Puppets, poetry and the people of Charleville-Mézières

This summer we were supposed to spend a month in France to introduce our new baby to Gunther’s friends and family. Unfortunately like everyone else in the world right now, our travel plans have been postponed indefinitely due to Covid. 

In lieu of trip planning during baby’s naptimes and to stay somewhat intellectually stimulated over the course of my maternity leave, I’ve decided to inject some life back into this poor neglected blog. So, for lockdown and beyond I will take you armchair traveling to some of my favourite places in Europe and Canada that will hopefully inspire a bit of wanderlust during these difficult times. 

I am also open to requests and suggestions for content, so please do not hesitate to leave a me a comment below with questions you’d like answered and ideas for things you’d like to see in this space. 

For now I will take you on a photographic tour of one of France’s hidden gem cities: Charleville-Mézières. 

Charleville-Mézières is not a city you’d find on most people’s France itineraries. It’s located in the heart of the Ardennes region, surrounded by rolling hills, dense forests and the long meandering river Meuse. It’s the home of renowned French poet Arthur Rimbaud, the international marionette festival and some of the most warm-hearted, hard working people I’ve met. It also happens to be where Gunther was born and raised. 

The city’s impressive main square, Place Ducale, may look familiar to those well-acquainted with Paris. If you see airs of Paris’ Place des Vosges it’s because the brother of the architect who designed it conceived the one in Charleville. The arcades are filled with shops and cafés and the surrounding pedestrian streets make this city centre very walkable.

Just around the corner from the main square is a building which houses the International Marionette Institute. You can’t miss the puppet theatre on the facade that features a self-operating marionette show ever hour.  

Another impressive historical structure is that of the old mill, which now houses the Arthur Rimbaud Museum. Rimbaud was an influential French poet during the mid to late 1800’s and now a great point of pride for the people of the Ardennes.

Although many of the city’s 17th century fortifications were dismantled under Louis XIV, you can still find parts of them that were left behind. A quiet stroll along the ramparts offers a glimpse into the historic city in the heart of the Ardennes.

Would you visit Charleville-Mézières? What hidden gem city do you know of that you think people should visit?

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