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The Picardie (Picardy) region of France

Regional Departments
Somme, Aisne, Oise.

Main Towns
Amiens, Abbeville, Beauvais, Compiègne, St Quentin, Soissons.

The Picardie coastline is one the most unspoilt in the whole of France. Little or no development has meant that the area has kept its natural beauty, immense and ever changing, bathed in half tones of light patches of colour, gentle and blue-tinged, steely or purple. It was such hues that inspired the painters Sisley, Degas or Seurat, all of whom came to try and capture this landscape and extraordinary light.

Unspoilt beaches, plains and forests, canals and rivers. A haven for anyone who likes fishing and water sports, cycling and riding, the region also has a number of leisure parks and facilities to enjoy with family or friends. There are over 2000 km of country lanes and bridleways for cycling and riding, facilities for sand yachting or speed-sailing, kayaking, gliding or hot air ballooning. For golfers, there are some of the best golf courses in the whole of France to choose from. Where ever you go in Picardie, behind every shop counter, market stall and restaurant table, every historical site or nature reserve, is someone willing to share their passion for and a part of their Picardie.

The heart of the Somme Valley is less than an hour's drive from Calais on the A16 and Beauvais, the capital of Oise, is less than an hour's drive from Paris. There are probably more historic monuments here than in any other region of France and it is here that the history of France itself began well over a thousand years ago and where the first seeds were sown of a modern Europe at peace with itself.

Picardie has always been open to artistic and cultural influences and a succession of exhibitions and festivals of music, theatre and film take place through the year. It is the cradle of Gothic art with six splendid cathedrals and numerous churches and abbeys in hidden country villages. Amiens has the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. Beauvais, Laon, Senlis, Noyon and Soissons with their massive cathedrals and lovely medieval centres are others.

On the edge of Amiens beside the River Somme is a network of canals and market gardens where until recently, punts full of vegetables being poled to market were a common sight. The practice is dying out now but you can still explore the canals by boat. The estury of the Somme around Abbeville is an area of extreme natural beauty, a vast protected maritime reserve and home to many endangered species of birds. The panorama around the bay at the small fishing port of Le Crotoy inspired Jules Verne to write '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea'. The sandy beach is popular in summer and the town has restaurants serving super fresh fish, watersports facilities and tennis courts.

In the Oise, forty minutes from Paris, is Chantilly, a lovely town in itself and famous for chantilly cream (try a vanilla ice cream drenched with cognac, topped with a cloud of cream) and for its stables and racing track (the Prix de Diane Hermès takes place in June). The splendid cream coloured Renaissance château is surrounded by a lake with 18th century gardens designed by Le Nðtre, fountains and the Princes' Kitchen Garden. The Great Stables once housed 240 horses.


Terrines and game pâtés, leek tart, shellfish and fresh water fish, prime lamb from the salt-flats of the Somme, juicy beef steaks, wild duck, summer fruits from Compiègne with a pile of Chantilly cream or plum tarts and, no table would be complete without Maroilles cheese. Champagne from the vineyards of Château-Thierry, beer, cider, perry ( pear juice), Burgundy and Loire wines.


By Air
Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, 30 minutes drive from Paris into southern Picardie
Beauvais-Tille Airport in the Oise, 50 minutes from Paris.

By Road
The journey by road from Calais or Paris to Amiens both take 90 minutes. Laon is 2 hours.

By Train
There are excellent local network with frequent connections to and from Paris to all major destinations in Picardie and from Calais. Eurostar London/Paris Gare du Nord is 2 hours with frequent daily departures.

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