France is famous as a romantic destination and a food lovers heaven. When mentioning my origins to people not many seem to know much about my region. Sure they’ll talk about Paris, Provence and others but very few seem to know Champagne-Ardennes, and I can’t really blame them: not only will the name change soon, but the region is surrounded by significantly more renowned tourist spots, which might make it difficult for such an area to get famous. And while the beautiful city of Reims got famous thanks to the Champagne, the department of Ardennes is shaded by the nearby Belgian Ardennes, and only seems to attract tourists during the summer festival season.
But my home is beautiful. Surrounded by nature, full of history, it doesn’t enjoy the best weather but makes up for it with food, legends, traditions and culture.
From the forests of Ardennes to the cathedral of Reims, there’s something for everyone and it might be the destination you need if you’re visiting France this summer. Don’t believe me?
Champagne-Ardennes historical heritage is breathtaking.
Reims history is easily embodied by the vast cathedral in the centre of town. Once used to crown new kings of France, bombed and destroyed during the wars and rebuilt with great effort, it is now a construction that symbolises peace. With stained glass windows both old and modern from the likes of Chagall, this place will not only attract history lovers but art aficionados too. And if the adventure doesn’t seem like a thrill then you might as well go and explore the Cathedral towers, climbing hundred of steps to enjoy a view from the top of the city’s tallest building.
Many other historical buildings surround the North-East of France. In Reims don’t miss out on visiting the Basilique Saint Remi, or head to nearby Sedan to see the old castle, you could also observe the fortified city of Rocroi, I could go on… but if this is not your thing then not to worry, you could also come just to enjoy a bit of nature.
Tucked in a forest of myths and legends.
A bit like the region of Brittany, Ardennes has been filled with legends and myths that has shaped it till this day. Its name, Ardennes, comes from the goddess Arduinna. Just talking about her reveals a lot about the region. Arduinna is a Celtic deity of the hunt and forest, she is the protector of the Ardennes forest and is often seen riding a boar. And guess what? The boar is, of course, the symbol of the region.
There are many legends that surround the area and gosh do I know a lot of them… I was fascinated by them growing up and loved how every trail had its own story. Sure it often ended badly but those myths made, somehow, the forest come to life. And in Ardennes the trails are many. Villages seem to be tucked in the valley and the landscape drastically changes when passing in to Champagne. If you are in for a hike then it’s the place for you. You could spend hours in the woods or along the river, just don’t forget to greet the local legends on your way.
The nights are never long when the food and the drinks are that good.
Many people in Champagne-Ardennes are passionate, they love what they do and enjoy sharing it with others. That’s probably why the local food scene seems to have grown so fast in the past few years. From the famous Champagne in Reims to a few beers in Charleville, drinks sure are not what’s missing here. Add to it a locally brewed whisky and a few other alcohols and you’ve got yourself a party! But don’t forget the food!
The name of the game here is… Game (considering hiding for a while after that joke…), you’ll find a few of those available on the local menus. Meat has to be a strong focus here from the Jambon d’Ardennes to the Boudin Blanc from Rethel but you wouldn’t be in France if cheese wasn’t on the cards. Some of the smelliest and tastiest cheese have been developed in the area. The Rocroi (sadly this one had to be modified) was one of the strongest cheeses one could taste…
For the ones that have a sweet tooth then you’ll be happy to discover local treats including the biscuit rose, which, like its name says, is a pink biscuit from Reims, the Carolo which is a meringue and cream cake from Charleville and let’s not forget all the chocolates… No chance for you to go hungry!
Poetry and puppetry, a cultural heritage in Champagne-Ardennes.
Charleville sure wasn’t the best town to grow up in as a teenager due to the early nights and lack of activities but as a visitor its charm doesn’t only reside in the lovely Place Ducale and its architecture but also in the local cultural heritage. Being the city where Arthur Rimbaud was born, the towns and its artisans seem to focus on their poet who represents their pride. Chocolates printed with his face, murals of him, shops named after his poems, hiking trails dedicated to him… If you are visiting the area you won’t be able to ignore him.
But it’s not all about Rimbaud. While Reims has Champagne and a deep religious history, Charleville is turning the city into the worldwide capital of puppetry. Every few years the town springs into action and the narrow streets fill up with hundreds of people and hundreds of puppetry shows from around the world. For children and adults alike, the city becomes the hub of culture and sure is worth a visit if you can find hotel rooms available.
If you’re not convinced we hope that a few of the pictures might help you decide to come and visit. Only a few hours away from Paris it would be a shame to not spend a few days in Champagne-Ardennes.
Where is Champagne-Ardennes?
Located in the North-East of France, Champagne-Ardennes is located near Belgium and Luxembourg. Those two countries are easy day trips if based in the area.
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We would like to thank the Tourism Office of Reims for showing us their beautiful city. Please note that, as always, all opinions expressed in this review are our own and have not been influenced in any way.