Travel log Maigret's journeys in France
Chez les Flamands
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - Arpajon / Avrainville - Dizy - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Vichy - Jeumont
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Givet Ardennes (08) - Champagne-Ardenne
View on the surroundings of Givet The Meuse river in Givet, view from the right bank
Givet is a not unpleasant small town. Although there still is some industry in the surrounding area (nuclear power-station, quarries), today tourism defines the outlook of the town center and efforts have been made to restore the typical Ardennes-appearance.
I was there on a Friday in late September and the tourist season was almost over. Yet Friday showed to be market day and that caused a frenzied bustle. However in the afternoon, when the stalls were cleared away, the town reassumed its usual, somewhat drowsy, pace.
Except for the tourist office, where the employees can't get writhe of me fast enough, although I'm the only customer, everybody is friendly and obliging. Most people know about Simenon's novel "Chez les Flamands", have read it or at least have seen the movie on TV.

The river Meuse dominates the outlook of the town. Commercial traffic on the river is only a reminant of what it must have been in Simenon's time. The bridge that connects the two parts of the town was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt after the war. So, it is not the same bridge from the novel anymore.

Although Simenon emphasizes the typical French nature of this town in contrast with the more reticent character of the Flemish family, I think that the atmosphere of the town is rather Walloon (Wallonia = French speaking part of Belgium) than French.
Givet, town center
Trade, cultural activities and tourism seem to be more orientated towards Belgium than towards France. Of course this is something that may have changed over time.

Since the European Community is a fact and transfer of people and goods is free between the members states, the borders have been opened.
Former Belgian customs post at 100 M from the Flemish shopt, now a private home
There are no more customs checks and the custom posts from the novel have disappeared. The French customs building is demolished and the Belgian post, at 100 meters from the "Flemish shop", is now a private home.
Givet, Town-Hall
French - Flemish - Walloon - Belgian - Dutch!
I can imagine all this must be an enigma to someone who is not conversant with the regional situation. It is complicated!
France is France, that must be clear. France is a country in Europe bordered by, from north to south, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Although France knows a lot of regional accents, dialects and even languages (Breton, Bask, Langue d'Oc), there is only one official language: French. These days everybody in France can speak French.
Administratively France is subdivided in "Départements" and "Regions" (departments and regions); Givet e.g. is a city in the department of the "Ardennes"(08) in the region of "Ardennes - Champagne".
The government of France is very centralized, regions have no extensive autonomy.
Some other countries like Belgium and Switzerland on the contrary have a federally organized government (much like the U.S.A.). The federal states in these countries have substantial autonomy.

Belgium, that borders France in the north has two main states the Dutch speaking region (Flanders) in the north and the French speaking region (Wallonia) in the south. Roughly speaking one can say that the country is federally divided on the bases of language and culture. There is also a small German speaking part, but lets forget that for now.

This situation is quite recent. In the days when the novel was written Belgium was an Unitarian country with three official languages.

France and Belgium sutuated in Western Europe
The Peeters family
The family in the novel is Flemish. Their origin is the Dutch speaking part of Belgium: Flanders. Flanders is about the size of the American state Connecticut.
The official language there is Dutch, the same language as spoken in the Netherlands (Holland).
However, the type of Dutch spoken in Belgium has his own characteristics, accents and use of words... So then, it becomes Flemish!
I know, it's a whole caboodle.
Let try again one more time:
The Peeters family is Flemish, this means they come from Flanders, the northern part of Belgium and they speak Flemish, a form of Dutch.
Like English, German, Swedish and Danish, Dutch (Flemish) is a Germanic language.
Why in France?
What is the Peeters family doing in the north of France? Why are they there?
Immigration from Flanders to Wallonia and the north of France was very usual in those days.
At the end of the 19th century, during the industrial revolution, Flanders was economically not very prosperous, some areas were in dire want.
Wallonia and the north of France on the contrary had coalmines, a thriving steel industry and a well extended transportation network. These regions were flourishing.
Again, in the 1920's, due to industrial growth and development, it was the south that recovered preeminent from the economical consequences of the Great war. Particularly in the years between 1920 and 1930 a lot of Flemish workers moved to Wallonia and the north of France looking for jobs and for a better life.
Streets in Givet, today and in past times
Turning the pages of the Givet telephone-directory I observe that at least 10 to15% of the names in this phone book are Flemish. Peeters is a typical Flemish family name, much like Smith or Brown in English. The name of the doctor in the novel: Van De Weert is also a Flemish name. I can find 3 "Peeters" in the directory but no "Van de Weert".

Immigration in Wallonia and the north of France stopped after 1930, the world economical crisis of 1931 took his toll and the ore- and coal exploitation and the steel industry went trough tough times. After the international economical crisis of the 1970's the state of affairs constantly went down hill.
Café Français or the Flemish shop, in the back ground the Belgian customs post Bridge over the Meuse river in Givet, before the destruction in World War II
Today greater parts of Wallonia and the north of France became economical problem areas. The cities in the former industrial areas reveal noticeable social neglect and poverty. The steel industry disappeared, the coalmines were closed and unemployment reaches distressing heights. The only opening to the future for towns like Givet, situated in a beautiful natural region like the Ardennes, is an orientation towards tourism.
In Flanders on the contrary things are going reasonably well.
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - Arpajon / Avrainville - Dizy - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Vichy - Jeumont
Home Page - summary of works - Travel log (main page)