While in France and alone during this summer I started wanting to discover my local patrimony. Picardy is known for its cathedrals and castles since it has been a center of power for centuries. I spent two of my days to explore the Aisne!
Monuments of the Oise and Picardy
If you are in Paris for some days and wish to see more, my region has a lot to offer! It is after Paris ranked second by its number of monuments, has six impressive cathedrals, many castles and has various ruins to explore, and it also hosts the second largest collection of paintings after Louvre museum, in the castle of Chantilly 😉 I suggest you to look at Senlis, Compiègne, Pierrefonds, Chantilly, Amiens and Beauvais!
Moncel abbey in Oise
Driving to Noyon without any particular plan I chose to follow road signs offering me to see interesting monument. The first came at the beginning of my trip while I was still in the Oise. In Pontpoint is a famous (for local) abbey of Saint John the Baptist found in 1309 by Philippe le Bel, King of France.
The building has been used recently as a private school that some of my relatives attended. I couldn’t get inside the abbey but only walk around it. I know that the cave is well preserved look really nice.
Castle ruins in Montépilloy
Still near Senlis is the village of Montépilloy. Sympathetic place that has had its castle nowadays in ruins. Used as a farm, only survived the walls with the fortified gate and a tall tower cut in half vertically! I found the tower scary as it seems to can fall apart at any time.
The dungeon of Véz
Last monument of the Oise department, the medieval fortress of Véz is remarkably preserved and its dungeon can be seen from very far away as it stands on the top of a hill. I lost a lot of time to find it and had to walk a long moment to get up the hill and I found a closed gate. I didn’t know it was not possible to visit the park, told to be very nice and romantic.
The cathedral and the old town of Noyon
When I arrived near Noyon – one of the most ancient towns of France – I could see the huge black clouds over the city. I park my car just in front of the Our Lady Cathedral where stood a church in which were crowned in 768 Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor and in 987 Huges Capet first of the Capetian dynasty that ruled France over century. Both are indeed important figures in the French history. I visited the Cathedral in search of statues or other elements that could be related to these monarchs,without finding anything.
The Cathedral in early Gothic style is not pretty as its five sisters built in the same period but stay classy and simple inside and outside, having been heavily renovated after the First World War.
Exiting the Cathedral I walked more in this city I was for the first time. I haven’t found anything special excepted the town hall square with the Dauphin’s Fountain on which is mention that Chilperic II, Charlemagne and Huges Capet are related to the city.
In the Tourism Office I asked for the way to Soissons and what the girl answered me was too complicated because of some work on the road. Looking at the postcard I noticed a very nice timber framed house, I asked where it was and same girl shown me that is the Library of the Monastery adjacent to the Cathedral.
Chantilly castle and Comelles pound
Back from Noyon I drove to the Chantilly forest. I spend some time in Chantilly to see the castle and visit the church of the Assumption, and later to the Comelles pound where I expected to see birds… there were not. But I could still walk all around this large lake before sunset and then go home.
Discovering the beauties of the Aisne
On the east of Oise is another department of Picardy. It is famous for its good production of wine, having the province of Vallois also responsible of a large amount of French kings, and for its two famous Cathedrals in Laon and Soissons.
Another day of rain in France but I couldn’t delay a visit to Soissons anymore, the day after I must take my flight to Lithuania. I again chose to drive for more than a hour to see one of the most interesting city of the Aisne. Again I preferred to go alone with no plan and see what can happen on the way 🙂
I pass in Villers-Cotterêts and had a quick stop. I was really curious to see what could be visited in half a hour or less. The city is known for having been where French Language was officially declared to be the Official language of the French Kingdom thanks to the Ordinance of Villiers-Cotterêts in 1539.
I haven’t seen much of it, the Old Town is non existent and the castle not perfectly visible. I have entered the church of Saint Nicholas and realised that it was incredibly dark inside! The few windows that let passing sun ray were very narrow.
Soissons is the second largest city of Aisne after Laon. I didn’t have time to visit Laon and see the cathedral, but in Soissons I could see the impressive ruins of the Abbey of Saint Jean-des-Vignes.
Arrving in Soissons I parked my car one street ahead the cathedral. My first thought was to visit it but doors were closed at noon. I crossed the market on the square behind it and asked where was the tourism office. A municipal agent shown me the way. There I got a city map and some tips. The city is actually smaller that I imagined and I could see most of it in two hours.
Waiting for the Cathedral to be open I follow a path to the river, seeing some ruins of an old women convent and another sign explaining what Jeanne d’Arc did in Soissons. In front of the river I bought myself sandwich and drink and consumed them on the way to the church of Saint Leger.
The abbey’s ruins are great, only the façade remains standing in a good shape and the are is used as a park. It reminds me a little of Pirita, except that there the weather was bad. he Cathedral Saint-Gervais & Saint-Protais only has its right tower making it looks very unique. Inside are more awesome things: the stained glass!
The doors were opened a little before the official time and just before I left Soissons. I was then happy to see it! One of the prettiest Cathedral I have been.
Septmonts caslte and the Longpont abbey
Leaving Soissons I found two worth places to visit. The first in Septmonts being right in the south of Soissons has a castle that is open to public in a small park. You can climb all stairs to reach the highest floor free of charge! All effort are rewarded with a super view on the surrounding from 45 meters high 🙂
If I saw Longpont direction sign on my way to Soissons I couldn’t get to there because I saw it too late. On the return I managed to drive to the city. The abbey was closed but the area around was beautiful. I especially liked the fortified gate nearby with its four turrets.