Picardie is a French region located in the northern part of the country, and it has a strong cultural identity. The region, for one thing, includes amazing Gothic churches like those in Amiens and Beauvais, along with notable cuisine, drink, plus traditions in sports, dance, and music. This region ranges from the beaches in the Somme estuary to the west, toward forested and pastured land in the east, southward to the skirts of Paris. The cities of Amiens, Beauvais, and Chantilly are three Picardie cities you may want to visit.
Amiens is a city with a population of around 136,000 and the area was inhabited as long ago as the Paleolithic era. In Roman times, Amiens was the central settlement of one of the main Gaul tribes, who were already issuing coinage by the first century BCE. The city’s prosperity, however, made it a target for invasions by various barbarian tribes, who managed to conquer the city multiple times.
Amiens was rebuilt in the 20th century, focusing on easing traffic problems. Newer structures were built of brick, stone, and concrete, with roofs of slate. Amiens was the site of large strikes by students, factory workers, and rail workers in May 1968, and eventually the city was paralysed by demonstrations and counter demonstrations. In October of that year the University of Amiens was founded in the city’s south western suburbs.
The city is made up of several neighbourhoods, each with its own characteristics. Saint-Leu, north of the city center, lies next to the Cathedral and has canals running between the wood and brick houses. It is filled with many cafes, discos, and restaurants, as well as cultural attractions like theatres and concert halls.
The Saint-Maurice neighbourhood is an industrial, working class neighbourhood currently undergoing much renovation, with a former dye factory becoming a school of arts and design, and an electronics institute located in the neighbourhood too. Henriville is a neighbourhood mostly built in the 19th century and full of homes and town houses, including Jules Verne’s house. Saint-Acheul is the region where many archaeological excavations took place leading to the discovery of prehistoric sites. A famous military cemetery is here, and the neighbourhood houses are in the English style. The Pigeonnier neighbourhood is noted for its weekend markets.
Beauvais is another city in Picardie, and has a population of around 60,000. The Beauvais Cathedral, the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais, is an amazing Gothic structure, consisting of a transept, quire, and apse, and seven apse-chapels. Vaulting inside reaches heights of 46 meters. The 10th century Romanesque church of the Basse Oeuvre is located where the nave would be. Carved wooden doors on the north and south portals are amazing representatives of Gothic and Renaissance craftsmanship. The astronomical clock, and tapestries are only outdone by the stained glass windows dating from the 13th, 14th, and 16th centuries.
Chantilly is only 38 km to the north-northeast of Paris, and is considered part of the metropolitan area of Paris, with a population of 36,000. The city is known for the Château de Chantilly, as well as its horse racing track, and the Living Museum of the Horse.
Picardie is close enough to Paris to make a suitable day trip, though there is enough history, architecture, and city life to make the region more than suitable for a stand-alone vacation.