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Picardie (Picardy) is one of the least known regions of France. It is mainly famous for its battlefields from the first and second world wars particularly the Somme, although the region is rich in early history also. Today it is a region of old fashioned towns and quiet resorts, yet within it are great cathedrals and abbeys among other echoes of past glories and medieval might.
Picardie has 3 departments, Somme, Aisne and Oise. 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.
Picardie is a rich and fertile land and there are probably more historic monuments here than in any other region of France. It is here, that the history of France itself begins well over a thousand years ago and that the first seeds were sown of a modern Europe at peace with itself.
Picardie has always been open to artistic and cultural influences. It is the cradle of gothic art with six splendid cathedrals and numerous churches and abbeys. Amiens, with the largest gothic cathedral in Europe as well as the medieval Quartier St. Leu. If you love Gothic, Beauvais, Laon, Senlis, Noyon and Soissons with their massive cathedrals and old centres very much alive, you will enjoy Picardie, especially on market days. Picardie's culture is kept alive in exhibitions and in festivals of music, theatre and film.
Coastline, Nature and Leisure
The Picardie Coast is the most unspoilt stretch of coastline in the whole of France. Due to little development, the coastline has kept all its original beauty, immense and changing, and bathed in half tones of light - patches of colour, tender and blue-tinged, steely or mauve. It was such hues that inspired Sisley, Degas or Seurat, all of whom came to set up their easels and try and capture this enchanting light.
Unspoilt shores, plains and forests, canals and rivers. A haven for anyone who likes fishing and water sports, cycling and riding, the region also boasts a number of leisure parks and facilities to enjoy with family or friends. There are over 2000 km of lanes and pathways for cycling and horse-riding Why not try land-yachting or speed-sailing, kayaking, gliding or hot air ballooning? For golfing enthusiasts there are some of the best golf courses in the whole of France to choose from.
Jules Verne lived in Amiens (take a horse drawn carriage tour round his town).
The annual festival of Picard chairs and furniture, held at Beaucamp-le-Vieux is an opportunity for people to admire the work of the "pailleuses" (the straw-weavers) of the Bresle and the Liger Valleys who make the renowned "Ch'-cayelle". Other crafts - with the Royal Tapestry Manufactory at Beauvais, Amiens velvet or the embroidery of Saint-Quentin. The Le Creuset foundary at Fresnoy-le-Grand: Pottery and Ceramics in general and glass at the Blangy-sur-Bresle Glassworks or the "Galerie du Vitrail" stained glass gallery in Amiens. Gold and silver-smiths too.
Archery is the regional sport par excellence since the Middle Ages; there is an archery festival each spring with numerous competitions involving large numbers of participants.
Food and Drink
The sunny slopes of Aisne grow grapes that produce Champagne so head for pretty Fossoy or Charly-sur-Marne for genuine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée bubbly! The old town of Chantilly is famous not just for its magnificent chateau and hunting forest, its lace and Crème Chantilly, but also for its wonderful equestrian stables.
Distinctive products such as eel, lamb from the salt-flats of the Somme, Maroilles cheese, waterfowl, summer fruit, "gateau battu", cider, champagne from the vineyards of the Aisne, as well as traditional French cuisine using local produce: foie gras, "ficelle picarde", delicious Chantilly cream...