| Northern France is
made up of the départements of Nord/Pas de Calais
(French Flanders) and Somme-Oise Aisne (Picardy).
Amiens, the principal town of Picardy,
has a beautiful 13th-century cathedral, which is one of the largest
in France. The choirstalls are unique. The nearby Quartier
Saint-Leu is an ancient canal-side neighbourhood. Beauvais
is famous for its Gothic Cathedral of St-Pierre,
incorporating a 9th-century Carolingian church, which would have
been the biggest Gothic church in the world, if it had been completed.
Its 13th-century, stained glass windows are particularly impressive
and there is also a fine museum of tapestry.
is famous for its Royal Palace, which has been
a retreat for the French aristocracy from the 14th century onwards
and where Napoleon himself lived with his second
wife, Marie-Louise. There are over 1000 rooms within the palace
and the bedrooms of Napoleon and his wife, preserved
with their original decorations, are well worth viewing for their
ostentatiously lavish style. Surrounding the town and palace is
the Forest of Compiègne, where the 1918
Armistice was signed, and which has been a hunting ground
for the aristocracy for hundreds of years, a wander through its
dark and tranquil interior is an exceptionally pleasant experience.
The town also has a fine Hôtel de Ville and
a Carriage Museum is attached to the Palace.
The château of Chantilly now houses the Musée
Condé and there are impressive Baroque
gardens to walk around, as well as a 17th-century stable with a
‘live’ Horse Museum. The town of Arras,
on the River Scarpe, has beautiful 13th and 14th
century houses and the lovely Abbey of Saint Waast.
There are pretty old towns at Hesdin and Montreuil
(with its ramparts and citadel). Boulogne is best
entered by way of the lower town with the 13th-century ramparts
of the upper town in the background, the castle next to the Basilica
of Notre Dame is impressive.
is a pleasant all-year-round coastal resort town with 10km (6 miles)
of sandy beaches. The port of Calais, of great
strategic importance in the Middle Ages, is today noted for the
manufacture of tulle and lace, as well as being a busy cross-Channel
ferry terminus. Calais and its surrounds are also
very popular for their large shopping malls, which are particularly
popular with British visitors, who often travel across the English
Channel specifically for shopping trips. To the north, the more
beer is drunk and used in the kitchen, especially in soup and ragoûts.
Wild rabbit is cooked with prunes or grapes. There is also a thick
Flemish soup called hochepot which has virtually everything in it
but the kitchen sink. The cuisine is often, not surprisingly, sea-based,
matelotes of conger eel and caudière (fish soup). Shellfish
known as coques, ‘the poor man’s oyster’, are
popular too. The marolles cheese from Picardy is
made from whole milk, salted and washed down with beer. Flanders,
although it has a very short coastline, has many herring dishes,
croquelots or bouffis, which are lightly salted and smoked. Harengs
salés and harengs fumés are famous and known locally