This morning, we were all up at 6am so that my youngest brother could be put on the school coach for a trip to the battlefields of Flanders for his GCSE history course. Then the remaining three of us - Mum, Dad and me - were off to our own French break. We took the M25 and the M20 to Folkestone to get the 'le Shuttle' Channel Tunnel car-carrier to Calais. We had lunch at a favourite northern French location - the little hilltop town of Cassel. Founded by the Romans and surrounded by dead straight roads across the Flanders plain, it's got a windmill and defensive walls several centuries old. From there we headed on eastward to St Amand-les-Eaux, by the Belgian border, which is a spa town where Napoleon Bonaparte came to take the waters in 1805. The sight to see here is the free-standing west front of an otherwise demolished Rococo church. It's truly hideous, and houses an unexceptional museum of local pottery. While looking for the entrance, I succeeded in getting crapped on by one of the shabby pigeons that make the towers their home.

Swiftly onward.

We followed the motorway from St Amand to Maubeuge, from where we cut across the Namur district of Belgium - very pleasant and rural. Our route brought us down to the town of Givet, which is on the end of a finger of French territory extending northward into Belgium along the valley of the river Meuse (or Maas). A huge fortress (not open to the public) overlooks the valley there. We headed up the river, past a large nuclear power plant, to Vireux-Wallerand, where we crossed the river and headed across country, through the French Ardennes, to Monthermé, where we crossed the river again, and went over a pass overlooking the crags known as 'The Four Sons of Aymon' to Charleville-Mezières, and down to Bazeilles, close to Sedan, where we would be staying. Bazeilles is notable, in that in the battle of Sedan in 1870, it was there, in a farmstead now known as 'The House of the Last Cartridge', that a group of French marines, outfaced by the German army, vowed to fight to the very last bullet.

The hotel dinner was good, and we went to bed pretty exhausted.