Must-do events for your diary, sites to explore, arts, sports and culture
Related article: Picardy at Peace
For an overview of the 1914-18 conflict on the Somme, visit the tunnels of the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert and the evocative collections of the Historial of the Great War, Péronne. Among the many memorials are the Ulster Tower and the Newfoundland Memorial and Canadian visitor centre at Beaumont-Hamel. www.somme-battlefields.com; www.somme14-18.com
In Aisne, visit the various battlefield sites along the Chemin des Dames, including the buried village of Vieux Craonne and strategic California Ridge (www.chemindesdames.fr). Discover the work of American philanthropist Anne Morgan at Blérancourt (www.museefrancoamericain.fr) and visit the final resting place of American soldiers at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. www.aisne14-18.com
In Oise, visit the Armistice Clearing and Museum in the Compiègne forest, 2km from Rethondes station, where the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 in the carriage of Marshall Foch. www.oisetourisme.com.
With rides and attractions inspired by one of France’s best-loved cartoon characters, Astérix the Gaul, Parc Astérix in the Oise-Pays de France regional nature park is a firm favourite with all ages. www.parcasterix.fr/en
Take a ride on the Baie de Somme Railway pulled by a steam train, which links Cayeux-sur-Mer with Saint- Valery-sur-Somme, Noyelles-sur-Mer and Le Crotoy. Themed events include dinner trips. www.cfbs.eu
See where English archers defeated French knights in 1346 at the Museum of Crécy and Ponthieu (www.musee-crecyenponthieu.fr); play knights in the medieval fortress at Guise; and step back into prehistory among the reconstructed dwellings at Samara in the Somme Valley. www.samara.fr
Stroll through pretty Parfondeval and Gerberoy, both listed among France’s Most Beautiful Villages, and discover Aisne’s unusual fortified churches (www.tourisme-thierache.fr). Follow in the footsteps of the Princes of Condé, a branch of the Bourbon dynasty, at the Château de Condé at Condé-en-Brie, www.chateaudeconde.com. And explore the themed gardens and 17th-century Cistercian abbey buildings at Valloires, www.abbaye-valloires.com; www.jardinsdevalloires.fr
Oise is the only French department to boast three cathedrals – Beauvais, among the largest; Senlis, one of the smallest; and Noyon, the oldest Gothic cathedral in Northern France. It’s also home to Compiègne Palace with historic apartments spanning Louis XVI to Napoleon III (www.palaisdecompiegne.fr).
On the north side of the Somme Bay, the Parc du Marquenterre covers 200ha of protected marshland, dunes and reedbeds – explore three colour-coded walking trails, cosy up in a bird hide or take an excursion by horse-drawn carriage (www.parcdumarquenterre.fr). From Saint-Valery-sur-Somme or Crotoy, take a boat trip to visit the seals and wild birds (www.bateau-baie-somme.com). Or try a guided walk across the bay at low tide (www.randonature-baiedesomme.com).
Just 80km north of Paris, the forest of Compiègne was a hunting ground for French kings from the sixth century onwards. Today, it’s the third largest deciduous forest in France, with more than 900km of paths for walking, riding and cycling.
From France Today magazine
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