Ma Future Ville: Amiens
Amiens (population just over 130,000) is the capital of Picardie, a region that is now part of Hauts-de-France. It is situated 90 miles north of Paris. This year is the 100th anniversary of World War I, a war closely tied to the history of Amiens due to the city's proximity to the first Battle of the Somme. (Sebastian Faulks' 1997 novel Birdsong is set in Amiens during the war, and is a book I plan to read as I take in the city's rich history.)
Since learning that I will spend my seven months in France living in Amiens, I have started to research the many charms of ma future ville. I have been delighted to discover all that there is to see, do, and bien sûr eat in the city of Amiens.
To See (voir)
- Notre Dame d'Amiens (pictured above) is one of this city's shining stars. A World Heritage Site, it is among the largest cathedrals in the world with the tallest complete nave in all of France. A bit of history from The Good Life France blog:
"During the process of laser cleaning in the 1990s, it was discovered that the western façade of the cathedral was originally painted. Elaborate lighting techniques now project these colors directly on the façade, recreating the appearance of the 13th century original."
While these light shows are primarily a summer event, I will be able to enjoy le spectacle son et lumière de polychromie in December. I can't wait to stand before this architectural marvel.
- Les Hortillonages, the gardens that float along the canals, date back to the Middle Ages. (Because of its network of canals, Amiens has been called the little Venice of the north.) Marcia DeSanctis lists les hortillonages in her book 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go:
"On market morning, the hortillons fill up their punts with radishes, artichokes, leeks, melons and flowers and bring them to the growers market on Place Parmentier at the foot of the cathedral."
Marcia also describes experiencing the canals by boat or more specifically barque à cornet. This is definitely on my list for my arrival in September/October before it gets too cold.
- Quartier Saint-Leu - the perfect stop after exploring the canals by boat, lined with colorful buildings filled with cafés, restaurants, and bars.
- Maison de Jules Verne -- Famed author Jules Verne spent the last 18 years of his life in Amiens and visitors can now tour his home.
Musée de Picardie, a museum dedicated to Picardy's past and prehistory is currently closed for renovation until Autumn 2019 so I will miss it this trip, but is something I absolutely want to check out on a future trip to France.
To Do (faire)
- La Grande Réderie d'Amiens -- The Amiens flea market is held twice a year in April and October. According to the website, "51 streets in the town center are closed to welcome some 500 professional dealers and 2,000 casual traders from all over France." The flea market will occur during one of my first weekends in Amiens, and I hope to pick up a few treasures that will make my apartment feel like a home away from home.
- Festival du Film d'Amiens -- Taking place in November, this international film festival is among the five largest film festivals in France. I always enjoy the chance to watch films in French and hope to catch a few films this fall.
- Le Marché de Noël d'Amiens -- I am crazy excited to experience Christmas markets in France, and am lucky to be living in a city with the largest Christmas market in the north. Frenchly even lists Amiens second for French Christmas markets you just can't miss. Trips to check out the markets in Paris and Strasbourg might also be in order...
To Eat (manger)
- Not to be confused with the colorful macarons that often look too beautiful to eat, Amiens is known for macarons made from almond paste, eggs, and honey. Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini describes them in more detail:
"These macarons are baked in molds, giving them a hockey puck shape, and they are individually wrapped in golden foil. They also have a denser texture, crusty but very moist inside."
- Another sweet treat, Marcia DeSanctis (her book is linked above) mentions the Gâteau Battu (beaten cake) in her description of Amiens, describing the cake made with butter and egg yolks as "heart-stopping". The tourist site Visit Somme provides more details and a recipe for this Picardy tradition. Click here for more.
- It's not all sweet in the north. My research also led me to the ficelle picarde, a savory crêpe filled with cheese, mushrooms, and ham. I look forward to enjoying these regional specialties and more.
Click each image for image source.
Have you been to Amiens? Let me know if there are any other charms I shouldn't miss in the comments below!
Warm wishes from me to you!