Economic woes? Water under the bridge in France's Crisis valley

8th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

In a tiny French village, locals hope a river named La Crise will attract tourists with a sense of humour.

Economists and politicians across the world may argue bitterly about the origin of ‘The Crisis’. But in a sleepy valley in France's Picardy region, people know exactly where it lies.

"It's right there," said Louis Bachoud, pointing to an alcove in an old stone washhouse built over the bubbling source of a river called La Crise, which translates as The Crisis.

Bachoud, an architect, local historian and hotel owner, is hoping to capitalise on the wordplay and entice crisis-weary tourists to the luxurious holiday apartments in former stables at the 12th-century castle he has painstakingly restored.

"In this time of crisis, come and relax on the banks of The Crisis," is the slogan he is using to advertise his summer season ‘serenity weekends’ in the tiny village of Droizy at the source of La Crise.

The river, about an hour and a half's drive east of Paris, meanders for 24 kilometres (15 miles) along a pleasant valley and through a handful of picturesque villages with names like Chacrise, Rozieres-sur-Crise and Septmonts.

La Crise
La Crise, Picardy, France © AFP

Local historians were unable to give the origin of the river's name but said it was probably the corruption of another word in the local Picard dialect.

The contrast could not be greater between the vicious economic crisis ravaging the world economy and this gentle waterway—little more than a stream, for most of its length—which appears impervious to outside influences.

Taking a toll
Yet the real crisis is taking its toll even in this area, just a short drive from the Champagne region.

There is no industry in this valley; the fertile land is used to grow colza and other crops but many locals who previously travelled to nearby towns for work have lost their jobs, local officials said.

"I'm ready to take any job now," said unemployed builder Vincent Sutet, 30, standing outside his father's cafe in the village of Noyant et Aconin. "But I think that all of France is now in the valley of the crisis!

Soissons CathedralThe tourist office in the town of Soissons, where La Crise flows into the Aisne river which in turn flows into the Seine, said that tourism in the region was also taking a hit from the economic downturn.

"We're feeling the real crisis," said spokesman Adrien Tutin, noting that many local hotels and restaurants were complaining about a downturn in business.

"There are a lot fewer Dutch and Belgians coming here compared to last year," said Tutin, who unlike Louis Bachoud said he saw no potential in exploiting the name of La Crise to market the attractions of the area. "There are lots of things in the area to interest tourists but the name La Crise is not really a name that sells.”

Bachoud begged to differ, arguing that the comic aspect of the name could be used to lure in more tourists who could then visit the wider area's many cathedrals and chateaux, as well as its lush countryside.

Bachoud quipped, "People are tired of the crisis but you simply have to cross the bridge and on the other side there is sunshine.”

Rory Mulholland / AFP / Expatica

Photo credit: Soissons Cathedral by AEngineer,

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