Getting rid of preconceived ideas !
"Rimbaud fooled me!"
Rimbaud fooled me, but it is my own fault!
Charleville Mezières, Ardennes, Northern France, lousy, ugly boring place, only military history, battles, industrial settlements, fog, smog. . . . . That was the idea I had of Charleville (I make short and write Charleville, despite, the official name is Charleville Mezières, as it is the fusion of several municipalities since 1996), because it was in the far cold foggy North, and because a guy, a world famous guy, traveller, walker and of course poet, the greatest for me, just wanted to leave that place, get far from there; Rimbaud, that’s the guy, had one obsession, leave that place, too small, boring, “provincial”, petty, . . . and when I learned about him at school (In France we learn “Le dormeur du val” at age 9-10), I decided Charleville must really be a bad place. Time has passed, I red and learned more from Rimbaud, and his disgust of his hometown, and in Summer 2008, camping and kayaking in the Ardennes with two young travellers, I decided to visit Charleville, and walk a bit on Rimbaud’s footsteps. . . . .
Writing I was surprised when I discovered this city is an euphemism, I was just enchanted! Despite (or because, probably) the “bad weather” (haha, what is “bad” weather?) I discovered a city full of colours, museums, wonderful architecture, and I liked a big lot to wander in the streets where Rimbaud ran as a kid; the light and the city have inspired the poet, there are things I “understand” 40 years later. . . . . The Place Ducale under thunderstorm light cannot do else than inspire a poet.
"The great poet"
Rimbaud is considered in France (and elsewhere) one of the greatest poets of the end 19th century; he is “classed” a romantic (French or German sense of that word, in English I understand it different) poet and writer; many add he is a precursor of surrealism; I find his poesy (not poetry) very symbolic, laden with violence, a violence that tells me.
Millions of pages have been written about him, and I will not have the presumptuousness to write a page more; he inspired the great poets of the 20th century and today he is still modern; real art is immortal. Rimbaud fled from home at the age of 15, had to come back from time to time, and walked, walked, walked in Europe, until the age of 21; he stopped walking, writing and began a new life (began to prepare for his death, he probably considered himself dead, the day he stopped to write) and travelled to east Africa; this is another story.
I am not fond of relicts, souvenirs, idolatry, but I must recommend a visit to the Rimbaud Museum in Charleville, where a few of his belongings are exhibited, but there are also many other displays from the time he lived, from people he knew and who influenced him, and this museum tries to render an atmosphere which avoids idolatry for the poet.
"Many other surprises."
Before discovering Charleville I did not know this city was a world capital for puppetry, that there was even an international institute dedicated to puppetry. . . . The rich “Musée de l’Ardenne” displays art, history and local traditions in a quite modern way, far from the old dusty provincial museums; this museum has extended my stay in Charleville for many hours. . . . .
And finally, Charleville is not that an ugly city, the blonde limestone which is used for most of the buildings gives some warmth to the city, the streets are lively, the shops look nice, and I was lucky to meet some funny people and have an insight on some local customs.
Spending a whole day in Charleville is certainly not wasting time, and from there, the Ardennes can easily be explored.