridge to Roc la Tour earlier than dropping again right down to the banks of the Meuse and stroll within the different course. The path quickly climbs into the woods main as much as the rock formations of ‘Les 4 Fils Aymon’.

Legend says that these 4 brothers left the court docket of Charlemagne after by accident killing his nephew. Bayard, a magic horse, carried all of the brothers on its again, leaping throughout hills valleys, and so they took refuge within the Ardennes Forest. With the assistance of their cousin the wizard Maugis, they constructed the citadel Montessor. However Charlemagne quickly found the place they had been and so they had been compelled to flee.

Sculpture by Albert Poncin

Simply above the village of Bogny-sur-Meuse, on the unique web site of the citadel, is a monumental sculpture by Albert Poncin representing the 4 brothers and their horse. After crossing the river into the village a steep climb results in two unbelievable viewpoints, the Level de vue de L’Hermitage and the much more spectacular Rocher de 7 Villages. It is then a delicate stroll down again to Monthermé for a welcome glass of the native beer.

Truth file

GO: eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Then SNCF to Charleville-Mézières.

STAY: L’Auberge de l’Abbaye in Signy-l’Abbaye is near the forest and has good meals.

La Ferme du Pont des Aulnes in Les Mazures is subsequent to Vieilles Forges Lake and is known for its charcuterie.

Chambre d’hôtes Le Level de Chute in Hautes-Rivières has native specialties and is helpful for Monthermé.

EAT: Restaurant Gastronomique Chez Toshi in Charleville-Mézières has glorious French delicacies with a Japanese twist.

INFO: Ardennes has details about the area.

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