Thursday, 18 June 2009

10 Years On - Part 5 of Account of Cycling Northern France

I remember one character from this day and this was the woman at the Tourist Office in Amiens who poured scorn on how far I had cycled and could not understand why anyone would want to stay in anything less than a 3-star hotel. She also seemed surprised that the whole world was not informed about the affairs of Amiens and that I had arrived in the middle of the city's festival oblivious to the fact it was on and expecting to find accommodation. As such I got very put off the city and left it quickly. I only returned in 2005 and this time got to go into the heart of the Hortillonages, the unique floating gardens of Amiens at that time.

I think Amiens should have sacked that woman as her high-handed attitude certainly dissuaded this tourist from staying in the city, contrary to what the function of her job presumably was; with her reaction I almost chucked it all in and cycled on to Abbeville that day. Perhaps Amiens has criteria regarding its visitors: you must be fully knowledgeable about its itinerary, have cycled at least 120Km to reach it and stay only in 3+ star hotels.

I do remember talking to the young man who was the guide to the tower in the cathedral which has a wonderful maze. Both of us though each other's country had a strange mix of old and new. He had visited London and talked of the historic buildings in the City of London alongside the newest financial institutions and I talked of all the high-tech octagonal telephone boxes I had seen in tiny French villages that lacked even a shop. The French got into DVDs and the internet well ahead of the British. He also spoke about his irritation at visitors, especially school parties who came to the cathedral simply because it was 'big' with no concept of its history, meaning or function and little willingness to learn that.

I also remember the fact that going to bed at around 21.00 each night I liked to eat early but in Amiens I could find no restaurant of any quality that opened before 19.00 and so had to sit around rather bored waiting to get some food. Probably snobbery got in the way in that aspect. However, with me feeling the holiday was a failure, having good meals seemed to be the only compensation and also as I had no-one to talk to in the evenings it meant I could avoid hours of solitude in my room, which, bar in Arras, did not even have a television. This was the day that I decided to abandon the holiday, though, at eight days, it beat the two days of my 2008 Belgian holiday.

Friday 18th June 1999

Well I am really beginning to get sick of this holiday, it is not that things are going wrong, though I did make two mistakes over the past two days. There was a youth hostel in Arras, on La Grand' Place where I ate last night. I must say I saw no signs to it though. Secondly, used to using only five gears around London I have forgotten that I have five others for climbing hills which would have been very useful on Wednesday. I am an idiot, blinded by fatigue.

I set off promptly and did not get lost. I had a sandwich in Rainneville and reached Amiens at 13.30. At the Tourist Office the woman insisted on speaking French and kept pointing to 3-star places but I persuaded her to book me a room at the restaurant-hotel 'Le Tatarin' on the edge of the centre, only 120F a night, a sink, no shower.

I am getting through my money too quickly. It was good that I checked at the office as many places are booked up for the 2-day festival. I worried about staying here 2 days and arriving at Beauvais on Sunday and not getting a place but there is a lot to see in Amiens which is bigger than Arras. This is the capital of Picardy, different to the North of previous days.

I wandered around taking photos of the beautiful public buildings and looked around the cathedral, the largest in France and chatted (in English) with the guide. I also looked around the Belfry and Les Halles covered market. I had to wait in a park until 'The Salmon House' restaurant opened at 19.15, others did not open until 20.00.

My holiday is being ruined by constant worries which affect me even cycling through beautiful countryside. I could have eaten more cheaply but would have tired of burgers and pizzas. The food was tasty but I was too impatient to stay for cheese or coffee. I came back to the hotel's rock hard bed. I have decided to abandon the holiday, it is too stressful. I will look around town tomorrow and get back via Abbeville, Montreuil and Calais which means getting home on Tuesday rather than Saturday via Beauvais-Rouen-Dieppe then Abbeville.

Weather: Sunny and hot.

Slender Avenue on Road from Arras to Amiens, June 1999

This is far from being my perfect avenue along a French road, which has to have much larger trees and be straighter. However, it does indicate the traffic levels that I had to deal with on much of my cycling.
Modern Church in Amiens, June 1999
Theatre in Amiens, June 1999

Public Building in Amiens, June 1999

Door Panel in Amiens, June 1999

Views of Amiens Cathedral, June 1999
In this and some subsequent photos in other postings about this trip I seem to have fallen victim to the 1980s fashion of shooting pictures through different shaped 'cut-outs'. To some degree, I think this was also, as can be seen from the images, it was a very sunny June and the light would cut across especially when trying to shoot buildings against the sky as I often did. This is probably the best of the bunch in that style.
Carvings around Main Entrance to Amiens Cathedral, June 1999

Detail of Statues of Male Saints

Detail of Statues of Female Saints
Detail of Bas-relief Carvings on Amiens Cathedral, June 1999

Tower in Amiens, June 1999
Views of the Beffroi (Belfry) in Amiens, June 1999
Taken at 5.55pm on 18th June, 1999.
The Sundial on the Face of the Beffroi in Amiens, June 1999
Palais de Justice in Amiens, June 1999

Amiens Town Hall, June 1999

Building Facade in Amiens, June 1999

Another of my photos of the front of some building, clearly fed by my interest in architecture.

No comments: