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Sifex France Guide to Picardy

The region of Picardy is eminently accessible whether from Paris or the shores of England and has for long been deservedly popular for weekend breaks. Within an hour’s drive of the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel and an easy train ride from Paris, is the vast sandy Bay of the Somme where sand yachters race across the beaches and families enjoy the vast spaces, superb micro climate and wonderful fresh seafood. The Domaine de Marquenterre is a nature reserve, home to many species of wild birds. There are many sites of historical interest including the spot at St Valery Sur Somme from which William the Conqueror set forth to conquer England. Forever immortalised in the words of the popular wartime song’ Roses are blooming in Picardy”, the region still bears testament to the huge conflict that raged over its now peaceful fields with the cemeteries, battlefields and monuments which pepper the countryside.

In terms of architectural interest the region has six of the finest cathedrals in France including Amiens, Beauvais, Laon, Soissons, Senlis and St Quentin, no less than ten fortified castles and at least twenty one châteaux as well as a plethora of abbeys and churches whether Cistercian, Romanesque or Gothic. To the south east of the department one can observe the splendour of the moated Château de Chantilly complete with the famous Living Horse Museum and racecourse. Compiègne, a classical town with beautiful stone buildings, boasts the magnificent 18th Century Palace once frequented by Louis 14th but most celebrated in the day of the Empress Eugénie and Napoleon 3rd. An unexpected bonus is the Opera House, scene of many fabulous productions, a miniature jewel intended as a copy of the opera house at Versailles. Nearby in the forest is the site of the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

On the gastronomic front the choice in Picardy is as extensive as anywhere in France and includes the famous ‘ficelle picarde’, a savory pancake, “tarte au maroilles” a cheese tart featuring the local cheese, Maroilles, the lamb from the salt marshes, the delectable ‘crevettes grises’ (fresh shrimps) and seafood generally, especially in the restaurants of the coastal towns and villages and last but not least, the famous Crème de Chantilly. Activities include walking, cycling, pony trekking, carriage rides, fishing and hunting, sand yachting, sailing and golf. Inland there are pretty river valleys and vast forests including those of Crecy and Compiegne. Whether your interest is culture, sport or the cornucopia of delights to be sampled, Picardy is still relatively unknown and delightfully unspoilt. Copyright: Sarah Francis

© 2003-2006 Sarah Francis

Sifex France Guide to the Departments in Picardy