I admit it. I’m addicted. I’ve gotten a taste of something, liked it – a lot – and now I can’t get enough of it. I’m very quickly falling in love with France and quick trips across the border and now I can’t stop myself from planning my next trip even when another one isn’t finished yet. I’ve got it bad.
While I was cycling along the coastline of the bay of the Somme, I was already making plans to visit another part of France; the Ardennes. The Ardennes is an a region stretching both over Belgium and France and offers lush forests, river views and rock formations. The nature addict in me was thriving!
So on a Wednesday where temperatures were predicted to rise to thirty degrees Celcius, the fresh, cool forests of the Ardennes sounded like a little piece of heaven. And since I was checking off places in France, I decided to head for the French Ardennes instead of the Belgian ones. Hop in the car and off we were!
Our main goal of the day was to finish a long forest hike, but there were also a couple of cute villages along the way that peaked my interest. Perfect way to stretch the legs after the two hour drive and to warm up for the heavy stuff later. Our first stop was the commune of Givet. It’s in the very north of the French Ardennes, close to the Belgian border. With its location along the Meuse and a citadel dominating the skyline, it would be a shame to just pass it by without a second glance. It was still early in the morning when we arrived, and the place seemed to be just waking up, but it was nice to discover it in its tranquility.
And then it was time to get to business! Strapping on those hiking boots in Monthermé, ready for – what was supposed to be – a 13,2km hike. A colleague of mine had been in the same area a couple of weeks before and had done a beautiful hike, so instead of wasting a lot of time deciding what would be the perfect hike, I decided to just tackle the same one.
From Monthermé, the hike first went along the Meuse river to the town of Tournavaux. From there, we would be disappearing in the forest and checking of some viewpoints. This way we would be in the cooler forest once the temperatures hit their peak.
All went perfect as long as we just had to follow the river, but once we had to follow the GR trails, we revealed ourselves as shitty navigators. Of course we ended up taking the wrong path and instead of walking the shortest route to the first viewpoint, we ended up a little bit more west, in the town of Naux. Oops. But thanks to the app Maps.me, we weren’t forced to retrace our steps, but found another trail that led to the same point. It was quite a steep hike, but it was so much fun. Who cares what path you take, right?
So with a little detour, we arrived at our first destination; Roc la Tour. A gorgeous rock formation from which you have the most beautiful view over the Ardennes (see first pic as well). I was in awe.
Once again I found myself surprised at how beautiful the places close to where I live are. Sure, it’s no massive snow-topped mountain or crystal blue lake, but when you’re standing right on the edge of those rocks, all you can think about is ‘wow, nature is amazing’!
Giddy we continued our path through the forest, enjoying every step – yes, even the steep uphill parts – and just reveling in the fact that we were lucky to be walking here. We continued the trail along the Lyre river, crossing the small stream every once in a while, until we made it to La Roche a Sept Heures. From there you have a stunning view over the commune of Monthermé.
We clocked off our hike at 17 kilometers. And I loved every single one of them. It honestly didn’t feel that long.
By the time we were back at the car, the heat was overwhelming, especially in the village of Monthermé itself. Fortunately, we had brought our swimwear and were hoping to dip our feet – and entire body preferably – in the water to refresh ourselves. About a fifteen minute drive from Monthermé, you can find the Lac des Vieilles Forges, and that seemed about just the place to find that refreshment. But we didn’t seem to be the only one with that idea. The place was swarming with people and it just didn’t feel right to stop there for a swim. Especially not with that nasty virus still going around. We still hoped to find a small stream close by, but no avail. Disappointed, we gave up on our swimming plans and drove through Rivet to Fumay.
We wandered around the cute little place for a while, but it was just getting way too hot. And it was also still to early for the dinner we had planned to have there. Bummer! So another plan fell through and instead we got back into our car – with AC thank god! – and decided to already drive a bit back home to allow the temperatures to drop.
We crossed the French-Belgian border again and by dinnertime made it to Chimay. While this isn’t in the French Ardennes anymore, I still want to mention this place as it’s really pretty as well. It’s mostly known for its abbey and its trappist beer, but the town itself also offers something worthwhile. There is a beautiful castle – which of course wasn’t open anymore by the time we made it there – and the town square is quite charming.
We had dinner at the Brasserie du Casino, which was really tasty, very reasonably priced and had a lovely terrace. And then it was time to head back home. With a gorgeous sunset to conclude another perfect day in France (and Wallonia). Bliss!
Feeding my new addiction, I’ve already got a few non-yet-set-in-stone plans for upcoming trips to France. End of August I’m hoping to head towards the coast of Bretagne with my family and then in September the plan is to go more to the South of France, towards the Cevennes and the Vercors. So stay tuned because hopefully there will be more to come! And in the meantime, stay safe and wash your hands, people!