Meandering back up the Somme – 2

We left Amiens on 10th September and headed for Corbie where Sue and Alan (Suzanne) told us there was space and even got a couple of boats to squeeze up so that we could fit onto the lower pontoon outside the campsite. We wanted to paint the starboard side of the hull that we couldn’t reach when we were on the raised pontoon at Zelzate. It was still far from easy – in fact we had to lie down flat on the pontoon to reach down to the waterline. Not much fun but we were determined to get it finished before the winter.

Sue and Alan were completing some upholstery changes having had the inside of their boat altered with the help of David Wrigglesworth at the beginning of the season. Small world yet again! I lent them my sewing machine and we finally managed to get together for a proper drink & chat. We just love the kiwi boaters we seem to meet!

Keith and Lucreze came down in their campervan for a couple of days which was great – apart from the jobs we had to complete – leak hunting and painting! We all went to the John Monash Memorial Centre and ate at the Carolina restaurant near the moorings. Keith took away the Heinz salad cream and malt vinegar supplies he had requested!

We then met Chris and Helen on Olive. They have lived on their tjalk for about 20 years,  on the Thames & then near Ipswich. So more aperitifs required! And another very knowledgeable and helpful contact. Much talk of the leak!

On the 15th Sept we headed off again! Stopped for lunch at Merricourt and walked around the wetland nature reserve which is obviously a fisherman’s delight!

At one lock we saw the only remaining horse water trough from the days of barges being pulled by horses and at another we learnt that Tolkein had stayed in the area for sometime and had been influenced by the wetlands landscape when writing the Hobbit! Amazing the little titbits you pick up along the way!

 

Then onwards to Froissy for the night. We walked around Le P’tit Train depot – apparently the small gauge train track was built by allied troops during WW1 to delievr supplies and munitions to the troops at the front. It is now a tourist attraction run by volunteers.

We moored behind an Irish couple (Paul & Elaine) who will be in Flandria for the winter. He warned us that there was due to be a lock closure on part of the Canal du Nord on the 17th. So next day we set off early and left the Somme to head back towards Belgium and to revisit the boatyard at Zelzate to try and get things finished!

Altogether we spent a month on the Somme and thoroughly enjoyed it! ‘Normal’ locks, helpful lock keepers providing excellent service and some lovely moorings. Amazingly, apart from Cappy, all moorings are free – you just pay for water and electricity (2euros for 4 hours). You don’t even need a VNF licence for the Somme! Amazing! We’ll return another time for sure.

As we passed Cappy we saw a boat name which made us smile …… obviously the owners of this renovated working boat have our kind of sense of humour!

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Albert

Whilst in Amiens we took a day trip to Albert – a smallish town about 25kms away. We had been told that it was of art deco era, having been destroyed in WW1, and worth a visit. Unfortunately we were more than a little disappointed. The very chatty lady in the Tourist Info centre gave us a leaflet which just showed some art deco architectural details such as balcony railings, windows & plasterwork. Not quite what I was hoping to see!

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The Hotel de Ville was quite impressive……

 

The Basilica, however, is superb! A real bizantine surprise!

 

And everywhere there are reminders of the allied troops and the sacrifices made in WW1.

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Amiens continued….

We arrived back in Amiens on 4th September ready to complete the visits we missed first time around.

Jules Veurne house


Jules Veurne (1828-1905) was a french novelist, poet & playwright who lived in Amiens for many years and wrote 44 of his works in this house between 1881 – 1901. In conjunction with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel he created ‘Voyages Extraordinaires’ which was a widely popular series of well researched adventure novels, which include: Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) & Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Internally the house is appealing except the dining room which is very dark and ornate. I preferred the lighter newer sitting room and the spiral staircase.


There are many artifacts on display to demonstrate the extent of Jules Veurne’s work, how it was accepted by all – being translated into other languages, board games and children’s cardboard theatres created. I particularly liked the advertising posters.

 

Cirque Jules Veurne

Near to the house is the Cirque de Jules Veurne which is used as an arts and entertainment centre – even a circus skills training class. Beautiful circular building with restaurants either side – unfortunately the coffee was sadly below standard!

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En route back to the boat we passed this beautiful building – couldn’t work out what they were selling, so we went inside. It was the most gorgeous patisserie / chocolaterie. Should have had our coffee here instead. I bought a Millefeuille gateau, which was to die for!!!!!

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There was a producers market on Saturday morning – one has to support the local industries! The vegetables from the hortillonages were just fabulously fresh and tasty!

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Meandering back up the Somme – 1

After a most pleasant long stay in Abbeville we started our return up the Somme on Mon 2nd September with the intention of trying to stop in some of the places we spotted, but didn’t stop at, on the way down.

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So our first stop was at Pont Remy complete with ruined chateau as our backdrop. A little ‘project’ for someone perhaps …….. Nowt else to report on this little town so we continued next day to Picquigny – Adrian is cycling back to pick the car up each day so we are a bit limited re distances.

Weds 4th we were up and away around 9am, hoping to get back to Amiens and moor up for a few days and complete the touristic highlights which we missed first time around (see Amiens continued).

We met Sue & Alan on Suzanne – kiwis whom I had said hello to at Abbeville. Unfortunately they were moving on again so we still didn’t manage a drinkie-poo!

We also met Rob Curry on Camelot again & he helped Adrian with a couple of issues (navigation lights and bilge pump). We had dinner together as his wife Sue returned to the UK and he was waiting for a friend to arrive and help him get Camelot X to Calais for the winter. Apparently he knows Graine and Andy (Joni) well as he was the marina at Newark when they were there. Small world!

Our last day in Amiens was a bit of a disaster!

We found a leak!!!! – more to follow on this later……

And we took the car back to Wambrechies near Lille. We did this the other way round a few weeks ago and all went well with Flixbus. Not this time! I remembered the Flixbus taking about 3 hours last time but this time it was to take over 5 hours. We had to go into and out of Paris (CDG airport) with a 40 minute wait. The first Flixbus from Lille was very late and the second one was even later. While waiting at Lille I saw a guy jump into the luggage compartment of a bus going to London. His mates were not at all happy that I warned the driver of his presence!

The total return trip took about 11 hours – not such fun!

Mers-les-Bains

Bristling with pinnacles, balconies & bow windows, the sea front is imprinted with the charm of the Belle Epoque & Art Nouveau. The district is classed as a protected site.

In 1873, with the arrival of the railway, Mers-les-Bains was transformed into a seaside resort & was very highly prized by the Parisiens. These amazing villas were then built, giving expression to the explosion in decorative arts at the turn of the century.

More than 300 of them, including some of exceptional workmanship still exist today. It is the only group of ‘Belle Epoque’ buildings along the whole Picardy coast’.

 

The above text was copied from an information board on the promenade at Mers-les-Bains. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

St Valery sur Somme

We decided to make Abbeville our base for a few days and not take the boat down the long straight canal section to St Valery. Adrian has been cycling back and forth to ‘frog’ the car along with us, so we have it to take excursions around and about.

We took a day trip to St Valery where we saw that the moorings this side of the lock were full and we would not have wanted to moor on the sea side, so good decision to stay at Abbeville.

Firstly we walked through the Rue des Moulins which was where the fishermen had their simple houses. Quaint and twisty but now very pretty with lots of flowers!

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Then we strolled along the river / sea front looking across the tidal mouth of the river & Baie de Somme towards Crotoy. This expanse of fluvial moorland is home to many migratory birds and to sheep which provide a local speciality.

The old medieval part of town sits above the coastline and is lovely. Narrow twisting roads and interesting houses and little squares. The gate which remains is dedicated to Jeanne d’Arc. Around the old rampart walls gardens were created – a medicinal herb garden and a small orchard / garden which was tended by patients from the hospital just outside – a very early form of occupational therapy?

 

After lunch at a local creperie we took a return trip on the little steam train to Crotoy. The smell of the steam took us both back to our childhood and reminded me of more recent trips with Lisa and Freddie (when he was little) on the Thomas the Tank steam train at Peterborough. Amazing how smells can take you back in time!

We’d learnt that not only does the Baie de Somme provide home to the sheep but also duck hunting! Hides are built into the side of water covered areas, decoys put in place to attract the ducks so that the hunters can do their worst! Not easy to get a good shot (no pun intended) of the hides from a cranky steam train third class carriage!

Chateaux of the Somme

Along the length of the Somme we have seen some beautiful properties and quite a few chateaux. Some are well mentioned in our guide books, others not mentioned at all. On our way down the Somme we have visited 4 in differing states of repair. Most chateaux are privately owned and therefore photos of the interior are not allowed.

 

‘Folie de Buissy’ – 18th century chateau at Long

An immaculately restored chateau although all the furniture etc is ‘of the period’, not original, as it was all sold or removed during a 25 year period when it was abandoned and vandalised. During the war it was used by the Germans. Apparently the wooden panelling wasn’t defaced but they used one salon as their motor pool (because it was warmer) and it took a lot of careful work to remove the oil stains from the floor!

The last 2 owners have obviously spent a fortune on recreating the grandeur of the interior although much is ‘trompe l’oeil’ eg incredibly realistic marble effect painting. Each room is lined with wooden panelling with paintings above the doorways showing differing scenes. In the zodiac salon the original 12 paintings were apparently retrieved after having been sold to an american, boxed up and held up at the port for several years awaiting transportation. For once french bureaucracy had its uses!

Another stroke of luck saved the exquisite panels in one room – a local man had put some form of water-based wash over them to protect them. As they were about to be ‘redone’ one of the workmen remembered his grandfather talking about doing this and so they were restored simply by delicate washing work. It was obviously an extremely lavish chateau and the gold leaf detailing has been renewed throughout.

We were shown the ground floor, the upper floors are still used by the current owners as their country house!

The grounds are beautiful, immaculate, sweeping down to a lake and bordered by the canal which was adjusted to provide the owner of the chateau with a view of the passing boats.

 

Chateau de Bagatelle, Abbeville

We had a private viewing with, so we discovered, the current owner who lives there with his 2 dogs. It seems that this was his childhood home but it was sold at some point, and he bought it a year ago to bring it back into the family. He said he also lives in Paris but now mainly in the chateau because one of his dogs won’t eat if he’s not there!

The chateau was originally a single storey, 4 roomed country house for a local wealthy businessman. His trade was ‘draps’ (sheets) and the stone facades around the windows are ‘curtained’ to reflect the origin of his wealth. The extra 2 floors were added over the following 20 years or so and then the 2 side wings about a hundred years later.

Internally it is delightful – real faded grandeur – the wooden panels are original, cracked and in need of tlc but all the more endearing for that. As at Folie de Buissy there are paintings above the doors and on the ceilings and he explained the stories behind each. One ceiling was decorated with an eagle in recognition of a Baron de Kalb the french general who fought and died with the americans during the revolutionary war.

It is obviously his home. There are 2 salons – one for summer and one for winter, the latter he described as the ‘dogs’ salon’ –  where he plays with them on the floor each evening! Upstairs we saw the lady’s bedroom suite; it had been his mother’s and there were photos of his father and of him aged 7 with his 2 brothers on the dressing table.

The ‘parc’ (grounds) are extensive but far from manicured. He said they were previously kept pristine by the use of pesticides which he has stopped. So there are weeds and the paths are sprouting but it all adds to the general feel of the place. Many of the trees are very old – a chestnut tree over 200 years old – so are all protected and he has to get permission to cut or prune them.

An absolutely delightful visit!

 

Chateau-fort de Rambures

We took a day out from Abbeyville to visit Mers-les-Bains and stopped off at Chateau-fort de Rambures. Another delightful visit!

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Chateau Rambures was constructed in the middle ages in the style of a military fortress of the 15th century and was one of the first castles in Europe to be constructed almost exclusively in bricks. This fortified chateau was certainly built to repel all boarders! The walls are between 2.5m and 8m thick & were designed so that the stone canonballs would glance off the rounded walls. It was further protected by a moat and drawbridge.

The castle contains very interesting Picardy furniture from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. We were told that all chateaux were supposed to provide a designated room for when the king might drop by!  We were shown a room with furniture of the period just off the extensive cellars. When a previous owner was renovating the chateau she decided that this ‘spare’ room would be presented as the king’s room although he would never have stayed in it.

Privately owned, the family now live in the large house beside the chateau, so that the chateau can be open to the public. The surrounding parc is beautiful with magnificent trees, a little chapel…

 

and a most amazing rose garden with over 500 varieties of roses! Beautiful to see and to smell!

 

Chateau feodal (feudal chateau)

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As we were driving back from Chateau de Bagatelle we spotted a sign for another chateau in the village of Eaucourt – so we did a U-turn and came upon the Chateau feodal, which is in the process of being excavated by the Jules Verne Dept of Archaelogy of Amiens university, prior to being reconstructed – the whole process is expected to take about 30 years.

We didn’t get a private guided tour this time but it is obviously attracting a great deal of interest – lots of people, families, throughout the site. In the nearby riverside bar – Peniche Jessy – we learnt that bus loads of schoolkids are brought here to see the excavations in progress.

 

So four very different chateaux and very different experiences for us.