08 June 2011

Arras — glad I went

I drove the 30 miles up to Cambrai (pop. 32,000) from Péronne today because Cambrai is a town I've heard and read about for 30 or 40 years but had never seen. You know, I studied French literature and civilization for many years, along with linguistics, and one of the major 17th century French writers was from Cambrai. His name was Fénelon, and he was an archbishop in the Church.

Two photos that I took on the Grand'Place in Arras,
in northern France. Click them to enlarge them.


Then I drove the 30 miles over to the city of Arras (pop. 43,000), which I had never heard much about. It turned out to be a much more interesting town to see, photograph, and walk around in. It has a real Grand'Place — a main square in the Flemish style. If you've been to Brussels, you know what I mean. From what I've read, Arras is also an important university town, with a large population of young people.

Three shots of houses around the smaller square in Arras, called
the Place des Héros. Click them to see enlargements.


Cambrai also has a Grand'Place, but it doesn't possess the architectural unity of the one in Arras. And Arras actually has two big squares in the center of town. The second one is smaller than the Grand'Place but still vast and impressive. Both squares are surrounded by houses with pignons, or gables, on the front façade. Another feature of the houses on the Grand'Place is their covered arcades at sidewalk level.

Some closer views of façades on the Grand'Place in Arras

Since I don't really know a lot about Arras, I'm just going to post a few of the pictures I took there today. They can speak for themselves. I'd like to go back and spend more time in Arras at some point.

14 comments:

  1. Looks so charming! Thanks for the photos!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love those houses. I wonder if anyone lives in them or if they are just commerces now?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for these, Ken. I've wanted to see those squares for years.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Are you sure you didn't cross the border? Love the large square with plenty of parking spots and so much empty space to showcase the beautiful buildings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was thinking "Dutch" when I saw those buildings. Flemish makes sense. Very cool discovery. Don't you love road trips?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm thinking the same thing as Ginny. Looks like Holland! Looks like a place to put on our list.

    Happy traveling!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Arras looks charming and your photos are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Arras is beautiful - looks like you could be in Ghent or Antwerp.

    ReplyDelete
  9. If someone carried me away while I was asleep, then left me to awaken in Arras, I would have no idea I was in France. It looks so Belgian.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great photos. I went to Arras about ten years ago. Glad to see it hasn't changed too much. If I remember correctly, Arras was very badly damaged, almost flattened in both wars. I do admire how the French carefully rebuilt in the appropriate style. Not much of that happened in the UK after WW2.
    Another thing that fascinated me about the Grand'Place was that there is a huge carpark right underneath it. Thanks for reminding me of this lovely town.
    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
  11. Arras has amazing catacombs (which one can still visit). British troops lived in them during World War One and there were tunnels connecting to the front line. Arras suffered horrible in that war, and most of what you see now was rebuilt. And not far away is the wonderful (and huge) Canadian memorial to their dead - all the park and traces of the trenches around the mnemorial are Canadian in perpetuity.

    ReplyDelete
  12. So many places in the northern half of France have had to be rebuilt after terrible destruction during the world wars. Blois, Saint-Malo, Arras, and on and on. That's just the way it is. Most of the big cathedrals — Reims, one of the most prominent, Rouen, and many many more were shelled and bombed almost to oblivion. Many were rebuilt. The thing is, unless you know it, you'd never know it from just looking.

    ReplyDelete
  13. By the way, Arras is pronounced [ah-RAHSS], with the French R of course and a final S.

    ReplyDelete

What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?