Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On The Ramparts Of Le Quesnoy

Yes, that is a vehicle bridge linking the town with the rest
of the world in the background
We are lucky to be living in a great location where so much of Europe is literally a stone's throw away. Such was the case on a recent weekend when we decided to visit the French town of Le Quesnoy, which we discovered is only a half hour away from our house. So yes, off we went to spend the morning in France. And what we found made this quick jaunt worth it and with its close proximity, I know it is a place we will be visiting again.

Le Quesnoy is located in northern France just over the Belgian border. Like so many of the other towns that dot the French and Belgian countrysides, Le Quesnoy has a long and storied history dating back to the Middle Ages. Over the years it has been defended, occupied, and / or abandoned by invading armies, most recently in 1940 when German forces were held at bay over the course of the four days during the Battle of France. This isn't what makes this little town with a population hovering around 5,000 so special. It is the great walls, or ramparts, surrounding the town that are bringing tourists and locals alike into this berg. That is, after all, what brought us there.

A wee stream flowing through the marsh
Two sets of five kilometer long brick ramparts circle the town creating a haven of green where mother nature and mankind meet. Truly. The area between the ramparts, what had been a part of the original "killing field" defense system of the town are now a nature preserve filled with streams, trees and flowers, and ducks. Lots and lots of ducks and other water fowl. A walking trail, dotted with strategically placed benches for sitting, alternated between the top of the ramparts and below, in between the brick walls. It meandered through the area creating a serene space that felt a world away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. The outer brick walls which had been rebuilt and refortified over time created a barrier between the preserve and everything else.

We visited on a cool and damp morning and essentially had the preserve to ourselves. I'm not exactly sure what we were expecting to find but my first impression was that the area was green. Very green and lush. Everything from the grass and trees to the flowers and vines clinging to the brick walls was green. If felt as though spring was definitely alive. And best of all, because this area is truly a pedestrian only zone, Sidney was free to run, play, and explore to his heart's content. (This is especially important since we live in a city with only the most minuscule of green space available to him). We watched ducks swimming in the stream, stumbled upon an entire field of bunny rabbits frolicking in the damp grass, and climbed up and down too many sets of stairs to count. We explored tunnels, introduced Sidney to the wonders of buttercups (one of my favorite childhood memories), and just had a wonderful and relaxing stroll. And Sidney being Sidney, he threw his share of rocks into the water and found "the biggest stick ever". (His words, not mine).

Le Quesnoy is a true gem and I am so glad we found it. It is truly a beautiful place. But since pictures say it best, here are a few of my favorites:

Lush grass, bricks, and stones

The only thing stirring was this Mallard

I have no idea why I am so fascinated by these trees, but I am

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