Sunday, 28 August 2016

Twelve thousand miniature bottles.

We stayed at the Hotel Remotel in Knutange for two nights. It is situated a few miles to the west of Thionville. An old fashioned style hotel with large rooms and high ceilings. Just right to try to keep cool on a day when the temperature reached 41 degrees centigrade. That is very hot. It was 37 degrees in the shade and not much under that in our bedroom.

The patron of the hotel collects miniature bottles.

He displays them all around the hotel.  

He says he has 12,000 of them. 

 I haven't counted them. 

I decided to just believe him. 

It was too hot to haggle.

Rocroi or Rocroy – which is correct?

Well I don't know and reading the various accounts by diverse official bodies it seems that they do not know either. Having just spent an enjoyable two days there I can tell you that the only way to get the full view of the remarkable fortifications which have decided the shape of this town is to be a bird. 
Rocroi, fortified village in northern France.
I could find no viewpoint to give justice to the design of the town so I reproduce above a published aerial view. 

Military historians know Rocroy (or Rocroi) for the battle which took place there in 1643 between the army of the newly crowned King Louis XIV of France and the combined forces of the Spanish Netherlands who had stood undefeated in battle for a claimed 100 years. The French army was victorious and the course of history changed as Louis XIV went on to redefine the borders of France. 

Rocroi, being a frontier town, had been fortified in various stages by different occupants over the centuries, each adding a layer. Eventually, of course, the fortifications themselves were rendered redundant by the developments in artillery and the town's military status was rescinded in 1886.
Church of St Nicolas, Rocroi.

Left is the church of St Nicolas which was sited across the square opposite our hotel.

Visit Rocroi, take a stroll for 4km around the top of the fortifications and then sit at a cafe terrace in the Place d'Armes and absorb the peace and tranquility of the town centre.

If you stay longer I can recommend the Hotel Au Sabots d'Hélène. Parking is free in the square and, surprisingly, there always seems to be empty places.

But you really need to be a bird to fully appreciate the town's character.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Art Deco Hopital Riche, Jeumont.

Main entrance of the Hopital Riche.
On my research expedition to the various frontier posts of France, I came across this establishment in Jeumont. It is the Hopital Riche.

Originally called the Institution Riche, it was built in the 1930s from a legacy donated by the local rich industrialist, Monsieur Albert Riche, as an infirmary, a creche and a dispensary. It evolved into a hospital and served the town of Jeumont until it was replaced in 1977.

As is often the fate of such buildings, it was then left to go to rack and ruin. Luckily, somebody in the town had a conscience and the buildings have been renovated and restored to use as a centre to care for heavily handicapped patients.
The Dispensary at the Hopital Riche, Jeumont.
Jeumont attracted my interest initially because at the height of its importance it possessed three customs frontier posts: one for the road, one for the railway and one for the maritime traffic on the river. The railway station is an enormous building as was necessary to accommodate the 150 customs officers who processed the trans-frontier traffic, be it French hops on their way to Belgian breweries or Russian Royalty on their way from Paris to Moscow. Up until World War 2, all international trains had to stop for an hour at Jeumont to allow the customs frontier formalities to take place. This delay even entered into literature with the Maigret short story by Simenon which was publilshed in 1944, Jeumont 51 minutes d'arret.