Reading was a favourite pass time of mine as a child.My childhood days were filled with wondrous tales and stories from across the world. Stories from a range of books fed the curiosity of a child with vivid imagination, introducing me to these fabulous places and people. Reading made the stories in the book come to life , with beautiful words , making me travel with the pages to faraway lands, laden with mysteries and adventures. The Stories of Gods and Goddesses from Indian Mythologies, fantasies and magical tales from Arabian Nights, fairy tales from Russia, Enid Blyton’s Magic Far away series, adventure series of Famous five, comic books with stories of Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, Sci fi adventures of H G Wells and Jules Verne. I could travel any where I wanted, with a flick of a hand and a flip of a page. Those were the simple days, before the advent of phones and internet, where you had to use the power of your imagination to conjure up a place and travel with your mind as a child. One particular story I enjoyed very much as a child and as well as an adult , is ‘Around the world in 80 days’ by Jules Verne. The very first time I heard the story, was from my father, who narrated the story from his memory, and I remember being fascinated with words like circumnavigate and perplexed with the word wager and amazed by the fact you save a day travelling from East to West , Mr Fogg s Determination, and Passeportout s resourcefulness really inspired me.
“Did you know , Jules Verne lived the later part of his years in Amiens, and his house is open to public is not very far from Paris by train?” said my better half one day, while browsing through a random map on google maps on his phone. Browsing through google maps randomly, is a favourite pass time of my husband, he has a penchant for finding locations of inspiration for travel. I needed very little persuasion further on this for a petite trip to the French city, not very far from Paris.
On a Friday night we boarded the Eurostar from St Pancras London, to Paris Gare Du Nord, for a late Autumn trip to Amiens. We stayed overnight in Paris, next morning we walked out of our Hotel in Paris, with our SNCF tickets in our hand, strolled around the streets of Paris, spotted the street art Vinnie at 10th arrondissement, which made me very happy. We grabbed some breakfast before boarding the train from Gare Du Nord, to Amiens, it took an hour to reach Amiens. The present structure of the station what we see was built after the World War II having been destroyed during the War.
We dropped our luggage at the Hotel, which was right across the station. We had a quick bite to eat since it was already the lunch time, then we walked towards the Maison Du Jules-Verne. It’s a charming little museum, with English audio guides, and little leaflets in each room in English. There is an exhibition on his publisher, (Pierre Hetzel) too. The house is large, warm , and welcoming, with a tower at the very top. The house has been kept, as if the humble author has just walked out and would be back soon. When I walked around the house, I felt it exudes a warmth of a well lived house, full of love and tenderness. He lived in the house with his wife for 18 years , until his death. I particularly loved the spiral staircases in the middle of the house which takes you all the way up to the tower. The house is filled with furniture from the era of the author, additionally it showcases the objects giving insights in to his work. His degree certificate can be seen framed and hung on the wall, and of course there is a photo of the novelist himself on the wall. The other objects of interest for me were the various maps, paper clippings which illustrated the travel plan of the book. If you are an admirer of Jules-Verne, like me then his house is definitely worth a visit. The house closes down in middle of October and reopens in April.
Amiens is also referred as the Little Venice of North. A walk along the River Somme on an autumnal morning , with its meandering canals, riverside restaurants and bistros, gorgeous colourful houses by the edge of the canal and you begin to understand, why the city may have acquired the title of Little Venice of North. I have not been to Venice, so I am not the best judge whether it is like Venice or not. But sitting by the canal, sipping coffee,under a canopy, watching swans and ducks floating on the canal, with sound of bells of the Notre Dame Amiens peeling in the background, the quaint city feels ethereal, making you leave the cares of the world behind and just savour the moment you are in.
I was interested in visiting the Hortillonnage- floating market gardens. It is a floating market garden grown on the marshlands, and can only be accessed by boats. It is a preserved site around 300 hectares of marshland , capable of producing beautiful flora and fauna. The tour on the boat takes around 45 minutes, which are run at regular intervals. There are leaflets available in English, but the tour is in French. Although the guide on our boat, knew a bit of English, and pointed and explained to us some parts in English. It was extremely kind of him to do so and I really appreciated his efforts. At the beginning of the tour, it was mentioned to us at that the tour guide would speak in French. The Hortillonnages are small plots of lands, separated by canals, and accessible only by flat bottom boats. The water level is essential for the canals and to support the flora and fauna around. This water level is maintained by three locks around the canal. The gardener, called the Hortillon is in charge of maintenance of the banks of the canal, as the mud from canal has to retrieved and laid on the banks to keep the fragile banks intact. I quiet enjoyed the tour, it is so serene and secluded, far from the sounds of the city, and is tucked away between beautiful canals ,with vibrant colours and diverse birdlife.
Amiens is of course known for its Cathedral D’Amiens, with its magnificent gothic architecture, which is worth a visit. The quaint city has plenty of shops and also has a branch of Gallery Laffeyette, if you are interested in a bit of retail therapy.
I enjoyed dinner at Ristorante Del Arte. It is an Italian restaurant, situated not far from where we stayed. We did have the waitress attending to us , speak to us in English. Her English speaking skills were limited to as much as my French language skill are, which is not great. I wanted to order a vegetarian pasta, my husband very cleverly ordered a Margarita Pizza. I inquired in English, about the contents of my pasta and wanted to confirm it had no meat, and I managed to completely confuse her and she looked worried. I had to literally wrack my brains, and I managed to say in French.”Je voudrais des pâtes, pas de viande, pas de poisson” . She looked relieved and pointed at the menu a pasta dish, and said it was vegetarian contained no meat. The pasta arrived and it was very delicious. She came in to check later if everything was okay. I love such interactions with people during travel and that’s what makes travel a little bit more fun.
I often read on blogs disclosures being made on recommendations. It made me realise I often mention hotel and restaurant names and have not added any disclosures . I thought it is worth mentioning now, my blogs are usually anecdotal, they are my experiences, and I would like to think, they are almost like a story, a tale that happened to me on a travel. The hotels and restaurants I mention on my blog are part of the stories. Somewhere I have been, someplace I have stayed, eaten in and enjoyed and paid for myself. It is merely my recommendation. I would like to be the narrator, the catalyst, who makes you embark on a journey, your journey, explore what you love, find out what you like. It is the human connection that interests me. You my dear reader, are what I am interested in. If with my blog I am able to connect to you, I am able to take you along my journey with my words, make you wonder, Hmmm.. would I do that?, shall I go there?. That connection would make me happy.
Jules Verne who wrote Around the World in 80 days in late 1800, inspired a woman in 21st century , to take the train to Paris and then to Amiens, experience a wonderful walk and a lunch on the Riverside, a delicious dinner at Del Arte, admire the Street art on 10th arrondissement , Paris and many more experiences. A man in born in France in 19th century, long dead, managed to form a connection with a little girl in 20th century, in a far away land, a land where he never stepped a foot on, at different times., yet with his stories he managed to amuse her. To me that’s a marvellous journey. Would you like to embark on a journey of your own ?