This year’s boating season is nearly over, but why not hire a self-drive boat for next season from the Pont-à-Bar base and explore the lovely Champagne-Ardenne countryside?
The River Meuse flows through the centre of Charleville, forming many loops and separating it from Mézières. Charleville-Mézières is the birthplace of the 19th century poet Arthur Rimbaud. It has a tourist route with interactive information points that allow you to watch real-time videos of other places in the world where Rimbaud spent time. It’s like a voyage within a voyage. During your cruise through Champagne-Ardenne, you can complete this poetic journey by visiting the Rimbaud Museum and the Maison des Ailleurs, the house where Arthur Rimbaud and his family lived. It’s now open to the public. As well as its literary attractions, the town of Charleville-Mézières has a remarkable architectural heritage. The famous Place Ducale is a jewel of Renaissance architecture, while the Basilica of Notre-Dame has aspects of both Renaissance and Flamboyant Gothic styles. Part of the charm of the Basilica lies in the little narrow streets that surround it.
The Ardennes Regional Natural Park
Ardennes, in the Celtic tongue, meant ‘deep forest’. As you glide along the watercourses from Pont-à-Bar, you’ll enjoy the fresh air of this region, which is said to be one of Europe’s main sources of oxygen. The Ardennes Regional Natural Park was created on 21 December 2011. It stretches over 116,000 hectares, making up 22% of the department of Ardennes. It has a wealth of natural heritage and includes 54 zones of ecological, animal and floral interest. Anyone who loves plants and wildlife will be delighted by the park’s landscapes. On a nature walk, you could see European eagle owls, black storks, Tengmalm’s owls, hazel grouse, wildcats, European beavers or horseshoe bats.
The Citadel of Rocroi
As you travel on your self-drive boat through the Ardennes Regional Natural Park, you’ll come across the impressive Citadel of Rocroi. This fortified town was built in the shape of a petrified starfish and is the only one of its kind in France. It was built in 1555, in the reign of Henri II, as a challenge to the fortress of Charlemont at Givet. It was later remodelled by Vauban in 1675. This kind of radiating, concentric plan is unique in France. You might feel intimidated by the imposing ramparts that surround the town and by the four boulevards that form an astonishing pentagon, with the former parade ground at its centre. In the past, this configuration allowed the cannon to cover all the blind spots from any angle! If you enter through the Porte de France on the southern side or through the Porte de Bourgogne on the northern side, you can experience the strange and ghostly atmosphere that prevails in this citadel, which acted as a garrison town until 1889.