Ardennes for a `fantasticable` tour


Ardennes for a `fantasticable` tour
Meander through Belgium and the French
Ardennes for a 'fantasticable' tour
W0RDS: Hrlen Werin PH0T0GRAPHY: Rob n Weaver
eil pilched alongside the River
Meuse in the French Ardennes
on a municipal site to top all
others a"din a place known as the $'orld
capital ofpuppetry. WeAcrossed it in the
sp€ctacularly set Walloon Lown ofDinant,
over a bddge adorned with bdlliantly
colour€d saxophones haling just squeez€d
Roly. our motorhome, through a narrolv gap
in the cliffs.
Wed p€dall€d and picnicked beside it in
hvo countries and admired itfromhigh up
in dense for€sts.,ldved unwittingly driven
Travel Edltor loves
to escape ir Roy, her
. rl4l\4Mb
motorhome, She'l usua ygo
as ong as
isn t nail
on a (suppos€dD traffic free path alongside
it after rh€ assistant in the Offic€ de
Tourisme directed us to"followthe river".
Now, myfearless daughter andher dad
were flying across the riv€r on a zipwire
known as th€ I'antasticable - probably
b€causethatt the remark everyone makes
when they come down from it. Perturbed
byth€ descdption ofwhizzingat up to
r2okmph (74mph) over r.2lm (3/amile),1
was consigned to taking tne photographs as
Sophie and Robin flewtowards me through
the trees ofthe French Ard€nnes. theirarms
outstretched like wings.
Sophie kept repeating: "Its the best thing
Iv€ ever done". It se€m€d nathingwas going
The entne 12 shows of the
local eEend,les quatre nb
Aymon w th the g ant
puppeteeron winston
Churchil Square in Chareville.
N,l6zidres, are on Saturdays at
9.15pm- Shorter displays on
the hour, daiy, 10am gpm
to top t}le Fantasticable.
But wea reckoned withour the oth€r
marvels of the Meus€; the stunning Place
Ducaleand the Iamous l0m high (33ft)
giant puppeteer in Chartevill€ M6zi6res,
the beautiful panorama across the Nleuse
at Montherm6 and the 'secret' vall€ys of
the Ardenn es which have creaied legeDds
passed down lrom g€neration togeneration.
Add themost childish funl've ever had
trying to stay upfght in amassive,bouncy
net whilst 1i€lding giant balls aimed at me
by a highly-amused group ofsmallboys. Mix
in the best moelleux au chacolat (nolten
f i', ,:::'*o'
-lP :
0ur, h/,p. aarlann
AutoRoller 41 with Fiat 2.}ritre dieset ergine.
'Roly' has lots oi lockeG and storage space,
Itallbegan rvith amessage in myinbox:
'I know of this fantastic campsite in the
French Ardennes, right beside theliv€r
Wed met th€ Meuse on pr€vious havels
in Wallonia - the southern, French-speaking
part ofBelgium - and had some great
memorles. Now. we were going to linkrh€
river to our travels berween our contineDtal
entry pot of Zeebrugge, followed by a
TH E JOURNEY we rook rhe ferry fmm Hul to
Zeebrugge, spent tuo nights in chenr and nine dEs
iollowing the Meuse to sedan, then on to Luxembourg
chocolate cake) that moelleu experr'
Sophie has ever tasted and you can perhaps
s€e why following the Meuse was theperfect
r€cipe for a family tour
... ...
Fery ..
..... ........ .....
Hu to
Site fees
.......... 1.158.20
Att.Ecdons .........1132.73
Average 26mpg
... ....
teenager: €ilbiking, bike
hire, Sedan Castle, Ery
teenager hntasticable
.ouple ofnights in Ghent forsightseeing
and ourfinal European desiination of
Our iirst sight ofthe Meuse on this trip
wasn r pretty, in an industrialis€d ar€a of
Namua capital ofWallonia. This impression
was onlyfl€eting asw€joined the N92
alongside the wide river dotted with barges
and th€ occasional waler skier.
We Iollowed the Meus€ beyond
Profond€ville, past houses wilh beautiful
gardens reaching down to thevaterfronl.
Even more magnifi€ent dwellings a'ere
visible high up on the cliffs. Manyofthe
lovely houses have turreted attics md
balcon,es like castles in miniature.l halfexpected to see Rapunzel letting doM her
hair from one ofthe$.indows.
We passed the tranquil Annevoie
gardens, famous for their fountains, en
route to Dinant. Ourarrival coincidedwith
the hi.entennial of Alfred Sax. inventor of
the saxophone,who was born here.That
explains why the Charles de Gaulle bridg€
over theMeuse waslined with garishly
patterned models of Lhe instruments.
Our pitch at CampingVillatoile was
in.he loveliest oflimestone valleys with
dramatic pinnacl€s olrock reminiscent of
parrs of the peak Disrricr. To get ro Dinanr,
seven miDutes' away, ve had to €dge
through the 2.5m (Sft) gapbetween the cliff
and the landmark 40m (I30ft) needle like
rockofle Roi:her Bayard without scraping
our wing mirrors. Though Roly has done
this before. there srill were some audihle
sighs olrelieffrom the rear seats once we
were throughl
Dinant may be fairly small, but it has an
I"EFT Rory comes through the
na ow 8ap alongslde le
Rocher Bayard at Dlnant
ABOVE N'lontherm6 and Rirer
Meuse from ta Longue Roche
BELow scurpture at the
Rimbaud lM(seum, Chanevlll+
amazingly chequered historyand its setting
under imm€nse cliffs is very impr€ssive. We
consider€d anackingthe408 ste€p st€ps up
to the eleventh century citadel, just one of
a series ofancient forti{ications along rhis
va.lley, but decided against it.
Faced with what claims to be the worldi!
shortest and steep€st cablecar de up the
cliff face at no extra charge. there was no
contest and we surrendered to the scenic.
but all too brief,journey. Leaningover
the rampats from r00m (328it) abovewe
watched tourist boats sailingup to Namur,
which boasts an even grander citadel
Wea had great fun rail bikingin the
Molign6e Vall€y before. This time the
thermometer was reading 36'C, so w€
parked Roly in th€ shadi€st spot we could
nndatFala€n andjoined a convoy of
railbikes heading for Mar€dsous.
There was quite a lot of brow mopping as
we peda.lled, but therewas also an element
ofcompetition to s€e whose l€gs could work
tha hardest. The return was great fun; a real
hang-o.-to-the-sun-hat experienca as w€ >
Apd 2015,uk 95
i].lt'"-. TRAVEL
A , ,lee.@m
no time ar rlT.
We rrJilpd rl e
lle-w. pn'p-ine Fr1nc.
ir.t o"t..Jprirvet \oph,.sa. u:edb\the
ma.ret ."a flre ino"gnt A u;rt" i*
@r"ruo."ou,.u,t' 7ar'e'orn^ot'on onPolll,elari.'FriF'
AI Hrtbes se sere h.mrled in bI
dFnv, irte
bands ofmotorhomes alongside Lhe riler
obviously ov€rnighting.
Wejourneyed in generous loops, passing
crclists and runners on the role rerte trans
Ardennes. This is the 83km long (5I.6 miles)
car free formerto$?aih knoivn as the green
track' behreen Gilet and Nlontc!-Notre
Dame.Wewerc to meet this tmckin an
unexpected war 1ater...
Sophie was amused by place names;
Chooz and llam and Deville.It Nas at
Ha]bes thatshe spott€d rhe poster for the
Fantasticable at Fumay. SheA celebrared
her lourteenth birthda), on the P&O
crossingftom Hullr!,ith at least three
tubs olchocolate ice cream as parr ofour
'unlimited'buffet deal. l neverget sicL" she
As itwas, the crossing$as lery calm and
our Club cabin
lerr comfortable, bursheA
a big birthday tr€at. "Ifyou see
somethingon ourtravels. perhaps you can
have that for your birthdayi we said. Th€
Fantasticable was i,,
I can't say rvhy rve had problems linding
TerrAltitude. a'here the is. As
rve later discovered. TerrAltitude rfhi.h
also orers freejump and bungee jumping
is c]€arly signposted from the main D988.
I blame the rivea for theMeuse
loops back on its€lfaround Fumay I
didn't thinkmyFrench rvas too bad. but
perhaps the tourist information assistant
misunderstood our mode oftransport. We
did as she said,Iollos'ing the Meuse from
onrparking spot onthe Quai des Carm6lites
To be faia we didn t see any signs denying
vehicular acc€ss aswe carried on do$'n
the paved road. Once we r€alised that r!,e
$rre probably on thegr€entra€k (ihe lack
ofother traffic rather giving it away), it was
impossible to turn back.l kept hopingNe
would not find our lvay barred and rhat
there s'ould soon be an easyescape.
AIIer a very self'conscious crawl rve
reached a tight turningonto a narrowlane.
Thankfully, there was no one abouruntil we
got to the main road, rvhere a man looked
roulr,\Vound lriglt irrto thc dense
b1 glinrpse s ol thc
Rlver l,,le!se at Haybes: Pace
Ducale, Cha r evil e-Maziaesi
fortifications at Rocroi. the
'ville fortif6e en ero le
LEFT Helen and Sophie cycling
besde the River Nleuse near
aghastat us. He glan.ed dos,n at our
plare and shook liis head.
lirrcst, pLrnctrrrrtcci
\ lcLrsc r Lrllcr'lrclorv"
The restofour Nleuse meanderings that
day Nere ilithoulmishap, taking us through
Revin and R€n$'ez, ilhere Ne \{ere tempted
bl, albod marketwith stalls heaped Nith all
nanner ofjars and picHes.
It was
Charlelille-Miziares that we
met th€ lirst ofonly two Brilish families on
our entire trip through Belgium and the
FrenchArdennes. Mont Olvmpeis the site
that lve've been holdingup as amodel for
all others's one ofthe hest rle ve
eler stal€d on, an)vhere: spacious, hedged
pitches, filo spotless fa.ilities blocks rvith
cheap laundry machines. irldoor table
tennis, free WiFi around the reception and
information area and a.af6lbarthat offers
The site is on a bend in rhe,less
than a 10 minute walkacross a footbridge
we passed Mus6e Rimbaud,
commemorating the lile ofthe famous
Charleville born poet, Arthur Rimbaud
and an art installation ofchairs bearing
inscripiions from his poetrybelore arriving
in La Place Ducale and experiencing a
sharp inrak€ ofbreath. This Iil not expected.
This sumptuous squarc was inspired by
outandaboutllve,co.u* Ami 2O1s
La Plac€ dcs Vosges in the c€ntre ofParis.
ln the middle olthe Louis XIII'style
paliiions s'ere several beaches and giant
paddlingpools in which toddlers splashed.
as is the traditlon inhigh summer in manl,
dining experience that night at la
Table DlArthua in Rue Pi€rre B6r6govo.v,
rvas also memorabl€. The blackpudding for
which theArdennes is famous was like no
oth er black pudding I've ever had.It came
pinched into ut1y.lilo'like cases so crisp
thatonc bit€ had ml, morsel shootingolfmy
ibrk and across the resiaurant. We sipped
Chablis the colour olliquid gold and ended
with th€ aforesaid moelleux (forSophie)
aDd, for ne, an incredibl€ meringue based
concoction lilled with the blackcurrants
which grow plentili ly in these parts.
We could have taken other interestiDg
routes to discoverthe Ardennes, following
fortifications, abbeys and chur€hes and
visiting breweries. Butweuanted to see
what is probablythe most photographed
view ofthe Ardennes and adorns all the
posters thevistaover the bends in the
river at Montherm6.
Our route wound hish into ihe dense
forest, punctuated by glimpses olthe ]or.ely
Meus€ \,all€y belo$,. From a picnic spotat >
Aprl2015 97
Camping Blaann€ersen, zuide aan 12,9ooo
Ghent, Belglum
oo32 92 668160
Two adults, pitch and
naarch - october
elecnie From r16.9s when
booked through Ihe camping and Caravanning
Club. Othelwise frcm €22.90 {116.94)
Camping vUlatollo, Ferme de Pont a [esse, Route
de !!blzih, 5500 Anseremme
82 222285 O
- 15 october
Two adults, pitch and erectrrs From €23
CampingDu MontOlymp€,174 Rue des Paquis,
08000 cha evlllefll6ziees
@ ooas azl aazsoo
charlevllle-mezieresj/Decouvertedetavi e/
Iou sme/Le{amping
La Croix Sainte-Anne we gazed a.ross to the
famous landmark, la Roche e SeptHeures.
AtMontherm6, kno&'n as tne pearl of
the Ardennes', we parked atthe auberge la
Roche a SeptHeures and followed narrow
tracks through the woods Lo lookout over
the twists and tums ofthe riv€r from la
ln Charlevill€-M6zitres that night we
s'atched lal6g€nde des quatre Iils Almon
(storyofth€ four Alnnon sons) unfold. Th€
huge, iron mask ofle Grand Marionnettist€
moved rather eerilyback and forth as fish
and angels appeared.
We ent€r€d a'world of fairies' next day at
ElryPark n€xttoLac desVieilles Forges ar
Les Mazures. At first glance it appeared lik€
a childrent adv€nture parkparadise. Then
I Doticed ihat thc signs on tie €quipmenr
read: For use by2'102 year-olds'. There
was no stopping me!My absolute favourite
was th€ crazy, bouncyDcts, but I also spun
madly on acircling swingand inchedup
nettillg hung high b€tween tree houses
with alu or, as much confidenc€ as the
enthusiastic thre€-year old in front ofme.
En route to t.I.le Maison de Randonn6es
on Rue Dromartat Haybes to hire.ycles
we traveiled along another €]€vated road
through dense forest.At last. we started
desc€nding, down and down towards
the river seemingly for€vcl Somewhal
incongruouslygiven the heat ofrhe
alternoon,I noticed
Two adults, pltch and
etect c From €12.40
sign forskiing.
IA been intrigued by aerial pictures ofthe
star shaped fortilications at Rocroi,29km
(18 miles)from Charleville Nl6zieres, so we
made a northwesterly detour. Rocroiwas
along the northeastern border kno$'n as
the Pr6 Carr6. Wa parked on astreet offthe
place dArmes - with itsrvooden market
building almost deserted on a Sunday
afternoon. As we walked the wa.lls. with
barelyanother soul aboui, w€ reflected
on the stark contrast between the sleepy
atmosphere and Rocroi's dramati€ past,
synonymous with th€ wars that rocked rh€
borders over the centuries.
More journeying through tims came
at Sedan, where, rve were told that'Ive
could change time period'at everystreel
corner.Its magnificent - and said to b€
impr€gnable m€dieval castle is the largest
in Europe.
We entered the cavernous basement.
where stalactites dripped, through a h€a\T
metal gate, which clanged ominously
behind us. We trodthrough seriously
spooky vaulrs. at last finding a tunnel to the
outsidewhere Sophi€ took up positionin a
watchtowerto Lake in the spectacular views.
It was Sedan that was to give us our
last sighting ofthe Meuse. But this iconic
stronghold,like the riverwas to make a
lastingimpression on us. E
ABOVE Net walkways among
BELow Helen enjoys a swing