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This page, top: chapel at Elan, and portrait of Rimbaud, who loved the Ardennes landscapes. Centre: forest walks waylay you even when you tour by car. Below left: sturdy tower on Sedan’s great fortress, and village house in full flower. Forest, lake and abbey route This pastoral route takes you on an enchanting journey around the forest, lakes, farmland which have captured the hearts of generations of monks. The Carthusian abbeys of Mont-Dieu, Elan or ChatelChéhéry, where the Cistercians have left their mark, and the Gothic abbey church of Mouzon, founded by the Benedictines in the 13th century, all give you an opportunity to discover the monastic world of the Ardennes.

There is a large enclosed veranda, overlooking the farm, where meals are served. The farm produces its own bread, cider, apple juice, vegetables and cheese and is famous for rare red turkeys. Approximately 185 miles from Calais. From £48 per person per night. 36 SOMETHING IN THE CITY Hôtel le Pélican** Charleville-Mézières This small, well-run hotel in the centre of Charleville-Mézières, the twin-town capital of the French Ardennes, offers a warm welcome and cosy, en suite rooms. It has no restaurant but, just a few minutes walk away, dinner is served in La Côte à l’Os, which offers good, traditional French cuisine.

Another shopping opportunity not to be missed is at the ancient Post Relay House at Launois-sur-Vence which holds special events each month, including collectibles and antiques fairs, and a Christmas market in December. September sees a mammoth antiques market at Mohon, near Charleville-Mézières, as well as Sedan’s Great Fair and Givet’s Onion Fair. The latter, by the way, doesn’t just sell onions; four hundred street vendors offer the entire panoply of clothes, shoes, crockery, CDs, duvets and even cars, and the evening ends in cracking form with a dinner, street music and much beer-fuelled merriment.

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