Amiens, (in France) the capital of Picardy is situated at an important crossroads, it is built along several branches and canals of the Somme. It has been for centuries an economic, artistic and intellectual center. This idyllic place is the result of men’s work, who shaped these fertile islands on land recovered from the marshes. Until early last century, fruits and vegetables from the Hortillonages fed the city of Amiens. It produces up to 3 harvests per year.
I participated in a great attraction in Amiens last Saturday called the hortillonnage (from the latin hortus : garden, one can visit in special boats called the “barques à cornet”) It was a great patchwork of 300 hectares (1.6 square miles) of market and floral gardens in the heart of the city. They are interlaced with 40,3 miles of small canals, known as “rieux” in the Picardy dialect. These floating gardens, surrounded by the Avre and the Somme rivers, and have been cultivated since the Middle Ages. On every Saturday from April until October, the seven hortillons (name given to the market gardeners) sell their products at the water market in the Saint-Leu district. You can buy radish, cauliflower, turnip, lettuce, leek, artichoke, as well as blackcurrant, redcurrant and cantaloup melon, everything fresh from the Hortillonnages. (On the 3rd Sunday in June local people dressed in traditional costume, the market gardeners travel up the Somme in their “barque à cornet” boats, as they did in times gone by. Then they sell their ware on the dock).
Above of this program Amiens offers many other treasures among which the Belfry, the zoological garden, the Musee de Picardie, the 19th century circus, Jules Verne’s house and grave (the Jules Verne museum is in Nantes) and Saint-Leu district, also called “little Venice of the North”.