This year marks the 125th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s most influential and enigmatic poets, Arthur Rimbaud.
As part of the celebrations, The Rimbaud Museum re-opened its doors to the public in Charleville-Mézières in The French Ardennes last autumn, following a major refurbishment scheme. The Museum is housed within a striking building on a small island on the River Meuse, which not simply tells the story of the life and times of Arthur Rimbaud, but also features an ‘island garden’ where visitors can soak up a reflective atmosphere.
In the past, The New York Times has noted that “The hallucinatory prose-poems of Arthur Rimbaud rank among the glories of 19th century French literature”. And visitors to The French Ardennes – which draws most of its fame in France for its association with the enigmatic poet – can now follow in his footsteps in many different ways, from staying hotels that are named in honour of him (Hotel Dormeur du Val in Charleville), to driving through the surrounding countryside on a well-marked car trail (La Route Rimbaud-Verlaine).
A similar scheme to completely transform another of the region’s major attractions has also gained pace to the point where it is hoped it will re-open to the public in 2016. Dedicated to the battles of The Franco-Prussian war, the First World War, and The Second World War – all of which had such a devastating effect on The French Ardennes – The War and Peace Museum features a collection of 14,000 artefects which is now being rehoused in a huge new building. The new look museum will contain an interpretation of the impact of all three conflicts on the region, as well as show the effects on day-to-day life for civilians and soldiers alike.
Elsewhere, a new Wellness Village – Kotas Nordic Spirit (http://www.kotas-espritnordique.fr/en/) – has opened in time for the 2016 season in an unspoilt valley within The French Ardennes, close to the village of Ferme de Flamanville. Featuring four comfortable and well-appointed log cabins of Nordic origin, the village is located next to a small lake and will now host wellness breaks for anyone visiting this secluded part of northern France. Each one of the four Finnish kotas also has its own pontoon by the lake for fishing and relaxation. Llama, donkeys and other animals add to the charm of the place. Open all year, prices start from €95 for 2 people per night, including breakfast.
Another newcomer for 2016 helps to tell a very important part of the French Ardennes heritage. Slate is the “black gold” of The French Ardennes, and has been shipped and used in all corners of the globe. A new, interactive trail (also in English) will be launched in 2016 at the Slate Museum in Rimogne, where family groups can visit a slate village and the hugely impressive winding tower.
Last, but by no means least, look out too for the arrival in The French Ardennes of a new megalithic monument, located at an altitude of 400m, in the heart of a forest setting which will make the most of the region’s special places, local legends and preserved sites. Overlooking La Croix Scaille, the highest point in The French Ardennes, the monument created using upright stones by Philippe Boudart form a chariot facing the sunrise. It will be a part of a new fantasy world which Boudart intends to open up to visitors in 2016.
For full details about The French Ardennes, visit http://gb.ardennes.com.