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Daytrip from Paris: Amiens

I must admit, I didn’t know much about Amiens. In fact, even after visiting the capital city of Picardy, I still have much to learn about it. My daytrip happened very much out of coincidence, suggested by Anne when we were chatting one day while I was searching for an interesting place not far from Paris that I could visit. At that point, I’ve been working on getting myself upgraded from the status of Voyageur to Grand Voyageur with the national train company, SNCF, and I was just a couple of train rides short from making it.

Travel time between Paris-St Lazare and Amiens takes just a little over an hour on the inter-city train, and as the train pulled into the station of Amiens, I could spot the one dominant building in the skyline – the Amiens Cathedral. My plan for the day then was to visit the cathedral, the historical centre of Amiens, and the Hortillonnages. I wish there was a walking tour that I could join, but a quick check on the eve of my visit showed that the sole walking tour available for the months of September to June runs only on Saturday afternoons. Visiting on a Wednesday, I was out of luck.

Amiens train station

Le Carlton

Amiens

War memorial

Doorway

Given it was easy to spot the cathedral, I figured that was the general direction I should be heading. A mere few minute after leaving the train station, already I was stumbling across a war memorial and spotted the east end of the cathedral through a side street. Happy to be on the right direction, I continued my random walk, passing by the legal complexes, a small square, and finally found myself face to face with the south portal of the cathedral.

Just right ahead, I spotted the tourist information centre. It was here that I obtained a map of central Amiens, and to also rent a handset with pre-recorded guide to the Amiens Cathedral. It is thanks to this guide that I know a little more about the various features of the cathedral and the significance it had through the ages. However, it was a guide for a private bus of tourists from whom I overheard giving amazing details that I would love to stay on and listen through, but it would look too suspicious for me to hover around the group for an hour or so, no?

Cour d'Appel

Amiens

Amiens

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral

The morning passed quickly and for most part of the afternoon, I walked around the city to try to get a general feel to it. What I noticed was a large number of churches even within a small area, having passed by a good 4-5 others of which I didn’t visit, and spotted another 3-4 in distance thanks to their prominent towers. A couple other notable buildings are that of the Musée de Picardie that was purpose-built as a museum and in the style of a palace based on Napoleon III’s model of extension to the Louvre, and the neo-classical municipal library.

It is on and around Mail Albert 1er that the importance of Jules Verne becomes evident. The author of Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea married a local woman and lived there with his new family from 1871 until his death in 1905. A circus – Cirque Jules Verne – was named after him, and so had the street running parallel, south, to Mail Albert 1er. His former home is today a museum dedicated to him, and in a park nearby, a bust of him surrounded by reading children can be found.

Amiens

Eglise St Remi

Picardy Museum

Maison de Jules Verne

Amiens

Before I realised it, I didn’t have much time left before my return train to Paris to visit the Hortillonages. The floating gardens of Amiens are set among the marshland between River Somme and River Avre, and I was told by Anne to definitely not miss it. I legged it over as fast as I could – not easy on a warm sunny afternoon – and took the first turn down along the river, on chemin de Halage.

Immediately, I was plunged into calm and beautiful natural site, surrounded by water, trees, flowers, small country paths and unusual houses. Unfortunately, I saw but just a teeny tiny part of the Hortillonages before I had to make a U-turn to leave. I didn’t even visit the canals that earned it the nickname “Little Venice of the North”. :(

St Leu

Amiens architecture

Amiens

Amiens

Amiens

I should have booked for a seat on a later train back to Paris. Then again, I had not anticipated just how much there were for me to see and to visit. My old guidebook to France had but a small column about Amiens, and certain online articles indicated that it’s a small and undistinctive town except for the grandeur of the cathedral.

I’d like to counter that they are wrong. Amiens has plenty of its own charm, and it merits more than just the duration of about one working day that I’ve allocated. I’d happily take on a few more extra hours, making it a long daytrip. As it was, I didn’t enter any museums, I didn’t visit the Hortillonages properly, and I only saw the St Leu quarter from afar. I’d like some evening time to see the illuminations of the cathedral too. Yet another city to put on my “to revisit” list!

Amiens: full photoset on Flickr



Category: Europe, France, Travel

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6 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Yeah…go again hehehe ;)

  2. Judith says:

    So nice to see that you had such a great time in my home region (and that you want to come back), Lilian! I’m glad that you were able to look past the “indistinctiveness”, because there is much to see in Amiens (and beyond… have you ever visited the castles of Chantilly or Pierrefonds?). xx

    • Lil says:

      I certainly had a wonderful time, and Chantilly is actually one of the places on the to-go-soon-in-this-summer list! I must take a look at Pierrefonds. I’m being kept busy running around areas near Paris, that’s for sure ;)

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