Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 11 January 2010

When a Fortress becomes a hotel

In 2006 I watched a documentary on TV about the Fortress of Sedan (Champagne-Ardennes region) in France, just across the border from the Belgian town of Bouillon. The old fortress and military barracks had been abandoned for years when the government in collaboration with the association ‘Les Hotels France Patrimoine’ decided to save the site from further decay.

With its 35.000 m² and seven levels the Fortress of Sedan is the largest fortified site in Europe. It was built in the 15th century and frequently remodelled during the next 200 years. From the top of the 30 metres high ramparts you have a breathtaking view of the Meuse valley.

Today the fortress is listed as a historical monument. Within its walls, the former barracks and ammunition depot have been transformed into a comfortable 3-star hotel offering all the modern amenities.

As I had been very impressed by what I’d seen on TV, I asked my friend whether we could drive down to Sedan the next time we were in Habay-la-Neuve. As it’s only 80 km by very picturesque country roads, he agreed. And so one beautiful summer day whilst staying in Habay-la-Neuve, we drove south to take a closer look at the fortress.

We had no trouble finding it and instead of leaving the car in the car park situated outside the ramparts, we drove straight into the central courtyard. It was a bright summer’s day and the glare of the gigantic sand coloured walls and the yellow gravel of the courtyard had a blinding effect. We were stunned, not only by the light but also by the sheer size of the place, as it was huge!

On the right: the former barracks and ammunition depot.
Mind you, this represents only 1/10th of the fortress.

The main entrance of the former barracks led into a large hall, which accommodated a reception desk, a bar and a lounge. Little alcoves in the back wall – which during the fortress’ military past were used as ammunition rooms – had been turned into cosy private ‘sitting rooms’ with large leather coaches. Each alcove could easily host up to 8 people. We were immediately smitten with the place and thought it would be fun to stay overnight the next time we were in the area.

The reception clerk was very helpful when we inquired about the rates and the possibility of visiting some rooms. He immediately called his assistant who took the keys of three different types of rooms and showed us around. At the end of the tour we decided that the room we liked best was situated on the top floor, with direct access to the ramparts. Without hesitation we booked it for one night in the month of September. It would make a perfect stopover on our way back from our annual trip to the Lorraine-Alsace region.

(to be continued)



Leon and Sue Sims said...

Last night we watched the movie "in Bruges". Have blogged the city and is it a destination for us to consider?
Leon and Sue

ladybird said...

Leon and Sue,

Bruges ia called 'the Venice of the North' because of its many canals and stately buidings dating from middle ages and 15th and 16th century. It's definitely worth a visit if you can spare the time. The train journey from Brussels to Bruges takes little over an hour. Just let me know if you need any help organising a day trip or even an overnight stay in Brussels and/or Bruges!

Leon and Sue Sims said...

Thanks for the feedback. As we get closer to the time, we will certainly make contact.
Your blogs are very informative.
Its my morning reading.