Friday, April 05, 2024

Meandering through northern France and along the Marne

Last weekend, we arrived home from another short visit to our new most frequent destination—the beautiful Haute Marne where daughter two has a second home. Despite the really gruesome weather, we enjoyed the trip very much. 

Breaking the journey each way helped tremendously, and we are incredibly thankful that Zoe is such a good traveller as well as being no trouble at all in hotel rooms. She takes it all in her stride and seems to enjoy all the new sniffs and snuffles that come with a new place, especially as we try to stay in hotels that have these gallery-type rooms where you access your 'chamber' from an outside passage. It makes it much easier for late night pee walks—and early ones too! 

The first night, we stopped at Laon in the Aisne department. Avoiding the toll roads on route took us through some delightfully pretty scenery in the Thiérache area of the Nord and Aisne departments. I've never seen hedgerows in this part of the world before. They seem so English to me, but the stretch we drove from Landrecies (south of Valenciennes) to Vervins covered some gorgeous hilly countryside with hedges surrounding every field. I could have been in England's West Country again. The Thiérache is known for its magnificent fortified churches. However, another special feature of the area is the way the old brick homes are built end-on to the roads. One village we passed through, Prisches, had rows of these wonderful old houses. We didn't stop to take photos, but here's one I found on a website about the town:


Once we arrived in the Haute Marne, our main purpose was to explore some of the villages along the Marne river and its corresponding Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne. Like our beloved Sambre and Oise rivers, the Marne weaves its way to and fro under the canal, which means there are a number of aqueducts along the way.

Now, I don't know quite why, but I have a thing for aqueducts and love seeing them. When combined with a river bordered by enchanting villages, I am in my own kind of heaven, even when it's raining. Yes. Just think of that.

We visited Gudmont-Villiers, Rouvroy-sur-Marne, Villiers-sur-Marne and Froncles all in the space of the afternoon. The prettiest were undoubtedly Villiers and Rouvroy. Their limestone cottages complete with shutters and big barn dooors are as charming as it is possible to find and to add to the rural joy, we saw a field with pot-bellied pigs just metres from the aqueduct. I didn't take many photos because of the rain, but here are a few–of the canal or course. We managed to catch a few moments when it wasn't tipping down.

The walkway next to the aqueduct

The River Marne over which the aqueduct flows

Rural road leading to the
Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne

The Halte Nautique at Froncles with a hint of sunshine...we dream

Such a beautiful place to stay

On our way home, we spent the night in Maubeuge, the reason being we wanted to go to our favourite marina at Erquellines, just over the border in Belgium. Once again, the weather was diabolical, but we still enjoyed being there. It's been in our minds to take the Hennie Ha there again. For my part, I hope that's not just a dream.

Two boats at Erquellines belonging to a friend of ours

Southern Belgium, in other words Wallonia, remains very dear to my heart and I love being there. It has a stillness and calm we both cherish and the Sambre river is a particular favourite.

Our last stop before ploughing our way through torrential rain back home was to a backstreet of Jeumont (back in France, but right on the border). Koos wanted to show me this unique house he'd seen some years ago when on a scooter ride. It's concrete but built to look like tree trunks and branches. Isn't it wonderful?

So that's our travel trip for this week, allemaal. I hope you enjoyed the ride. It's been raining here all week but they promise warmth and sunshine tomorrow. Let's hope this weekend is the start of something drier! 


  1. You are amazing, Val. A brilliant writer and brilliant at adjusting to whatever is going on - even rain! I love the house Koos discovered and took you to see. I used to do that kind of cement work in Texas, especially bird baths and feeders that looked like tree trunks. I figured I had hit the mark the day a woodpecker hung on the side of the trunk pounding on it with his beak! Thanks for another great blog with wonderful photos - in spite of the rain! (Steph)

    1. Thank you, Steph. I’m so impressed you did that kind of cement work! I’d love to see what you made and yes, that woodpecker was a good sign you were spot on! Well done you! Your artistic skills are fantastic, as are your writing skills. 🤗 xx

  2. I admire the way you & Koos cope with the rain, its been such a wet and depressing winter and spring. The concrete "tree" house is amazing, the detail very ornate. Maybe this method could be used to build an Ark?
    Some warmer, dryer weather forecast for the next few days here in the UK, I hope it extends to you too. Take care, David.

    1. Oh David, hasn't it been horrible. We just figure if we don't do these things, we'll get even more depressed, so going somewhere different is at least stimulating. That house is astonishing, I know. I'd love to see an ark built to look like that. Concrete boats are not uncommon!

  3. A lovely trip (apart from the ubiquitous rain). Countryside and bridges and the wonderfully strange house at Jeumont. Lucky you! 😁

    1. Aidan, it was a lovely trip. Sometimes, I think we're nuts to do them in such dreadful weather, but it keeps us alive in more ways than just physical. That house was truly fantastic. I'm so pleased Koos thought to show it to me.

  4. It sounds like a lovely time; there’s nothing better than a good sight-seeing road trip! However, I can’t believe how much water there is over there. It rains down from the sky, you sail on it, and then, there is water crossing over water… it just sounds all so… wet! (A good, solid rainfall is so rare here that I find myself looking forward to a soggy day). And that “tree” house is an amazing work of art!
    Sending you and Koos warm and dry mountains of love.
    Dale xx


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