Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Encore France: Day 12, Cappy to Amiens

 
From the journal:
 
After a light breakfast and a quick tidy-up of the boat, we completed the handover formalities with Bertrand, including giving him a box of Australian chocolate-coated macadamia nuts (yum yum) and receiving from him a Locaboat cap. All went very smoothly and there were, of course, no hassles with the vessel.
We were now ready to say goodbye to Cappy, and so Bertrand phoned a taxi for us and it turned up very quickly to whisk us off on the next stage of our holiday: a little time in Amiens. The fog was incredibly heavy, but the driver drove surely through the greyness and we were in Amiens in no time at all, with him pulling to the kerb outside our hotel.
Our room wasn’t ready as it was still only mid-morning, and so we left our luggage with the receptionist and went in search of the famous Notre Dame d’Amiens. The hotel was very, very close to the Cathedral and all we had read said that you could see it from the hotel and so would have no trouble locating it. However, the fog was so heavy that nothing was visible in the sky, and it was actually quite difficult to get our bearings as the visibility was so low.
Nevertheless, by a very circuitous route – probably covering double the actual distance – we at last came upon the Cathedral, which is actually the largest in France, and we were indeed duly impressed. The dimensions are absolutely awesome, and somehow the incredible soaring ceilings inside make your soul soar also. You feel so tiny in this space but somehow so lifted up. Were such structures really built for the glory of God, or for the glory of man? Whichever is more true, I doubt that anybody could visit such places without thinking of God.
How sad, though, and what a reflection on society, that outside all such monuments to God’s love and grace one always finds beggars holding out their paper cups for alms while inside people spend so much money on candles, postcards and – frequently quite tacky – souvenir medallions.
After visiting Notre Dame we wandered along the main shopping mall and found a jeweller’s store where we were able to buy a watch for the man’s battery. That the watch hadn’t been working for a few days on the boat was no big deal: time becomes almost irrelevant when you are drifting slowly through the beautiful French countryside.
By now we were both beginning to feel, however, that we had stepped out of France and into the Arctic Circle – it was absolutely FREEZING. We spotted a Galleries Lafayette and went in there to buy some warmer gloves, getting the shop attendant to remove the labels so that we could wear them straight away as our normal gloves just weren’t doing the job.
Now much warmed – no, now less freezing, we went to a café, La Forum, for a truly delicious lunch of Ficelle Picardie, a truly great ham and mushroom crepe, and local cider. Wonderful food, and also wonderful to have heaps of room in which to enjoy your meal, so different to the usual matter of sitting almost thigh to thigh with strangers at cafés and bistros in Paris.
Beautiful building opposite the Cathedral
 
It was now time to return to the hotel, which we were glad to do because as soon as we left the café we were hit once again by the cold, cold air.
What a surprise awaited us in our room! We were allocated room 130, which was obviously VERY newly renovated (smell those paint fumes!). One wall was covered in totally gorgeous wallpaper of drawings of sheep, white on a black background, obviously a little something for when you can’t sleep. Another wall was painted bright, bright, bright lime green. Wow! And then we checked out the bathroom. Truly amazing! The vanity, which was a large glass bowl raised up over a lime green cupboard, was quite groovy enough, but then – the piece de resistance – we noticed the burnt orange/vermilion glass shower screen over the bathtub. It was the same colour as the paint on the walls above the tiling, which mercifully was white. Incredible décor indeed. It was just so delightfully quirky and unexpected that we absolutely loved it, I have to tell you.
My man then opted for a shower in that fantabulous bathroom while I decided to walk back towards the town centre in search of a hairdressing salon. I found one only a couple of blocks from the hotel, and was delighted with the treatment I received there – shampoo, trim, blow-dry, and a great cup of coffee all for about 20, a damn sight better than the 60-odd I had paid in Paris previously.
 

Now you really can count sheep.
Fabulous, isn't it.
 
When I got back to the hotel we checked out our local map and, as the fog had now lifted and we could actually see where we were going, decided to head out to have a look at the St Leu area, which had been described to us as the “Venice of the North”. Well, the streets we walked down in search of this particular Venice certainly did not inspire confidence: lots of scary looking skinhead types, young yobs, beggars, and graffiti everywhere.
But then – ah, doesn’t this happen so often – we turn a corner and … no, it wasn’t “Venice of the North”, but suddenly it was there in front of us, charming, quaint, absolutely lovely, lots of old houses squeezed together fronting the canal, many of them restaurants offering wonderful-sounding dishes and with great smells emanating from inside. We decided to return the next day for lunch.
We then retraced our steps to the hotel, stopping at a supermarket along the way for some iced tea, chocolate and wine. And, hey, here are some of those yummy French party mix type lollies. Must have some of those. A good idea?
Back in our room we drank our iced tea and munched on some lollies while we read a newspaper (our first in over a week). We then opened a bottle of wine for a little pre-dinner drink, thinking of what culinary delights we might sample this evening.
 

The buildings opposite the cathedral.
(Just bought my first ever photo-editing software and have to try it out - sorry.)
 
Hm! I quite suddenly started to feel really, really tired. I had no enthusiasm for dinner, but was quite sure that once we were out I would be okay and so we rugged up and headed to the centre of town. By the time we got there I was almost sleepwalking and was once again experiencing strong stomach pains. The thought of food was decidedly unappealing, to the point where I couldn’t even face watching my husband eat and so there was no way we could go to a restaurant.
My poor man; it was happening again.  He was so sweet and settled for a waffle from a street trader which he ate while we walked back to the hotel. I wasn’t as ill as I had been in Picquigny, nowhere near it, but it certainly spoilt the evening for us.
And the lesson is: avoid those French mixed lollies, as they must be the culprits. My man thinks it’s the blue ones, that blue lollies are just wrong. I can’t agree there, instead feeling that there is simply a sweetener (or some additive) used in the local lollies which my whole system objects to.  Such as bummer as they taste so good.
And so to bed – a lovely, comfortable bed with crisp white sheets and a fantastic pillow. Ah, heaven.
 

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