A long drive to the Ardennes brings us to a little campsite on the banks of the Semois on the outskirts of Les Hautes-Rivières. On the far bank, a steep wooded slope climbs up to the plateau. On the near bank, there's a pen with a donkey who brays loudly exactly once per hour (we learn, after an hour), echoing distantly off the walls of the valley. There's a toilet block with showers and big tubs for washing laundry and notices in multiple languages indicating what to do in the event of a nuclear accident.

Sam and I cross the road and climb the hill through the forest above a meander in the river to follow the trail over to the Coccinelle Express in Les Hautes-Rivières, which we discover is closing in like 10 minutes. We grab some cheese, bread, pasta, and beer (and fumble through some confusion over a plastic bag) and then head back heavily laden.

The sun sets later than I thought it would—I suppose that northern France is still pretty far north, globally speaking. I sit outside with Ghyll while Sam cooks. We're deep in the shadow of the valley, but the bugs aren't too bad. The donkey goes off again and Ghyll jumps about 10 feet into the air.

France '24



A day spent in the quiet Ardennais village of Bohan-sur-Semois, where I suspect someone could have a really lovely retirement.



The French know how to take it easy. You can tell because of the way that Boulogne-sur-Mer is.