Monday, March 31, 2008

France: A day in Charleville-Mezieres

For our last day in the north of Champagne-Ardennes, we spent it in Charleville-Mezieres, a twin city divided by the Meuse River just half an hour drive from Sedan. Between the two small cities, Charleville is the best place to visit. Known as the capital of the marionette (how true is this?) and the birthplace of Arthur Rimbaud, the poet. Charleville is the perfect diversion after our castle escapade or for those who came here to hike in the Ardennes mountain forests.

The most impressive part of Charleville is its striking town square, Place Ducale. It is a huge blanket of cobblestones circled with 17th century imperial pavilions and arcade galleries. During certain days in the week, open-air markets are held and bustling terraces in the side lines abound.

The square is said to have similarities with the oldest square in Paris, Place des Vosges, which is in fact exactly what my first impression was when I stepped into the square. Yup, it did felt like I am in Paris.

I think the drawback of Place Ducale is it also serves as a parking area. It is a shame really; these cars spoil the beauty of the whole place, and more importantly, its colonial ambiance. I tell you, a total eyesore. I could not imagine why the local city hall has let this slip through their fingers. Someone needs to start a petition to make Place Ducale car-free. PLEASE.

At the Ducal Square (Place Ducale).

Anyway, we took a leisurely walk along the Meuse River towards Mezieres, the twin city of Charleville, passing through the Rimbaud Museum which literally sits on a bridge, or it is I guess the bridge! There is a foot pathway annexed to this bridge museum that connects to Mezieres. The Arthur Rimbaud Museum is once an old water mill designed in Classicism style. It is beautiful.

We crossed the river to Mezieres and saw a huge flower clock with fresh lavenders. The flower clock reminds me of Geneva.

I then heard voices above us and when I turned around I saw a trail of snaky staircases leading up the hill. I told Dutchman we should follow suit and check what’s going on – Perhaps up there the view to the city center is spectacular? But the Dutchman, still suppressed from the flu that is yet to come out, was not in a jolly mood to participate, so he blankly refused. As I didn’t want to leave the poor Dutchman, I stayed with him. We just sat by the Meuse River banks and watched the locals having their afternoon stroll.

The Rimbaud Museum.

One of the things that Dutchman discovered during this trip, which surprised him a bit, is his French speaking skills. He thought the Frans he learned from school was buried a long time ago along with his non-desire of France. When he was younger, he studied French in school, which, together with Deutsch (German) and English, are all part of the standard Dutch educational curriculum.

All throughout the trip he has been trying to squeeze out and muster the French he learned decades ago. Strange that he never used them during our wintersport vacation last January in the French Alps? Maybe it’s the flu working him? Ha-ha

 The beautiful Saint Remi Church and the lovely artwork on the door.

The marionette built into the house of the Puppet Museum comes to life every hour. Puppetry is popular in Charleville-Mezieres.

Travel Period: March 2008
Destination: Charleville-Mezieres (Champagne Ardennes), France

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