Heading North


Moulin de Flandre

The Coastline : Dunes, Beaches and Ports

Splendid views of the Baie de Somme with its infinite light.. Stroll through St-Valery-sur-Somme, Rue, Le Crotois. The ornithological park of Marquenterre is a paradise for bird lovers; they reside there in their thousands. Then there are the seaside resorts : Le Touquet, combining the modernity of its sports facilities with its infinite charm; the resorts of the Opale coast where the wind carries along sailing coasters, speed sailing, as in Hardelot. Wild coasts, beaches of fine sand, dunes and white cliffs -this is Boulogne, a port town whose upper town is surrounded by ramparts.

In Nausicaa's National Sea Centre you will find yourself in the midst of some 5,000 fish. Further on you will reach Calais with its tunnel opening into the Channel linking it with England, its motionless and powerful Les Bourgeois de Calais, sculpted by Rodin, and another fine sculpture borne of the hands of women.. the museum of lace. Maritime Flanders, with its landscapes of polders and copses. Dunkirk, "the church of the dunes" displaying its port museum housed in the former Tobacco Warehouse, its museum of contemporary art and its museum of fine arts.

Plain of Artois and the Mills of Flanders

Arras Artois with Arras and its XVII and XVIII century Flemish-style squares, its underground and medieval life, its highly ornate belfry. Nearby, Vimy, a memorial and the Parc Canadien remind us of the intense battles of the first World War. On foot, on bicycle or on horseback, make your way from the plain towards the hills. The mills here have a Flemish accent.. Hondschootse, Pitgam, Steevoorde. Make a date with Marguerite Yourcenar in the museum dedicated to her.

Gothic Passion

The Basilica of Saint Denis is a shrine to the Saint. An intellectual centre in the Middle Ages, the monks devoted themselves to the writing of the chronicles of the kingdom. A millennium of royal funerals, it is the tomb of the kings! The revolution saw the entry of the people and Chateaubriand wrote of "the people throwing the dust of dead kings into the faces of living kings in order to blind them". Marking the beginning of the gothic style, it was a model for Chartres. Meaux in its great unity is a supreme nave of astonishing clarity. The chancel adds the finishing Notre-Dame touches to the beauty of this building while, on the aisle, the statue of Bossuet, famous for his funeral orations and for his defense of the Gallican church, reigns supreme. Making one's way northward once more, the transitional gothic style becomes radiant and flamboyant. This is where the style reached its maturity. Stones of light.. these are the cathedrals of Saint-Omer, Saint-Quentin, Soissons and Noyon which still bear the mark of the romanesque style. In Laon, the astonishing cathedral crowns the mountain where the old town spreads out in tiers. Beauvais and Amiens celebrate the dazzling gothic era and the golden age of the rose. And then come the embellishments of sculpted stone, the wrought ironwork having the appearance of lace in the facades of Saint-Vulfrant in Abbeville and the chapel of Saint-Esprit in Rue. The abbey of Saint-Riquier marks the end of this flamboyant gothic style.

Monastic Space

Stained Glass The abbey of Royaumont was modeled on the design of Clairvaux (Champagne). An example of Cistercian austerity and yet of immense proportions, it was the royal abbey. You enter it via the park where you discover a superb collection of buildings: monks building, the church of Notre - Dame, the largest Cistercian monastery in France, the inner formal garden, and, of course, one of the finest refectories of the XIII century. Through the royal forests of the Oise... visit the abbeys, that of Moncel is a masterpiece of Franciscan architecture. In Douai, the museum of la Chartreuse is a vestige of monastic architecture. Here one can admire works dating from the XV to the XIX centuries.. Veronese, Rubens, Pissaro, Sisley, Renoir.. Flanking the old wharves and streets and dominating the town, is the belfry with its 62 bells.

Some Towns to See...

Lille, Flemish, Burgundian, French, queen of the citadels, with its exhuberant facades, its Musee Hospice Comtesse with its interesting collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings, its museum of Fine Arts with its Rubens, Delacroix, Goya (to be reopened in 1996). It was also the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle.

Mussels, chips and beers: the famous "braderie" - open air sale - during the first week of September; the entertainment is always lively there. Lille also represents modernity Euralille, near the historical centre, has asserted its new futuristic image and TGV station, Conference Centre, office blocks and hotels, the signature of some of the greatest names in architecture for an avant-garde district!

Lille Cambrai, associated with the history of textiles, offers a picturesque sight with its paved streets, its 17th and 18th century houses, its classically Nordic Cathedral containing the tomb of Fenelon the church of St-Gery where red and black marble compliment perfectly a superb baroque rood screen.

Amiens, birthplace of Jules Verne: this can be discovered by boat on the floating gardens. Its cathedral is the largest religious edifice in France.

Saint-Quentin, its art deco facades and its town hall, its musee Lecuyer and the famous pastels of Quentin de la Tour.

Provins, former capital of the Counts of Champagne, a very beautiful town with its fortress. Its streets and private homes bear testimony to the intensity of life in the city in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Meaux : visit the Episcopalian palace, the gardens and the musee Bossuet. The old districts of a town between the ramparts and the Marne whose market is located on the loop of the river. Birthplace of French Protestantism.

Senlis, a superb town classified as a historical monument, is surrounded by Roman walls, and has winding paved streets. Contemporary cathedral of Saint Denis.

Saint- Germain-en-Laye, its Castle and its exceptional Museum of National Antiquities, the musee du Prieure and the Musee de la 2eDB. Also to be seen the tremendous festival des Loges!


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