The Oise River, born near Chimay in Belgium, is one of the tributtaries of the Seine. It gives name to the South-Westernmost part of Picardie, the closest to Paris, which is only about 35 kilometres South of the borderline. The Department was also created in 1790 with territories that had mostly made part of the former province of Ile de France.
The capital of the Department is located in Beauvais, whose catheral of Saint Peter, together with the cathedral of Our Lady in Noyon, is among the most significant buildings in the Department. There are also some of the most impressive French palaces and castles, like Pierrefonds, Compiègne and Chantilly, which is also known for its famous hippodrome and Horse Museum. Finally, the tiny town of Gerberoy is considered to be one of the most beautiful in France.
The department of the Somme is named after the main river in Picardy. It has its source in the department of the Aisne and flows into the English Channel after slowly meandering thorugh a picturesque area of canals, swamps and galery forests. The river also gives its name to one of the main battles fought in World War I.
The Department of the Somme was created in 1790, after the French Revolution, comprising the bulk of the former Province of Picardie (l'Amiénois, le Marquenterre, le Ponthieu, le Santerre and le Vimeu). It is the only one of the three Picard departments to have a small coastline.
Its capital, Amiens, is also the regional capital and one of the most interesting cities in France.
Saint-Riquier is a tiny town which knew a great development under Charles the Great. At the time, the town was known as Centule (the Ville aux Cent Tours- City of One Hundred Towers) and its inhabitants are still called Centulois. During the Middle Ages, the town changed its name to Saint-Riquier in honour of the saint whose relics attracted large numbers of pilgrims.
Today, Saint-Riquier is very small but has preserved a large number of attractions, including its Gothic abbey, the belfry, part of the fortifications and the so-called House of Napoleon. It has a strong rural atmosphere with a pungent flavour of France profonde, which make ideal for a desintoxication break after the urban excesses of Paris.
The capital of the former County of Ponthieu is not but a shadow of what it was before the destructions of wars, but there are still a few monuments worht of a visit, including one of the oldest French belfries and the Collegiate Church of Saint-Vulfran, which has a magnificent Flamboyant Gothic (unifnished) facade. Pictured here is a detail of the portal.
Noyon is today a quiet, little town in the Somme Department, but it achieved a great significance during the Middle Ages as the seat of an independent stated ruled by its bishop.
Evidence of this significance is its magnificient cathedral, which substituted a previous Romanesque church, and was one of the first Gothic buildings. This extraordinary primitive Gothic is a must for anybody with the slightest inclination towards the history of the art.
The former feudal castle of Pierrefonds was a total ruin in the beginning of the XIX century. It was overly resotred then after the fashion of that time, turning it into motion picture perfect castle.
Saint Quentin is located in an important crossroads, fact which brought prosperity but also made it extremely vulnerable to military attacks. The town has been destroyed several times and, in particular, during World War I, when 80 % of it was ravaged.
Subsequent reconstruction works have turned its centre into a pleasant place with several fine buildings. The jewel of the crown is obviously the Gothic Basilia, one of the many Gothic masterpieces in Picardy, but the City Hall and its large square (pictured here) are also dign of spending some time.
If you are visiting other cathedrals in Picardie, consider adding Soissons to your list. It was started contemporaneously with Notre Dame de Paris. It possesses an unusual treatment of its South transept. Also in town is a beautiful partially ruined Abbey (St.-Jean) that should not be missed.
Senlis is just out of the Ile-de-France (45 km from Paris). It can be reached by SNCF train to Chantilly and a connectiong bus, total time 1 hr. Alternately it is reached by car up the N17 past the C. de Gaulle Airport. We have written about staying in or near Senlis as a first or last night (or more) as part of trips to other parts of France. This allows one to visit nearby places without going near Paris.
Chantilly town is reached by the SNCF in less than half an hour. The connecting bus takes you to the Chateau (saving a 20 minute walk). The bus goes on and reaches Senlis within 20 minutes. The town is where sweetened whipped cream began, have a Charlotte aux Chantilly in town on your way home.
The Castle of Pierrefonds sits above the small village an it small lake. It was restored by Viollet-le-Duc and if you can get here, it is worth going through. The Parisians find it a terrific place to escape the crowded tenements in which they live and get out in the country here and just hang out. Only some of them seem to bother to visit the Castle.
Compiègne, a town of 70.000, has always been one of the favorite residences for the French royals. This is due to its location next to a huge forest where game abounds and hunting is still practised. Today, only 15.000 hectares remain of this forest that used to reach Belgium in former centuries. The forest is crossed by thousands of kilometres of paths and hiking trails.
This is a view of the interior of the Palace at Compiègne, a severe Louis XV residence whose interior is a perfect sample of the Napoleonic style, since the Emperor and his wife used to stay here for long periodes.
Technical difficulties and lack of funds resulted in the magnificient cathedral of Beauvais remaining unfinished. In spite of that, what has been done is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and indeed its choir, at 68 metres, is the highest ever built.
Today, Beauvais is a city of only 60.000 inhabitants, capital of the Oise département.
The Rambures castle is a good example of XV century military architecture in France. It played a major role during the 100 Year War, as it was a French enclave in English territory. This military character is well seen in the thickness of its brick walls. Nevertheless, the castle endured an XVIII centry renovation that transformed into a stately residence.
There are guided tours to the castle and its park during the warmer months of the year.
This charming little town on the Somme estuary combines the atmosphere of a fishing port in its ville basse with the history of the churches and old buildings in its ville haute.
Saint Valery is a good base for exploring the Somme Bay and the Marquenterre, one of the birdwatchers' favorite areas in France.
Great view!!! Wonderful view of the Cathedral from right out your room window! Nice quiet location,...more
214 rue des Moulins, Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, 80230, France
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Route de Plailly, La Chapelle-en-Serval, Picardy, 60520, France
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