I have in the past been somewhat dismissive of the city of Amiens (80 Somme, Hauts de France) largely because an enforced winter stay in the city when my car broke down, and also because I have a loathing of the concrete monstrosity that is the Tour Perret – because it is ugly and also because it overshadows the City’s main gem which is the imposing gothic cathedral of Notre Dame a UNESCO World Heritage site- both visible from the A16 autoroute which skirts the city between Paris and the Channel ports of Dover and Boulogne.
However a recent visit (in summer) there were 2 other discoveries – firstly a superb Chocolatier at Jean Trogneux where delicious chocolate and biscuit creations are made, including the famous Macaroons of Amiens and wafer-thin biscuits called “Tuiles”.
The Somme is of course closely associated with the First World War and is littered with many war cemeteries and memorials. On this ocassion we headed for the Australianand New Zealand War Memorial at Villers-Brettoneux a few kilometres due east of Amiens. Visiting war cemeteries is inevitably a little sombre, but this one was striking. Although the memorial looked a but stumpy and monolithic from a distance, closer to, and within the context of the rest of the cemetery it was much more graceful. The place had a sense of peace and tranquility about it – and as an added bonus a climb to the top of the tower offers some stunning views over the landscape – and that too looks beautiful.
Strangely enough, more Australians and New Zealanders (ANZACs) were killed in France in WWI, but Gallipolli is more keenly remembered and commemorated with Anzac Day.
11,000 Australians and New Zealanders with no known grave are commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux – and the village is proud of its connection with Australia. See more on Villers-Bretonneux
There is another memorial to British and Australian victims of WWI at Fromelles (59 Nord, Nord-Pas de Calais) just west of Lille.
There will be a commemoration of the centenary of the battle of Fromelles on 19 July 2016 – see http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au