The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 25

In this issue, visit France from home - Gascony, and Provence, fabulous day trips from Paris, captivating Toulouse and charming Northern France. Recipes, guides and a whole heap more to entertain and inspire...

Picardy: Birds, plus

Picardy: Birds, plus beaux villages and brilliant castles and more… Close to the border at Saint-Quentin-en- Tourmont, we pointed the bike towards the signposts for Parc Marquenterre. I’m not a twitcher, but I love animals and this nature reserve on the Bay of the Somme has a reputation for being really special. A dusty track ended in a huge car park where a surprisingly smart and large restaurant and bar tempted us in. Here in what feels like the middle of nowhere, they serve delicious dishes with heirloom vegetables, the freshest local fish and superb desserts, fitting fuel for explorers. We joined our English speaking guide to find out what the park was all about. 200 hectares of land covered in marshes, peppered with lakes and ponds, dunes and reed beds are an absolute magnet for birds of all types. From a hide, I spied on storks and herons. Birds tweeted above and around us. The air is fresh and unpolluted, you feel as if you have the whole area to yourself. Marquenterre is mesmerising, memorable and magical. From here it’s a short ride to the town of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, though you may have added waiting time if you enter the town via the route which includes a railway crossing as we did and watched a steam train pass majestically by, it’s passengers waving excitedly. This ancient and extremely photogenic little town on the Somme Estuary has absolutely oodles of charm and it’s easy to spend an entire day here.

Stroll the cobbled streets, wander along the harbour and the long esplanade to ogle the mansion houses and discover the colourful sailors district and you’ll know exactly what lured the artist Degas and writers Victor Hugo and Jules Verne to holiday here. Long before them, Joan of Arc was held captive here, the dungeon where she is said to have been imprisoned is still there, a small stone tower and you can’t help but think how the poor girl must have felt cooped up in her claustrophobic prison. William the Conqueror was here too, stopping off to collect soldiers before making history and conquering England in 1066. Standing on the ramparts looking out to sea in the medieval town I wondered if he too had stood there, wondering, dreaming, daring to hope that his ambitious plans to quell his dastardly enemy across the water might come true. All that thinking makes you hungry and luckily this little town is teeming with cafés, bistros and restaurants. The stream train is an irresistible lure. It takes you, on authentic wooden seats, round the Bay of the Somme, classified as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. We spotted wild pigs, deer and all manner of birds en route. You can take a boat ride out on the bay where the largest colony of seals in France live, join a walking or bike tour (you can rent bikes in the town), or simply sit back and enjoy the ambiance. Watching the sun set over the bay, is one of those unforgettably beautiful moments in life…