June 14, 2014- In planning my trip to France, I was drawn to Amiens by two factors: The Somme, and its role in World War I, the Centenary of which we begin to observe this year; and the fact that some of my online friends have a friend living in the capital of Picardie.
When I arrived in Amiens, it was a Friday night, with the bars and restaurants quite alive- at 11 PM. I found the Picard spirit of friendliness, coquetry among the young ladies and a “Where’ve ya been, Bud?”atmosphere pervading the Grand Canal and the district called St. Leu. My huge hotel was a tomb, by comparison- despite the gracious welcome by desk clerk Therese and the raucous group of Turks next door to my room.
I headed along the canal, and the edge of the Cathedral District. I will present Amiens in three parts: The water, both river and canal; the cathedral, interior and exterior; and the city centre, both medieval and modern. The Friday night and all day Saturday was one very full ride. Never mind that I was walking- you get my drift!
Here are the canals and the towpaths in their midst. It was a fabulously hoppin’ Nuit du Vendredi.
As in much of Europe, the sidewalks don’t get rolled up much before 1 AM, if then.
The canals look deep.
Picard humour is evident everywhere, and I was drawn in a few times, as I will recount. A local insisted I must be of Picard extraction, as my nose is prominent, like his and those of his family members. I wouldn’t be surprised. Picards would have naturally been swept along with the Normans, when they swept down out of the North Sea lanes, through Holland and Flanders.
Amens, like many French towns, adopted the row house to billet workers, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. This row is close to St. Leu.
The linchpin of the Somme and its canals is Parc Saint Pierre.
The true radiance of the water, this far north, and at this time of day, comes from its interplay with light.
A bit “sideways” and to the north, a tad, is the crown jewel of this part of the Somme: L’Hortillonage. Let’s have a look. Down the stairs we go.
There is more cat and mouse, between light and shadow. This is where the natural flora of the Somme is preserved.
The Somme emerges from its canals and small locks.
Here, the farmer and the naturalist have made a peace.
I met a farmer, walking his dog, near here. He reminded me of the friend of my Xanga friends, a man I have seen only in his profile picture when he responds to aforementioned mutual Cyberpals. Amiens has kept its natural profile quite well.
NEXT: The Ins and Outs of Amiens Cathedral