- Countryside Forest, farms, fortresses
- Country life Bottled bubbles, bucolic bliss
Walloon countryside, tiny towns, farmland and forest await in this peaceful and picturesque corner of north-east France.
If only the sheep would quieten down... That’s as bumptious as this tranquil corner of France gets. Ardennes is an unspoilt rural département in the north-east – not to be confused with its namesake broader region, which extends into Luxembourg and Belgium. The area’s World War II past is hard to fathom, so serene is the landscape of farmland and sleepy villages. Local hub Charleville-Mézières is a town of elegant squares,
a museum or two, and go-slow cafés and bistros, united by their quiet charm. The Ardennes hills, and rivers Meuse and Semoy are a big draw for outdoorsy peace-seekers, wonderful for walking, fishing, kayaking and climbing. And when aren’t you in the mood for a little champagne tasting?
Do go/Don’t go
You only have to look at the 50-shades- of-green scenery to realise this region gets a lot of rain. Summer months are driest and warmest – any time between May and September – with July and August being peak visitor season.
- Planes Brussels airport is around two hours from the Ardennes by car. That’s at least 30 minutes nearer than Paris Charles de Gaulle, with no painful Paris traffic.
- Trains Take the TGV from Paris Gare de l’Est to Charleville-Mézières or Sedan (each around two hours).
- Automobiles You’ll want some wheels to explore the area, if only to get to a carpark from which to hike the forest trails. Hire some at Brussels airport or at the train station in Charleville-Mézières.
- Taxis You’ve got more chance of hailing a tractor. Your best bet is to book a cab through your hotel. Sachy Taxi Olivier Philippe, aka STOP, operates out of Florenville (+33 (0)6 83 45 89 70). In Charleville-Mézières, try Allo Taxi (+33 (0)3 24 37 17 17).