Visiting Jeumont and the Sambre River, France: Remembering Writer Robert Louis Stevenson
"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go" (R. L. Stevenson)
I stayed at a hotel overlooking the bridge over the Sambre River; this bridge carries rue Jean-Jaurès , which connects the Downtown area of Jeumont with rue d'Erquelinnes , on the border with Belgium.
In the main photo, above, this road bridge over Sambre river may be seen in the distance; the photo was taken from under the rail bridge.
Interestingly, it seems that, here, 'all roads lead to Belgium', to paraphrase a well-worn concept. Rue Jean-Jaurès connecting with rue d'Erquelinnes ; the Sambre river; the railroad: all these three elements present to some extent in the main photo, above, are located only a few hundred metres from France's border with Belgium, at Erquelinnes, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).
For so many travellers — by road, by rail and, yes, by the Sambre river which connects with the Sambre-Oise Canal and flows into Belgium here — Jeumont is a place that one travels through rather than to.
Recently, however, the local tourist authority in the Avesnois area of France's Nord department, has taken to turning on its head this notion that Jeumont is a place one goes through rather than to (1). The relaxed navigability of the Sambre river here is stressed as an attraction; the electric boat hire opportunities on the Sambre at Jeumont are promoted, and, interestingly, the memory of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) is invoked. The famous author of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde travelled in a canoe down the Sambre river in the summer of 1876, and some of his thoughts in so doing have been recorded for posterity. R L Stevenson once wrote memorably (2):
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake.
For Stevenson, such a journey along this eminently navigable course of water was surely proof of the truth of his maxim. Stevenson died in Samoa in 1894, but one may suppose that it would (for example) do violence to the central thesis of Edward W. Said's Orientalism (3) to suggest that the Sambre river is any less exotic than Samoa!
It's a good enough thought, though, by which to try to attract people to visit Jeumont, and make use of its boating facilities!
Jeumont is located in the Avesnes-sur-Helpe arrondissement of France's Nord department.
December 13, 2012
(2) R. L. Stevenson, qu. in: La Voix du Nord , http://www.lavoixdunord.fr/Locales/Avesnes_sur_Helpe/actualite/Autour_de_Avesnes_sur_Helpe/Aulnoye_aymeries_et_ses_environs/2008/09/25/article_r-l-stevenson-debarque-a-pont-et-donne-s.shtml
(3) Edward W. Said, Orientalism , Vintage Books, 1978
Also worth seeing
In Jeumont itself, parts of the church of St. Martin are several centuries old; this building is within walking distance of the border with Begium.
Maubeuge , France (distance: 12 kilometres) contains striking fortifications dating from the 17th century.
Erquelinnes , Belgium (distance: 1 kilometre) has a marina, and an interesting old church.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Jeumont (distance: 88 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains rail links with the adjoining Belgian town of Erquelinnes. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada