Charleville-Mézières, FranceNovember 17, 2017 in France
We'd been driving close to the French border for some time and were nearing our favourite French town, Charleville-Mézières. We'd first discovered it in November 2014 when we'd taken our old motorhome to Germany, in order to choose and order the van we have now. We had also visited in the first week of our European tour so it seemed apt to return in the final week of this first chapter.
The road dipped in and out of Belgium and France. Although we don't usually like to cross between different countries, preferring to immerse ourselves in one place, doing so between Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany over the last 6 weeks has given us a greater sense of the political and physical geography. For example, the wooded river valleys of the Ardennes region straddle Belgium and France.
Taking the long route round, through chicaned residential streets to avoid the low bridge, we passed the swimming baths and busy petanque court, pulled in at the familiar aire and levelled the van on the chocks. It almost felt homely to be back overlooking this marina with its rowing and canoe club.
We remembered that the main square had been beautifully lit 3 years ago, so waited until after tea , wrapped up warm and headed out into the near freezing air and over the bridge to see if it was still as beautiful as we remembered. The streets were strung with christmas decorations that had not yet been turned on. It must be magical when their warm white lights glow and rebound off the sandstone walls.
The large main square didn't let us down; tall, stately buildings made out of the same sandstone as had lined the streets on which we had approached. A colonade ran along two sides, sheltering outdoor diners. The remaining sides were illuminated, one with coloured uplighters and the other with plain lights. The same carousel that we'd seen 3 years ago was beginning to close up, but stood out with large bulbs set in the shape of hearts around the top and strategically positioned to show the ride off at its best.
During the night, temperatures plummeted to -3° and the ground was covered with white frost when we awoke, affording Vicky an opportunity to indulge her artistic streak with the camera. We wanted to pay Charleville-Mézières back for our overnight stay, so returned to the centre with a rucksack. There are a number of small independent shops and we were able to pick up some organic bread, fruit and veg, as well as some bubbly as a christmas present.Read more