Continuing our circumnavigation around the Île-de-France, our next pilgrimage stop was the city of Amiens. France’s excellent highway system makes the drive from Laon to Amiens a pleasant hour-and-a-half cruise. When driving from Reims to Laon, we took the back country roads to visit Vauclair Abbey, but on this leg of our trip, we had no scheduled detour, so taking the highway seemed the best choice. If I had done a little research, I could have found a beautiful church to explore on the way, and I did briefly consider visiting Basilique de Saint-Quentin. However, I was still not confident enough to navigate narrow old city streets to take the plunge.
The main highways of France have tolls. You can have Google Maps or other mapping software create routes to avoid the tolls, but there are several advantages to using the paid highways, not the least of which are rest stops. We were starting to get a handle on the French road signs and the numerous roundabouts, but the toll booths were still a concern. I did not need to worry about them because they are similar to the ones in the States, and France, like the UK, uses contactless terminals everywhere, including at toll booths.
Since studying in Britain, I prefer making purchases with Apple Pay. Contactless shopping is ubiquitous in the UK and France. Using an Apple Watch with Apple Pay makes it more convenient. All I needed to do was roll down my window and plant my wrist against the contactless terminal, and voila, nous étions en route.
Amiens Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in France, is a central landmark of the city, but Amiens is also known for other things. It is the capital of the Somme department (an administrative region similar to a county in the US) and was fought over and occupied by both sides during the World Wars. If the word “Somme” sounds familiar, it’s because it is the name of the river that flows through the city and region where some of the bloodiest battles in World War I were fought. Consequently, this region is home to several military cemeteries and monuments. Amiens is also the birthplace of President Macron. And the beloved author Jules Verne lived his last 35 years here, serving on the city council for 15 years.
Amiens is full of history, with over 1,600 historical places and monuments. We stayed in the medieval Saint-Leu quarter of the city (the oldest district of Amiens). It is called “The Little Venice of the North” and is packed with half-timbered houses and cafe terraces. The Cathedral is just around the corner from where we made our home base in the district (we could see it out the window of our bedroom). The region’s art museum, Musée de Picardie, is also a historic place initially founded as the Musée Napoléon in 1802 (the year of the Treaty of Amiens).
Despite all there was to see in Amiens, our priority was the Cathedral. After meeting our hosts and unpacking, we ventured out into the evening to get a look at this Gothic marvel. Unlike Reims, the Cathedral was not lit up and was closed. In the summers, they conduct a laser light show that colors the facade as it would have appeared in medieval times. But for now, we had to gaze at the imposing structure in the atmospheric light of the lampposts.
Index of blog posts for our Cathedral Pilgrimage
- 1. A Cathedral Pilgrimage
- 2. Preparing for a Pilgrimage
- 3. First Stop – Reims
- 4. Reims – City of Kings
- 5. Saint Remi and His Basilica
- 6. Christian Time Traveling
- 7. Second Stop – Laon
- 8. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon
- 9. Third Stop – Amiens
- 10. Amiens Cathedral: Almost Heaven
- 11. Soaring Vaults and Great Treasures