As you all know, pay attention you at the back, Picardy is divided into three Departments, the Somme, Oise and Aisne.
This time I am going to give you an in-depth, must read guide to the Somme, in other words I will write my usual load of codswallop and hopefully you can filter something useful from the gibberish.
The Somme borders all the Departments of the region. I must admit that this is one of my favourite departments, there is something romantic about the Somme, possibly because of it’s tragic past, possibly because the landscape, which is mainly flat, is golden in spring and summer and sombre and dramatic in winter. Nothing is more pleasurable than driving through the many villages and forests of the area. Villages are small with some of the most attractive houses you can find. Often there is a Chateau in the middle of a small and rural village. You can find amazing churches, white stone glistening in the sunlight, whilst the interiors are cool and mysterious.
Amiens is the capital of the Somme region, it suffered quite extensive bombing in both World wars, it has now been restored and many of the old buildings in the town were spared or restored. Amongst those which survived the bombardment was the Cathedral built in medieval times and now a world heritage site, it is the largest gothic church in France. Just around the corner from the Cathedral in the old town you will find the district of St-Leu, known as the “little Venice of the North”, houses are built on the side of the canal and there are alleyways and narrow streets to explore. The surrounding countryside , which is worth a trip alone, is flat and in some places marshy, here you will find the floating gardens and the market they hold there weekly in the spring and summer months. Amiens has numerous shops and some great restaurants and bars. Hotels abound and you can find anything from cheap and cheerful to the grand and obviously more expensive. So, go on go and take a trip through the floating gardens on a flat bottomed boat or go and have a look at Jules Vernes house, or if you don’t fancy that there are museums, art galleries and the town itself to visit. http://www.amiens-tourisme.com
Don’t miss the Bay of the Somme. This spectacular coastline stretches for 15 miles. It is the home to bird sanctuary’s, marshes and the usual pleasure boating trips and for the more adventurous you can hire canoes, water ski and be as daring as you want.
The other side of the Somme is of course the legacy left by many wars from Crecy to the Second World War, the Somme has been invaded, occupied and taken part in many of the major battles in history. There are plenty of war graves and monuments to visit, all interesting and all sad.
We went to view the battlefield at Crecy, now I am always saying to people that one of the things I love about France is the fact that very little is commercialised in the same way it would be in other parts of the world, however, even I was a little dismayed to discover that the famous battlefield was marked only by a sign post leading into a field. There is a monument to the fallen French in the town of Crecy and some drawings of, presumably, English archers, and that is it!
Another large town in the area is Abbeville. This once beautiful town was reduced to rubble by the Germans in the second World War There are however a couple of the older buildings left standing, one being St. Vulfrans Church, built in 15th century and famous for it’s gothic façade. The other is the Jacques Boucher de Crevecoeur de Perthes, the is a museum and here you can view art and objects d’art, mainly from the 16th century. The town has now been rebuilt and is still very attractive and welcoming. Abbeville has a lively shopping centre and many cafes and restaurants.
So there you have it, my guide to the Somme, but don’t take my word for it, get on your bike, great place for cycling by the way, or in your car, motor along the long and empty roads or walk, whatever your mode of transportation is, you will love it.
Leaving the Somme for a while, let’s have a look at happenings in the Departments, and there is only one word to describe next week, PARTYTIME !! Yes, Bastille Day, or, National day is upon us again. Have a look at your local tourist website or on posters in shops and other places in villages and towns to see what is happening in your area. One thing guaranteed, plenty of fireworks
Photography by Semmonz, August 2005