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The Picardy region of France may not be on the must visit destinations for many travellers to France but perhaps it should be. Here you will experience a different style of French provincial living than some of the more obvious destinations in Provence or Brittany.
Chateau de Lucy is not far from the market town of St Quentin whose imposing basilica towers over the surrounding countryside – see pic taken from our car at speed! The basilica, dating from the 12th century, is a wonderful example of gothic architecture complete with flying buttresses. Inside the church is serenely beautiful with a soaring vaulted ceiling flanked by stained glass windows.
A few steps from the basilica you can find the local market where we discovered the deliciously stinky rollot – a local raw cows milk soft cheese that is oozey and pungent in all the right ways. The poulet roti (roast chicken) stall also served potatoes roasted in goose fat with lardons so that was lunch sorted. All for the reasonable price of around €15.
Later we travelled south towards Paris to Compiegne where we visited the delightful Palais de Compiegne. A former summer residence of the french kings, the château now reflects remodelling work completed in the mid 18th century by Ange-Jacques Gabriel who also designed Petit Trianon at Versailles.
The interior apartments are best described as opulent. They were restored to their former glory of the First and Second Empire furnishings when the palace was frequented by Napoleon and Napoleon III. The apartments are one of three museums on the site and you are also able to visit the château’s stunning gardens. If you enjoyed visiting Versailles, the Palais de Compiegne is a smaller, more intimate version without the hordes of (other) tourists.
Compiegne itself is a lovely town, easily accessible by rail or car from Paris. Other highlights include the town hall and square where there is a statue of Joan of Arc who was captured in Compiegne in 1430.
The last stop on our trip to Picardy was the Chateau de Pierrefonds. Napoleon III was very influential here also and the original castle built in the 14th century was almost completely remodelled (but never completed) in the 19th century in the medieval style. The castle is recognisable from the television series Merlin where it is the setting for Camelot. I enjoyed the visit, especially the exhibition on medieval armour and costume though the castle itself is lacking the romance and history of châteaux in other regions of France.
Overall, it was a lovely weekend in a lesser known region of France. I almost forgot to mention the HUGE and incredibly delicious pain au raisin from the boulangerie near Chateau de Lucy that my husband is still talking about.. Vive la France and its pastry – you must seek this out if ever visiting Picardy.
You can read part one of our trip to Picardy here.
Rollot image credit – www.ayearinfromage.com
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