Picardy (French: Picardie) is a region in northern France, located immediately north of the French capital Paris and the Ile de France. Although largely inland, the region does border the English Channel near Abbeville. The area is, sadly, known for its central part in the trench warfare of the First World War (1914-1918) and hosts a large number of battlefields, war cemeteries and memorials.
- Amiens — the capital of the region
- Beauvais — has an international airport
- Chantilly — known for Chantilly cream, its castle, and horses
The modern region of Picardy is larger than the historical province of Picardy. The south of the Aisne department and most of the Oise department were historically part of the Île-de-France, while the Somme department and the north of the Aisne department were the province of Picardy proper, with the Boulonnais, that is now in Nord-Pas-de-Calais region (Pas-de-Calais departement).
As the historical Picardy was deemed too small to become a region, the French government decided to join it with the north of Île-de-France (specifically, the pays of Beauvaisis, Valois, Noyonnais, Laonnois, Soissonnais, Omois, to name only the most prominent). The name of the historical province of Picardy was given to this new region.
Because of its particular location in the north of France, between Paris and the English Channel, this is a war-torn region that was often throughout history the place of invasions and battles. The two world wars ripped through this region, leaving behind a legacy for today's habitants and tourists. Notably the battlefields of the Somme where British, Scottish, Canadian, Australian, and South African soldiers fought in the Great War of 1914-1918, and the deportation camp in Compiègne where, during World War II, prisoners were kept while waiting to be deported to the east.
Today there is an idea that that Picardy will no longer exist and that its departments of Oise, Aisne, and Somme will be pieced off and given to bordering regions. Outraged, the people have started a campaign called 'Don't touch my Picardy'.
So many famous people have come from or lived in Picardy.Jules Verne, who lived in Amiens for 34 years, dying there in 1905, wrote many of his great works there. He made a lasting impression on the city creating the city's indoor circus, and was a part of the city council. John Calvin, a French pastor during the Protestant Reformation who created Calvinism, was born in Noyon.
In general, most people have at least basic knowledge of English in Picardy. They will usually try to communicate with you, being more embarrassed by their own lack of English than annoyed at your lack of French. Anyone in the tourism industry should speak a decent amount of English, as it is often a job requirement. In tourist areas, shop keepers and restaurants are making more and more of an effort to speak foreign languages and cater to international clients, for example offering menus in English. There is a huge market for British tourists in Picardy mainly because of the location (a fairly short drive from the Channel and on the way to Paris), and interest (British war cemeteries, war memorials, etc.)
In the northern parts, for example in the Aisne and the Somme, staff may also speak German and/or Dutch, targeting a specific tourist market. Some places, surprisingly, also translate their documents and information into Italian and Spanish, in particular Beauvais, who has a large Italian and Spanish tourist market due to flights from Italy and Spain to the Beauvais Airport.
Travelling without knowing French is not a major problem. One can easily get around with help from tourism offices, shopkeepers, other tourists, and often curious strangers who love to speak English and help someone out!
- Parc Astérix. The world class Asterix amusement park has got up to 14 millions visitors since its opening in 1989. Many attractions are designed after the famous Asterix comic strips by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. In the park beautiful and green setting 35 km north of Paris, seven adventure areas, 27 attractions and 6 shows are waiting to thrill, excite and entertain you. The Asterix amusement park has plenty to offer young children such as many merry-go-rounds and a dolphin theater. It also has a very diverse set of attractions for adults: Tonnerre de Zeus, the biggest wooden roller-coaster in Europe, Goudurix, one of the most impressive loop-the-loops in Europe, and many others. The park is open from the 8th of April to the 15th of October. To get there, take RER B3, get off at Charles de Gaulles airport terminal 1 and take the Parc Astérix shuttle (it leaves every 30 min). It is better to buy the Forfait Loisirs card that offers a reduced price combination: a transport ticket for the return journey by RER (+ metro from Paris) and the shuttle bus to the Park, and a coupon for admission to the Parc Astérix. On arrival at the ticket desks, you'll exchange your coupon for an admission ticket. It is also possible to buy the entrance tickets together with shuttle bus ticket at the CDG Terminal 1 at the "Information" stand. The best time for visit is in the morning, earlier than crowds, so that you could enjoy all the attractions without queue. Nevertheless, you spend some time waiting for your turn especially to get to Tonnerre de Zeus and Goudurix (all the adults go there first and then to all the other attractions). In summer, it is practically impossible to avoid the crowds and to visit all the attractions in one day (so much time that you spend in the queues).
Walk around and check out the stores and sites. There is beautiful buildings and you can go to the restaurants. This place is a quiet relaxing destination.