Claire The Green Geekette
Member for 3 years 3 months
Yogi and slow tourism devotee
Camping in the heart of nature in a horse-drawn caravan
8 min At A trot
We listen to the soothing of the Ardennes draught horses hooves clip-clopping towards a quaint horse-drawn caravan, and suddenly the term slow travel takes on its full meaning. Along verdant landscapes, vales, pastures and forests, we embark upon a journey outside of time with “Au rythme d’Arduinna”. With who? With Corinne, Jacques and their trusted four-hoofed friends. In the heart of nature, living the authentic Bohemian life…Take a deep breath and just go with the flow!
Corinne and Jacques, “slow tourism” pioneers
Corinne and Jacques are the kind of people that put you at ease right away, as soon as you arrive in fact. With her big smile on her face and glowing with irrepressible cheerfulness, Corinne has a sincere and warm personality that immediately inspires trust, and she is really good company to boot! As for Jacques, his ineffable calm and his seemingly endless supply of stories about the area will definitely win you over once and for all.
Nature lovers, keen hikers and – as I would discover later on - folk dance enthusiasts like me, Corinne and Jacques understand the importance of making small gestures to protect our environment on a daily basis. A way of life that is in perfect harmony with the values that pushed them to open a Bed and Breakfast in their eco-house, insulated with straw and self-built with as much organically sourced materials as they could lay their hands on.
In the heart of the small villages of Touligny in the Crêtes Préardennaises (a group of 94 municipalities in the French department of the Ardennes), they offer their guests the ideal setting for recharging their batteries, surrounded by verdant and peaceful landscapes. Why the reference to Arduinna? Well, quite simply because Arduinna is the eponymous Celtic goddess, protector of the fauna. Sometimes assimilated to Artemis/Diana to become the Gallo-Roman goddess who rules the woodlands and protects the Ardennes forest and the animals.
Corinne and Jacques understand the importance of making small gestures to protect our environment on a daily basis
Meeting the Ardennes draught horses
As soon as we arrive in Touligny, we head towards the pastures to meet the animals who will make it possible for us to enjoy this unusual and extraordinary experience: the Ardennes draught horses. Corinne and Jacques had the good fortune to adopt three of them: Pinocchio, Scorpi and Fandango. Even though Corinne claims that it’s pure coincidence, I am tickled by the last name (the fandango is a traditional dance originally from the French Basque Country and one of my all-time favourite dances).
Naturally, Corinne and Jacques take care of harnessing the horses and guiding leading the horse and carriage to its destination, it is possible (even highly recommended) to lend a hand by getting the horses from the field. Our adventure begins as soon as we arrive in the village I must confess that convincing our four- hoofed friends to cooperate requires a deft hand and a lot of coaxing. If feel like a real life horse-whisperer!
To our delight, we were asked to give a hand, and the first step was coaxing two of the three robust horses to leave their field, head for the carriage and let themselves be harnessed so they can pull draw the carriage. A nigh (…) impossible task should the horses decide they don’t feel like cooperating! Thankfully, we manage to guide the first with a lead rein while Corinne takes care of the second horse. Believe you me, your first encounter with these impressive horses is quite an extraordinary experience!
Our adventure begins as soon as we arrive in the village. I must confess that convincing our four- hoofed friends to cooperate requires a deft hand and a lot of coaxing.
Journey through the heart of the Ardennes countryside
Once Pinocchio and Scorpi – our equestrian companions for the day - have taken their places, all we need to do is let the horse-drawn carriage ride work its magic. Ordinarily, the ride is taken with the horse-drawn caravan, but unfortunately for us there was a problem with the undercarriage and the caravan is stuck on its pitch in the middle of nature...Instead - and thanks to the very resourceful duo Corinne and Jacques - we get to enjoy a horse and carriage ride.
This does not detract from the charm of this bucolic ride. We roam the countryside paths at the pace of the draught horses, in total harmony with nature thanks to our mode of transportation that allows us to feast our eyes on the landscapes that unfold at every turn. And honestly, is there a sound more relaxing than the sound of hors hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestones?
Corinne is sitting up front, holding the reigns with a firm hand, while Jacques is at the back keeping an eye on the horses’ wellbeing. He also keeps a watchful eye on the traffic when we take roads travelled by cars; we definitely feel safe and taken good care of. Gradually, tarmac roads make way for forest paths, and we slowly move away from civilisation and journey deeper into nature until we reach the forest clearing where our stunning gypsy caravan stands, surrounded by peace and quiet.
We are in total harmony with nature thanks to our mode of transportation that allows us to feast our eyes on the landscapes that slowly unfold at every turn
Setting up camp surrounded by nature
Once we’ve taking our time settling the horses in their paddock for the night, Corinne and Jacques leave us to own devices for a great night camping in the heart of nature. We then discover the gypsy-style caravan we have been fantasizing about and are taken by the simplicity and serenity that ooze from the caravan.
There are no unnecessary frills here; the caravan is made up of one single “room” that serves both as a bedroom and as a living area. A large alcove bed will welcome us for the night, while the benches can be converted into a sleeping area for the kids. Bed linen, blankets and pillows are of course provided, as well as crockery, cutlery and the camping stove we will use to prepare ourselves a nice hot meal.
The level of comfort is basic but amply sufficient, because we came here looking for simplicity and with a desire to go back to basics. As for the toilet, we will be using a small shovel to dig a hole and sawdust to cover up, an interesting experience which is probably familiar to camping enthusiasts. Solar panels will provide the energy required to charge your phone (but, let’s be honest, you can surely do without here), and a battery is on hand to power the lighting during your cosy evening gatherings.
The caravan is located on the edge of the forest, surrounded by unspoiled nature, and you could almost be led to believe you’ve been transported to “The Little House on the Prairie”. To make the resemblance even more complete, we now need to take care of the horses. These charming companions are so touching, and it will seem like the most natural thing in the world. No need to worry, it’s quite simple really, all you need to do to make them happy is stroke their snouts for a while and pour some fresh water into their drinking bowl so they stay hydrated after their hard day’s work.
It almost feels like we're in the Little House on the Prairie !
I really enjoyed spending the evening in this cosy caravan, far from it everything, and a thousand miles away from the everyday humdrum, which leaves us with an incredible feeling of freedom and release. And in a setting that is ideal to kick back and relax, recharge our batteries while gazing at the stars and listing to the soothing sounds of nature. Surrender to the moment, let your mind roam free and daydream, and then take shelter in this cosy cocoon to be treated to an impromptu guitar courtesy of my travelling companion…Therein lies the secret of true happiness.
Our happiness is accentuated the next morning when we discover our home-made breakfast made with locally-sourced produce that Corinne and Jacques serve their guests. The night before they had deposited a basket filled with a Pavé d’Ardenne (traditional bread from the area), cheese, jams, home-made apple juice, with a tea, coffee and hot chocolate selection. To enjoy this tasty fare, all you need to do is pull out the ingenious table that is hidden under the bed, really handy!
In the late morning Corinne and Jacques come and pull us out of reverie so we can head back home after a final carriage-ride, marking the end of a stay that felt way to short. Great news for nature lovers, they also have a second caravan – static this time - boasting a “bathroom” with a solar-powered shower and a kitchen shelter with a bread oven right next door, as well as a vegetable patch and a chicken coop. There is so much to marvel at!
Enjoy this experience
Au rythme d'Arduinna
10 rue Haute, 08430 Touligny (France)
Tel.: +33 6 84 03 61 59
190€ for 2 days and 1 night in the gypsy caravan (capacity: 2 adults and 2 children).
You can of course stay one or more days longer (the caravan stays on the same spot throughout) : 80€ / extra night.
It takes the caravan 2 hours to get to the clearing where you will spend the night and 2 hours to get back.
Breakfast for 4.