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
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.
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
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.
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!
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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