Located to the east of the Paris Basin, the Argonne region extends across Marne, Ardennes and Meuse. Dotted with lakes and carpeted with vast forests, Argonne is a natural fortress, a wonderful reserve for the conservation of flora and fauna, and filled with picturesque villages of timbered and cob houses.
A top choice for anglers and walkers !
You’ll be surprised by the beauty and richness of the colours in the Argonne Forest in the west of Meuse between Montfaucon-d’Argonne and Vaubécourt, approximately 2 hrs from Paris.
The peaceful atmosphere makes this an ideal destination for friends or families. See the beautiful forests of oak and pine. See the light dappling the trees in a clearing. The Argonne Forest has a whole range of emotions, colours, rhythms, fragrances and noises to sharpen your senses. Follow one of the many footpaths and enjoy the unique ambiance at any time of year. It’s just a little bit magical !
The forest is a vast natural world consisting of horizontal and vertical layers. Study the different shades of green, the predominant colours, the shapes, the light, the dimness and the variety in the plant density. Look for visible traces of animal activity. Close your eyes. Don’t speak. Just use your ears and listen. The first thing you’ll hear is the silence, followed by the wind in the branches and the falling leaves. Then come sounds that you may not have heard before – the barking of a deer, the bellowing of a stag etc.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of well-being instilled by the citrusy scent of pine needles, the tart fragrance of sloe blossom, the perfume of the bluebells or lily-of-the-valley in early May etc. In the depths of this unspoilt countryside, you’ll be surprised by all the animals that have their habitats here. And from time to time, at a bend in the path or near a lake, sit for a while and enjoy the magnificent, spectacular natural environment.
Explore the typical Argonne villages. They’re unlike the other villages in Meuse. Their traditional houses are timber-framed with cob walls and you can see some examples in Le Claon, Les Islettes, Futeau, Les Sénades etc.
Climb the hill to the village of Beaulieu-en-Argonne for a relaxing stroll. It is a typical Lorraine village with one main street but it is unusual for its many floral displays, the modernity of St. Rouin’s Chapel designed by Father Rayssiguier and its splendid view of the valley’s breathtaking countryside.
If you enjoy sightseeing, there are plenty of places to visit in Argonne, some of them linked to two major periods in the history of France – the arrest of King Louis XVI in Varennes-en-Argonne and the Great War.
In Clermont-en-Argonne, climb up to St. Anne’s Chapel on the plateau. It’s a peaceful spot, once the site of a fortress. From here, you can admire the splendid panoramic view of the countryside surrounding the town. On the way back down, stop at St. Didier’s Church to see the wonderful sculpture of “The Holy Woman in a Bonnet” (La Sainte-Femme au Bonnet) by Ligier Richier and the memorial beside the Town Hall paying homage to local people who were deported during the Second World War.
Lachalade Abbey is not far from the village of Les Islettes, on the edge of a wood in a lush setting filled with light and silence. This is the only surviving Cistercian abbey in the east of France. In the 14th-century part of the church, you’ll feel a soothing sense of spirituality as you look at the pentagonal chancel bathed in light.
On the edge of the Argonne Forest is the small town of Varennes-en-Argonne, best-known as the place where King Louis XVI and his family were arrested. Take a stroll through the streets, following the seven information panels set up at the places where the events occurred. To round off the visit and find out more about the major events that left their mark on this region, explore the three sections of the museum (musée de l’Argonne).
Argonne, though, was also affected and damaged by the Great War. Places such as Vauquois ridge, the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery, the memorial in Montfaucon, La Haute Chevauchée etc. all serve as reminders of the atrocity of war. You’ll find pockmarked landscapes full of impressive funnels and craters, mile upon mile of underground galleries dug by French and German troops, crosses as far as the eye can see etc. Take a tour with volunteers and tourist guides who are passionate about these battlefield sites. They will share their knowledge, a few anecdotes and their views of the Great War.
In Meuse, Argonne is discreet but it is still surprising!