What to see and do in Aisne, Picardy? | France News

The department of the Aisne in Picardy is the ancient cradle of France. Its capital, Laon, was once also the capital of France, and is the only place in the world where Champagne is produced – outside of Champagne. Discover a land full of historic cities, glorious countryside, picturesque villages and monumental cultural sites…

Laon a historical city

Main road Laon, buns hanging across the roads

The great French writer Victor Hugo once said, “Everything is beautiful in Laon.” Nearly 200 years after his visit, he’ll recognize its cathedral and the winding streets of ancient buildings—a whopping 84 listed monuments—and certainly feel the same way.

This ancient city with its ramparts and stone entrances 8 . was the capital of France fromth 10. untilth centuries when Paris was still a village. Perched on a 180-metre-high hill, the site is perfect for defence, and Queen Berthe au Grand Pied, mother of the Great Charlemagne (unlikely named Bertha of Big Feet), made Laon the seat of government. When Hughes Capet was made king in 987, Paris became the capital. However, Laon remained an important religious city and center of education.

The 800-year-old Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Gothic masterpiece, dominates the upper city. Two magnificent bastions are surrounded by towers, from which peer large stone bulls. They are a nod to the strong animals that pulled stones to build it and local legend has it that when a tired bull fell to the ground, a white bull was sent by the god to help carry the stones. The façade is intricately carved and the inside is beautiful. Huhth century stained glass windows. The spiritual atmosphere is created by the sound of the chanting of the sadhus.

what to see in laon

Ancient arched stone entrance in Laon city

The streets around the cathedral are lined with old buildings, all within medieval ramparts, with wonderful views of the city and countryside below. On clear days you can see as far as the neighboring Champagne field.

Look carefully at some of the buildings and you will see that fossils and shells are embedded in the walls. They are left over from a time when the area was under tropical seas about 65 million years ago. And several buildings are listed as historical monuments including the tourist office which is located in the 1167 building and underground passages of the citadel. There is a legend that in the 16th century the Court du Change, formerly known as Htelerie du Dauphiné at Rue Serurier, King Louis XIII stayed on a stormy night in 1638. He and his wife, Anne of Austria, had prayed for the children, but to no avail. However that night, Louis XIV was conceived. Just don’t look at the dates too carefully, you can see that there are 13 months between the night of Louis XIII and the birth of Louis XIV!

Laon is also where Abelard and Heloise met – Romeo and Juliet of France. It was a tragic love story, with the student, Heloise falling for the teacher, secretly marrying and raising a child against the wishes of his uncle/guardian. The lovers were separated and on the orders of Heloise’s uncle she was sent to an abbey. You will see their likeness in the spectacular street art that lights up the city.

You can book guided tours at the Town Hall to discover Laon’s many secrets and attractions. tourism-paysdelaon.com

Family of Guys – A Most Unusual Museum

Familistiere de Guise, once a 'social palace' far ahead of its time

Guise was once an important border town, ruled by the powerful Duke of Guise. Now it is a sleepy place with beautiful streets, a ruined castle and a splendidly restored fortified church. But its most famous attraction is the monumental family – a ‘social palace’.

It was created by Jean-Baptiste André Godin, the founder of the famous Godin stove company. He was born in Aisne in 1817, the son of a locksmith, and left school at the age of 11. At the age of 17 he moved to Paris, teaching himself architecture. In 1840 he returned to Aisne and began manufacturing a cast-iron heating-stove he had designed. To this day they are known in France as Godins and a surprising number of them have survived, still operating today – I have one myself!

Godin made a fortune from his hearths and at its height his factory in Guise employed about a thousand workers. In 1856, inspired by the plight of the workers’ living conditions, Godin began building the Familistre, a place where his workers and their families could live. It also had a nursery, school, launderette, shops, a 600-seat theater and swimming pool. The monumental residential building was based on the Palace of Versailles with apartments for a maximum of 900 people. It was essentially a small town, and all within easy walking distance of the huge factory. He called it a social palace.

social palace

About 75% of the workforce lived there with their families. They paid workers well, about 150 francs a month and their rent was only 8–12 francs. He prescribed a 10-hour working day when the norm at that time was 13-15 hours. And on Sunday gave his workers a holiday. He established a labor union which through a series of committees set the rules in the factory.

It sounded like a utopia… but when he died in 1888 and lost his only son 15 days earlier, the running of the factory fell on the committees and without their influence it all fell apart because Conflict and disagreement prevailed.

From 1914 to November 1918 the German army occupied the site. He converted the theater into a prison, the central palace became a military hospital and he destroyed some buildings.

The Utopia project began in 2002 to restore the palace and the remaining buildings. It’s a victory. You can tour an apartment, take a guided tour, visit the theater and pool, and discover this extraordinary story. There is a cafe on site and a fine shop where you can buy Godin products. familistere.com

Saint-Quentin – Art Deco Dazzle

Station Buffet, St. Quentin

Born in France, Art Deco began in 1908 – a merging of art of various influences: Antiquity, Cubism, the art of Africa and the Far East.

Saint-Quentin has gone through a lot. Founded by the Romans, it was a major medieval trading center. It was invaded, conquered, besieged and finally all but destroyed during World War I – the Great War as the French call it. Rebuilt in the 1920s, it features several Art Deco buildings, including the extravagant railway station where trains ran from the early 1850s. It became an important site in the 1940s when Saint-Quentin once again came under foreign control and became the city’s headquarters. Second German Army.

Visit now and you will find a highly cultural city with 9 museums and extraordinary buildings.

The Station Buffet, a Listed Historic Monument, is pure Art Deco with walls and furniture featuring dazzling gold mosaics with soft silver and bright red accents, featuring flowers and a Normandy ocean liner window design. From the station it is a short walk across the canal to the city. Built in 1801, it was the first canal north of Paris and was inaugurated by Napoleon in recognition of its importance to France.

In the city, the Art Deco vibe is everywhere. There are about 3000 buildings in the Art Deco style, of which 300 are classified as historical monuments. This includes the tourism office where you can book an audio guide and route map.

Museum of Beaux-Arts Saint-Quentin

Whatever you do don’t miss the Musée des Beaux-Arts Antoine Lecuyer which is the star of the city in my opinion. Maurice is a magnificent collection of pastels by Quentin de la Tour, known as the ‘King of Pastels’, an artist who ‘saw the souls’ of his subjects and then saw their resemblance to pastels as never before . since. Sadly not all pastels were out when I visited, but enough for me to be completely amazed. destination-saintquentin.fr

4 Aisne . must see in

Champagne Vineyard, Chateau Thierry, Picardy

Champagne Vineyards in Picardy!

Chateau-Thierry in Aisne is the only place in the world outside of Champagne where Champagne is made. There are 12th-century cellars and 400 vineyards producing champagne. Visit Champagne Panniers for a tour and tasting and stock up on their sumptuous fizz. champagnepannier.com

Jardin Veil Maison

Jardin Veil Maisons, Aisne

This luxurious private garden has 16 sections and looks different in each of the four seasons. In the distance you can hear the city’s church bells, woodpeckers and wild birds wander through your will to enjoy the magnificent plantings. book in advance: jardins-vielsmaisons.net

Chemin des Dames

During World War I, the Chemin des Dams was a frontline position where violent fighting took place. There was an underground mine called ‘The Caverne du Dragoon’ which was converted into an army barracks. Today you can tour the galleries and see chapels, first aid stations, command posts and no man’s land that testify to the lives of soldiers – both French and German – who sometimes fought and lived side by side . of the cave and the surrounding countryside. chemindesdames.fr

chateau de conde

Chateau de Conde, Esne

Once the home of the princes of Conde and still remains, this magnificent palace is known as 16. was turned into a renaissance gem inth Century for Louis de Bourbon. Lavishly decorated with lavish gardens, it is a sight to behold. Chateaudeconde.com

Find out more on the Aisne Tourism website: jaimelaisne.com

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