in Picardy Region of France
Do you do the trip planning in your family? Do you sometimes lack inspiration for where to go and what to do? Choose Picardy for your next short break and you’ll find of the legwork is done for you with the new website Esprit de Picardie. It uses the knowledge of English speaking locals to suggest personalised itineraries for couples and families. And in a region packed with fairytale castles, grand palaces, royally rolling countryside and dramatic coastline, there’s no shortage of recommendations for a themed weekend break or longer….
The Picardy region of France is packed with royal treasures. The castles. The palaces. The grand homes and the abbeys – they’re everywhere in this region of France, that stretches North of Paris to the coast. It’s even got Camelot. But not everything in this area is castellated; there are also beguiling towns, thick forests, sensual gardens, seemingly endless coastlines and faraway hilltops to explore with a picnic. And as Picardy is only an hour’s drive from Calais, you can hopefully leave work in the afternoon and check into your accommodation before the clock strikes midnight for your fairytale adventure.
Magic them straight to Camelot
But what to do? As any family knows, a fairytale can become a horror story if the cast and location aren’t right. If you’ve got the kids with you, you might want an action filled weekend. If you are escaping without them, then it’s a totally different game. Now Picardy’s tourist office is helping holidaymakers see the wood from the trees with a new website providing a short cut to holiday research. From the Somme Bay, to royal Chantilly and Compiegne, from the WW1 memorials, and the castle set of BBC Merlin to the canal town of Amiens; local people who know the area suggest themed itineraries for families and couples, all bookable at the click of a button.
The family stopover
Agathe Meylheuc, who lives in Reims, suggests a two day camping and cycling stopover for a family like ours. It consists of a night in a mobile home at Camping au Bord de l’Aisne, and an 18km bike ride on the Ailette Greenway, with bikes hired from a local cycle centre. Her route takes in the Vauclair National Forest and its abbey. It then calls at the Maison de la Nature et de l’Oiseau (the House of Nature and Birds) on Ailette Lake.
“And, the must of musts, Monampteuil Lake, specially developed for swimming, flanked by a large playground: you couldn’t find a better place for children!” says Agathe. The site also recommends visiting the underground cave system of the dragons lair – La Caverne du Dragon, Oulches-la-Vallée-Foulon as well as a cupcake experience in a Laon tea shop and a visit to the gargoyles at Laon Cathedral. I’m sold.
Something more romantic?
For anyone who can leave the kids at home, local Brit Karin Avila suggests Chantilly as a base. Karin recommends “a three night stay in a chateau in the Chantilly forest, and a romantic walk to Etangs de Commelles” to see the Château of the White Queen; one of the most mysterious places in the Department of Oise. “I find this location absolutely fascinating.” she explains. “In the heart of the forest, you can see the striking silhouette of a château straight out of a fairy tale reflected in the dark water of an enigmatic lake. After having fallen for the romantic charm of the Château of the White Queen, I suggest taking a break on the terrace of the ‘L’étang d’Art’ pancake house.” Pancakes on the terrace. Now you’re talking!
Horses for courses
In a different spin on a couples break, which would also delight my kids, Karin recommends a three hour equestrian experience starting out from the Chateau de Chantilly. And also a visit to the dressage show at the Living Museum of the Horse, situated in the Great Stables of the château. The stables have an interesting story; they were commissioned in 1719, by Louis Henri, duke of Bourbon, Prince of Condé, who believed that after death he would be reincarnated as a horse. A thoroughbred horse clearly; the lavish 186 metre long stables are some of the best examples of 18th century architecture in France.
And water courses…
There are obvious gems in Picardy which the website highlights; like Pierrefonds fairy-tale limestone castle – most famously the location for Camelot in the BBC’s Merlin. But locals like Karin and Agathe also flag up more off the beaten track experiences. I find myself curious about the Pavillon de Manse, located on the banks of the River Nonette. The ‘machine des Grandes Eaux’ pumping system supplied the fountains of the princes’ gardens and later on the waterworks of the Duke of Aumale. A little known example of Picardy’s industrial heritage.
A variety of themes
There also are some interesting ideas for weekend breaks that anyone can enjoy like the 14-18 Remembrance theme that offers a self drive experience and a B&B stay near the battlefields of the Somme. Or a nature themed Somme Bay experience. All are furnished with ideas for accommodation and activities.
The site doesn’t just recommend experiences. It enables you to book them with an easy online booking system. It also recommends suitable restaurants for each experience, allows you to save them on a roadmap and introduces you to the people that will host your stay.
By the end of my brief research I am starting to dream of French Castles and palaces. I fleetingly wonder if I will bump into a horse called Louis over pancakes on the terrace.
Disclosure Note:This post was brought to you in a collaboration with Esprit de Picardie who invited us to check out their website and learn more about different ways to experience Picardy. Images have been provided by Esprit de Picardie.