Discovering Valenciennes: when greeters from the North meet to share their passion

This May 17, the greeters from the North and Belgium met their counterparts from Valencia for their annual reunion. All day, Gérard Merlin took them through the bowels of Valenciennes in search of historical and architectural anecdotes often unknown to the general public.

Being a greeter means being passionate about your citysays Gérard Merlin, greeter from Valenciennes. The term greeter comes from the English “to greet” which means to welcome. It is a concept that comes from the United States. In 1992, New Yorkers offered a free walk through their city. The movement remains weak in Europe but it is starting to gain momentum, especially in the North! »

“People are pleasantly surprised”

Greeters are motivated by the desire to pass on the heritage of their city. Gérard Merlin shares the clichés that weigh on the region, marked by industrialization and mining. When he is approached by people passing through who wish to know more about Valenciennes, they reveal themselves astonished by the secrets it conceals. “ People are often pleasantly surprised by what they learn and say they have a new, more objective view of the city after the walk. I’m always happy when I hear them say it’s a nice town », laughs Gérard Merlin.

The heritage of medieval architecture, formerly the premises of the Tourist Office
Henri Lemaire comes to life thanks to the theatrical performance of the greeter
The facade of the Town Hall, a story told by the Valenciennes greeter
The facade of the Town Hall, a story told by the Valenciennes greeter

Gérard Merlin was passionate about history from Valenciennes when he moved in 2008. By becoming interested in the past of his house, he then learned about that of his neighborhood and then the city. He trained in history, art history and architecture and also works at the Valenciennes Tourist Office as a guide.

This year he received his namesakes from Dunkirk, Arras, Mons and other northern cities. To the rhythm of dramatized performances by Gérard Merlin, they all learned a little more about the history of Valenciennes. Next year, another city will be in the spotlight.




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