Givet is our last stop in France so we were going to enjoy it! Approaching town the grand citadel, the “Caserne Charlemont”, looming over the river was already an impressive sight.

On entering Givet there are two mooring options: finger pontoons with electricity and water on the right bank or the quay on the left without services. We went for the finger pontoons but while in the process of tying up 'side-on’ we were chased away by the not so helpful harbour master. It turns out that boats above 10m length are meant to moor perpendicular to the pontoons. With the current of the river pushing us around and facing the wrong way, we surrendered and headed for the quay on the opposite side instead. We were glad we did. The quay wall offered a very safe mooring with cafés at our “doorstep” and direct access to the town centre - a beautiful spot and no fees. On the Freshwater we can easily make do without electricity for 2 days, or longer, if using the generator to recharge our batteries.

We arrived just in time to have a look at the Friday market and hearing the melodical chime of the old town hall clock strike 12noon. 

After lunch the quay filled up quickly, and so did the cafés on this sunny day. Our usual exploring-the-town-stroll took us first to the old Récollets church and abbey. The former stables just below the citadel are now a modern cinema complex, but the old wooden beams of the roof and the outside stonework are still in place. In the historic centre some of the buildings have been renovated with traditional bluestone and bricks and blend in with the old 17th century houses seamlessly. A floral warthog, the symbol of the Ardennes region, gave us “kangaroos" a mistrusting stare.

At the Café de la Marie, tempted by the warm weather, we ordered an ice coffee or here “Café liégeoise”. We have had various versions of these in France, but this one was by far the richest! We battled through, but dinner was definitely cancelled that night.

In the tourist office which also houses some amazing local art and craft, we acquired a leaflet of a walk on the right river bank. The 4.2 km walk ascends gently to the Gregoire tower which stands directly opposite the Victory tower on the left bank. The tower is situated on Mont d’Haurs and is a great view point overlooking the river, town and valley towards the Belgian boarder. Part of the hill is a nature reserve. Trees and wildflowers grow out of the remaining walls of yet another Vauban bastion of the Louis XIV era.

When we arrived back down at the river and crossed the bridge we saw that “our" quay had been invaded by an onslaught of motorbikes. 

A group of at least 30 bike riders and entourage were just leaving the café terrace for their return trip somewhere in Belgium. They were very well organised with their lead riders wearing fluorescent jackets. Just the sheer number of them, quite honestly, were putting Austin’s Strata bikers, the “Rat Pack”, to shame.

Jane, if you get Sassy a leather jacket like that, I’ll get Austin to take her on the next "Rat Pack" trip!

© Austin Robinson 2019