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Life is complex. You just have to know that I had to accompany a good friend of mine in order to repatriate a cat that belonged to his ex-gf. I would never have visited Picardy in winter if it had not been for this specific occasion. 3 days without hot water in a little Picard village surrounded by strange and archetypal Ch'ti people. I was alcoholized for most of my stay.

Let's begin with our neverending trip on French highways from Bordeaux to Amiens ... We left Bordeaux in the morning and we only got to Amiens in the late afternoon (around 5pm) as that damn cat had decided to defecate in the car North of Paris. I'll add some more kilometres around Valenciennes in that first post.



Leaving Bordeaux on Pont d'Aquitaine :



Reaching Charente-Maritime (good bye southern France :D) : the vast plain from Saintes to the Ural mountains begins.



In the distance is Saintes :





Ahhh Poitou. Its marshes. Its flat landscapes. Poitou was my definition for boredom before visiting Picardy.





North of Poitiers, slate roofs appear : that's the true France. Then the weather got disastrous as we went through central France.





Near Orléans :







It was very cold : it had snowed in the morning, the temperature was about 1°C.



And then Paris emerged. I wonder which feeling most foreigners get when reaching Paris. My feelings are always that it's where Jean-Marie Poiré's movies were shot. Bypassing Paris in the East :







Towards Lille ! The northern front, let's beat those Germans with our proud taxis.





After hours of highway, time to enter that zoo named reality.



Cuvilly in Oise (modern Picardy) : the truth is that this area belonged to Île-de-France.





We're entering true Picardy when entering the Somme département !







Beuvraignes : the TGV was made so that people crossing Picardy could leave more quickly.





Roye : there are people living here.





On the road to Amiens.





We eventually got to Amiens where we met a good friend of us who happened to visit the town. The weather was really bad. A nice coffee. We reached the little village - where my friend's mother lives - where we would sleep under a heavy snow. No pics as they're all blurry.

The following day, when getting awake :





My friend insisted on visiting paved roads used for the Paris-Roubaix cycling race. I wanted to visit Arras or Lille, I'll see paved roads ... Brel came to my mind.





Carnoy :



A strange phenomenon : it seems that light does travel as far north as northern France.





Highway ! Civilization at last !







Entering Nord-Pas-de-Calais. So this region exists after all. I believed that it was just mediatic hype. If you're interested in the names of the following villages, just tell me.









Cambrai's "skyline" :











Leaving the highway is heart-breaking. Belgium was awaiting me. But those damn paved roads were our main priority.







My friend wanted to surprise me. "You love History, don't you ? Well, you'll love to know that this is where Germinal was shot !". Err ... "Why don't you take pics, aren't you fascinated ?"

Arenberg (one of France's southernmost Dutch toponyms ?)











Terrils are northern France's mountains.



I had never seen such a strange weather in my life : a very low sky and no luminosity and yet it was not raining. Quite frankly, it's just impossible to take pretty pics under these atmospheric conditions. We had to come back to the little village not far from Amiens in order to visit a military museum managed by my friend's uncle (the man spent his whole money in military objects from both world wars for 40 years, while living in a caravan). But Douai has to be bypassed if we want to come back to Picardy.













Next : we'll visit Amiens and surrounding areas.
 

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Funny. Typical impression of a person from southern France going to the very north of France. A kinda like the brick and Belgian look typical of the houses and even churches in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions. The "North" is different.
 

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This looks like it could have been taken in the North of England.

I guess 'the North' is always different wherever you are :)
Yes, the North end is often more extreme in how it can look different than the South end of a country (at least France, Spain and Italy). It seems that in those countries the south transitions more gradually with the center while the look from the center to the north changes more rapidly.

Those churches taken in Nord and Picardie also look like they can be in England to me. They look so different from what you would find in the rest of France, including Paris which is already quite northern.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It cannot be doubted that there's a striking "civilizational" border some 50km North of Paris. There, France is being "diluted" into northern Europe (not that much with England which still shares much with Atlantic France at least when comparing rural Normandy with "Ye Olde England"). You never get such a feeling when going to Normandy or Champagne which are quintessential French regions. Despite being a northern town by geography, Paris belongs to the great central French cultural sphere : from Poitou to Picardy. When coming from northern France, as soon as you reach the Oise river, a great sense of "French" familiarity emerges.

This is no coincidence that Dutch irredentist claims on France do more or less match such feelings. :D



Linguistics is helpful as well : the Picard linguistic domain defines a coherent cultural area.

 

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^^ Note to others who may not know: Rijsel is the Dutch or at least the Flemish word for Lille. So Lille and all of it's region + northern Picardie share certain heritage and history with Dutch and Flemish/Belgian cities as that map suggests. If I'm not mistaken, the whole area in GREEN is France (at the very north end, near the Belgian border)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Indeed, that green part is the whole modern "Nord-Pas de Calais" region which is more or less 4 former historical provinces lumped together : French Flanders around Lille (Rijsel in Dutch), Artois around Arras (Atrecht in Dutch), Cambraisis around Cambrai (Kamerijk in Dutch) and Boulonnais around Boulogne (Bonen in Dutch), the latest being the maritime part of Picardie and where most Dutch toponyms can be found (despite Romance languages being spoken locally for centuries).

The Seventeen Provinces materialized that cultural unity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventeen_Provinces
 

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Very nice tour and pics, and welcome back.
Your feelings visiting Northern France are somewhat similar to the feelings a Central Italian can have visiting Northern Italy. You have my heartfelt understanding and compassion. :D
 

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Lol, I see you really fell in love with ch'tiland!

I remember from driving through France that on the motorway somewhere around halfway down (charente-maritime?) there is a great big sign at the side of the motorway saying something like "bienvenue aux autoroutes du sud de la France"

Are the motorways managed by different departments in the two halves of the country or is it just to reassure fearful southerners like giri that they are back in familiar territory?
 

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Any country of a certain size has these differences, plus if you add a different climate it's even more apparent. What I don't get is why it has such a bad reputation within France? It doesn't look so bad to me, plus I love that nothern feel you get in those places and everything that involves: rain, fog, gritty industrial areas, mild summers, lush green countryside all year round...
I´m originally from a mining area in northern Spain so all this looks more than familiar to me :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
The next day, my hosts insisted on touring British cemeteries in the region. I fear that when you've seen one, you've seen them all.



"La Boisselle". This is here the Battle of the Somme was played. I can't help thinking that the French were lucky bastards : Verdun is a much better scenery.





From "La Boisselle", one can guess the town of Albert (formerly Ancre). The weather then decided that it had not shown me its greatest powers.





The British memorial in Thiepval :





This monument possesses some "grandeur" but it's actually awfully cheap. I presume that the panorama must be great under good climatic conditions.





Let's visit Albert. It's an archetypal northern French town. Red bricks and Art-Nouveau rule.





Inside the Basilica Notre-Dame de Brébières :







Let's head to Amiens, Picardy's capital. One has to go through the Picard plateau. It was snowy just two days ago (february 2010).

Bécordel-Bécourt :





Ribemont-sur-Ancre :







Heilly :







And then Amiens appears. The two main attractions are instantly visible : the Cathedral on the right, the Perret Tower on the left. I can't help thinking that somehow, the Perret Tower is a better marvel than the Cathedral. With Perret, France really renewed horizontal architecture : it should have been the main source for subsequent "towerblocks", France would now be a neo-neo-gothic pseudo NY paradise.









Entering Amiens.





Let's begin our tour of the town in Place Saint-Michel.



Is there a town in France where Victor Hugo is not a street name ? Homogenization of placenames in France is a XIXth century disease.



"Dieu le veut".







Place de la Cathédrale : there used to be a parking lot. New buildings were erected on the right.





In France, cathedrals close at 5PM. If you want to pray, think about it before it's too late. Hence no pics from the interior.



Rue Dusevel connects the Cathedral with the main street : Rue des Trois Caillous.



Rue des Trois Caillous :









The Perret Tower cannot be visited anymore. What a pity.



Place René Goblet :





T'Chiot is a Picard word meaning "little one". "Ha ben ouais mi t'chiot".



Rue des Trois Cailloux ends as we reach the railstation. The former mayor lost the elections because of that metallic veranda. Quite frankly, I like it, it's a bit surreal.














I was invited to share a meal at my friend's sister's. Ponche. I got a tiny success thanks to my impressions of SW French peasants. The next day, it was time to say goodbye to Picardy and Fricourt. I won't miss cold showers.





The mighty A1 towards Paris.





Pleyel Tower in Saint-Denis, in the suburbs of Paris :



The whole capital was obstructed. I had a fantastic idea : let's take good old national roads, west of Paris ! We got lost in the surroundings of Versailles for 2 hours.



Bougival :





Funnily enough, when in Paris, I feel in France. A curious feeling indeed. Those buildings are so familiar. This is periurban life that television has been forcing upon us for decades. RER railstations, brown and pointed tile roofs, ochre complexion, villages ending in -y, ...

Yet, rural Yvelines is a maze for newcomers. Around Rennemoulin.







Towards Rambouillet :





Mareil-le-Guyon : Île-de-France as it used to be.



I had another terrific idea. Actually, I had to : my friend was infuriated after 2 hours' time in Paris' suburbs. He's quite bad at geography and he was persuaded that we were already South of Orléans. We were in Rambouillet ... As a consequence, I made him take the road to Chartres so that we avoid roadsigns guiding us to Orléans. For my friend, Le Mans, Nantes, ... were appeasing. He should have a look at a map of France.

Rambouillet :







Since we really did not aim at visiting Brittany, we had to take national roads. The most boring thing ever. More than 2 hours' driving in rural Beauce (former province of Orléanais) and Touraine, France's main agricultural areas before reaching Tours and the Loire river.

Vitray-en-Beauce :





Bonneval :



Around Châteaudun (Eure-et-Loir) :









Jallans :



Châteaudun :



Indre-et-Loire more or less matches the former province of Touraine.



Vendôme :





Ambloy :



Tours !







After Touraine is Poitou, a transitional area between northern and southern France. Châtellerault :



Poitiers :





The main square in Vivonne (Poitou) :



The road to Angoulême :



South of Angoulême, begins the South.





Pinetrees appear around Barbezieux (Charente) :



End of the tour.
 

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Me too, me too. I'm sad this is an old thread you brought up here Nijal, so I cannot hope for more pics??? Some of the pics from Amiens are actually pretty neat, I guess even a Southern Frenchie has to acknowledge that and the weather seemed to have been bad in Bordeaux already :p But it what a nice road story to read hehe...
I like the look of the brick houses in Northern France, because I like this kind of architecture.
 
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