The Canal du Nord, inaugurated in 1965, quickly reached maximum capacity, which led to a new project for a high capacity Seine-Nord Europe canal. After years of survey, the project received the go-ahead from French and European authorities and will son become reality. In 2007, the project received 330 millions from the EU and was declared of public interest by France. The new canal will be a new route for the transportation of goods between France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It is also an enormous asset for the regions it crosses both economically and as a tourist attraction. It is forecast that 13 to 15 million tons of goods will transit via the canal by 2020. Work on the site is expected to create thousands of jobs. The biggest of four port sites on the canal will be located in Marquion, 12 kms from Cambrai.
Like most specialties, the Cambrai Betises have a controversial history. Some specialists swear that this white sweet split by a brown line of caramel could be found as early as the 13th century. Two confectionery dealers in town also argue that they invented the mint. Afchain and Despinoy both make delicious Betises and both appeared in the early 19th century. But Afchain are telling the tastiest tale on how it all began. They claim that in 1830, the young Emile Afchain, who was learning the trade in his parents store, had the proportions of a sweet wrong and inadvertedly created the new recipe. “You did a foolish thing (bêtise) again”, her mother said. These foolish things made the family’s fortune. Afchain and Duquesnoy both organise visits to discover the secrets of this monument to good taste.
Cambrai (or rather Le Cateau-Cambresis, 22 kms away) was the birthplace of a now forgotten Tour rider who was among the most popular in his time. Between 1908 and 1928 Jules Deloffre took part in 14 Tours, a record which was only tied by Andre Darrigade in 1966 and beaten in 1985 by Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk. The Old Deloffre, as he was called towards the end of his career – he rode his last Tour at 42 -, even won three stages in the “isolated” category and made it back to Paris seven times. For Deloffre, cycling was and ideal promotion tool. He owned a cycling store in Le Cateau, appropriately named “Au Tour de France”. At finishes, Deloffre used to execute somersaults to please the crowds, before handing leaflets advertising his shop wearing a top-hat. At the age of 60, he also completed a Tour de France for cyclotourists. Jules Deloffre died of his passion. In 1963, he was riding back home from a Criterium International won by Jacques Anquetil in Cambrai when he was run over by a car. He was 78.
|430||The Franks take hold of the city, which passes under the control of Clovis. In 509, Cambrai becomes the only bishop’s see in the area.|
|948||Cambrai becomes a bishop principality. The Cambrai people frequently rebel against the bishop’s authority (958, 1007, 1102 and 1226).|
|1148||Reconstruction of the Gothic cathedral. Cambrai becomes an important centre for sacred music, attracting students from all over Europe.|
|Around 1400||Guillaume Dufay, one of the greatest musicians of his time, settles in Cambrai. He dies in 1474.|
|1520||Because of its neutral position between France and Austria, Cambrai hosts several peace talks.|
|1677||Vauban conquers Cambrai which becomes French in 1678.|
|1695||Fenelon becomes bishop of Cambrai. He is buried there (1715).|
|1809||LDestroyed during the Revolution, the cathedral collapses.|
|1872||Jules Linard crates Cambrai’s leading sugar mill.|
|1917||The Battle of Cambrai sees the first massive use of tanks.|
CHARLES V CITADEL
Charles V citadel (1543) was built by Italian architects upon more than 30 kilometres of countermine galleries but only 8 kms can be visited nowadays.
THE JESUITS CHAPEL
The jesuits chapel, built between 1678 et 1694, it is a masterpiece of baroque style, as reflected by the numerous statues inside and outside the building.
Formerly an abbey, rebuilt between 1696 and 1702, the cathedral is a beautiful monument of classic style. Its 18th century paintings, Byzantine icons are must-sees, as is the Fenelon tombstone sculpted by David d’Angers in 1824.
The Belfry is a world heritage site like all the other buildings of the type in Belgium and the North of France.
Prefecture : Lille
Population : 2,565,000
WebSite : www.cg59.fr
The Nord department is a narrow stretch of land along the Belgian border, linking the North Sea to the west to the first mounts of the Ardennes to the east. It is the most densely populated area in France after the Paris region with 2.5 million inhabitants. Nord is a wealthy agricultural area thanks to a sensible use of the land. It is also France’s leading industrial region thanks to its coal resources and its long tradition in steelworks, metal plants and textile factories. The economic crisis has led to the end of coalmining in the area but its inhabitants – the now famous Chtis – have always been the department’s main strength. Nord’s architectural past is exceptionally rich, with extremely well preserved old mills, proud belfries illustrating the freedom of its towns (Lille, Valenciennes, Douai) as well as wealthy town halls of Flemish inspiration.
The 15th century Esnes castle, rebuilt in the 18th century, is surrounded by moats with two medieval towers around the porch, a big tower, and a dungeon.
Prefecture : Laon
Population : 538,000
Website : www.cg02.fr
The Aisne department is named after the river that runs through it westward. It was formed in 1790 from parts of two provinces, Ile de France and Picardie. From Clovis and Soissons to the Chemin des Dames battle in WWI or the Villers-Cotterets treaty which imposed French as the country’s administrative language, Aisne played a major role in French history. The native land of Alexandre Dumas and painter Corot, Aisne is the 4th department in France for the number of registered monuments. Known for its agriculture – beetroot especially -, Aisne is also noted for its industry; food products, textile and cosmetics notably.
Painter Henri Matisse spent some 20 years in a house in the town centre, where his family settled in 1870. Most of his neighbours worked for the local weaving industry and his later work was certainly inspired by the motives and colours on the pieces of cloth he used to collect as a child.
The town of Guise is overlooked by an old 10th century castle, built by the Dukes of Guise, that was seriously damaged during World War 1.
Guise is also the native town of French Revolution leader Camille Desmoulins, who was guillotined in 1794. A statue pays homage to the local-born lawyer in town.
The Familistere : Businessman Jean-Patiste Andre Godin, founder of the heating company that bears his name, was inspired by social ideas of the 19th century and decided to provide his workers with a little bit of wealth. He created the Familistere, also known as the Social Palace in the mid-19thcentury, a huge complex where all the factory staff were living and which includes a theatre and swimming pools. It can still be visited today.
The small village is linked to a “black virgin”, which is present everywhere in town. Her statue is worshipped as “Notre Dame de Liesse, source and cause of our joy”. The town has been the siege of a pilgrimage since the 13th century.
The castle of Marchais, built in 1540 by Nicolas de Longueval, finances superintendent for king Francois 1, was bought in 1984 by the princes of Monaco and still belongs to the Grimaldi family.
Prefecture : Charleville-Mézières
Population : 285,000
WebSite : www.cg08.fr
The Ardennes department is extremely diverse in its landscapes, from the pastures to the west to the forests in the North and North-East and the fields in the South, and its 3,500 kms of rivers and floods. Industry has also taken many forms, from steel to copper and aluminium to wood and leather. A hard-working land, Ardennes is also the place which gave birth to poet Arthur Rimbaud. While history is ever present, the future looks bright thanks to the A34 motorway which is an open door to the North of Europe.
Prefecture : Châlons-en-Champagne
Population : 566,000.
WebSite : www.cg51.fr
The production of champagne in the areas of Reims and Epernay has made the Marne department famous worldwide. Thanks to the sparkling wine, Marne tops France’s food and beverage exports. Industry is varied as well – metal works, chemistry, mechanics and electronics. Gothic art thrived in the area from an early period and the cathedral of Reims remains one of the most beautiful monuments in France.
The small village owes half its name to the Australian metropolis, who came to its rescue at the end of WW1. The Franco-Australian League, founded in 1914 by the French community in Australia, mot of them wool merchants, made a gift of 5,000 francs in 1918. In 1921 Poilcourt added Sydney to its name in gratitude. The Town Hall’s clock is also a gift from Australia.
Reims’ Museum of Fine Arts can boast one of the most prestigious collections in France for a regional museum with works dating from the 15th to the 20th century ranging from painting to sculptures and pieces of furniture. First assembled in 1794 from works of art confiscated by the Revolution, the collection was vastly enriched by donations from private and public sponsors. The museum is located in the palace of the former St Denis abbey, a building now much too small for the treasures it holds. Paintings by Cranach the Old and the Young, David’s Death of Marat and paintings by Poussin, Courbet, Delacroix, Corot, Gauguin, Monet or Matisse are badly in need of a new home. The most important private donation was made by Henry Vasnier, the former manager of the Pommery champagne house, who wanted his hometown museum to be built on the Boulingrin square. A century later, his wish is about to be fulfilled as the city council agreed to spend 50 million euros to build a new museum by 2013.
Sport in Reims is often reduced to the golden era of Stade de Reims when the local soccer team ruled in France and in Europe. Yet the sporting spirit is more deeply rooted in the city than is commonly thought. In 1907, marquis Melchior de Polignac, a close friend of Pierre de Coubertin who owned the Pommery champagne house, funded the creation of a sports park to be conceived and built by architect Edouard Redont: 50 acres of land were devoted to the practice of sport and games. It was a unique institution in Europe at the time and sport officials from everywhere came to Reims to visit the Pommery Park (known nowadays as the Parc de Champagne) and its athletes college. Polignac asked navy officer Georges Hebert to test his “natural method” of training in the Reims college. Hebertism, as it is now called, became the almost official doctrine of sports training in France for decades. A real school for sports teachers and coaches was born and played a major part in French sport until WW2 when it was dismantled. In 1937, Reims became the first town to top L’Equipe’s yearly poll of France’s sporting cities.
Polignac was a member of the IOC from 1914 to his death in 1951. Reims remains a haven for top athletes. It is the hometown of former long jump and heptahlon world champion Eunice Barber and walk world champion Yoann Diniz.
Reims hosted ten Tour de France stages and two road world championships, crowning Theo Middelkamp in 1947 and Ercole Baldini in 1958. But few remember that the town of kings awarded the first ever women’s world crown in 1958. And the inaugural world championship went to Luxembourg’s Elsy Jacobs. Three years later, the Grand Duchy cycling star again won bronze at the worlds in Bern. She also earned a silver medal on track in the pursuit event in 1959. To Luxembourg what Jeannie Longo is to France, Elsy Jacobs won all national titles between 1959 and 1974. She died in 1998. Since 2008, the Elsy Jacobs Grand Prix is held in her memory.
|80 BC||The Remes build a fort on the site of Durocortorum, which will become Reims. The city is faithful to Rome and becomes a wealthy town.|
|IVth century||A first cathedral is built but it is only in the following century that a new one appears on the present location.|
|496||Clovis is baptised by Saint Remi. Reims becomes the kings of France crowning city.|
|719||Reims is destroyed by Charles Martel.|
|804||Charlemagne meets pope Leon III in Reims.|
|1114||The Champagne charter marks the beginning of the vogue of champagne wines.|
|1211||Beginning of the building of Reims Notre-Dame cathedral.|
|1548||Creation of Reims university.|
|1962||– General De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer attend a Franco-German reconciliation mass in the cathedral.|
Reims Notre-Dame cathedral was completed in the 14th century when it was broadened to allow attendances to coronations inside. It is considered one of the major realisations of gothic art as well for its architecture as for its ornaments which include as many as 2,303 statues. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1991. The most visited monument in Reims, it attracted 1.5 million visitors in 2007.
ST REMI BASILICA
After the cathedral, which it almost matches in size, St Remi basilica is the most famous church in Reims. Built between the 11th and 15th century to hold the remains of St Remi, the first bishop of Reims, it was for long linked to an abbey. It celebrated its millennium in 2007.