Amiens

Amiens cathedral
Amiens cathedral

After visiting Amiens once, I decided that as my friend was coming to stay for a week I would leave most of it uncovered and would explore it with her. We did this, and I found Amiens to be a fabulous city with loads to see and do both in itself and in surrounding villages that are far enough away to cycle there.

I’ve got quite a few photos of Amiens but that’s because there is quite a lot to photograph. There’s lots to explore too, from the amazing Gothic cathedral which could house 2 of the Paris Notre Dames, to the St Leu ancient district with it’s old canal side buildings, to the vast ‘Hortinollages’, the houses built on the canals in the marsh.

One night we were sitting in the square in front of the cathedral, enjoying the peace despite there being an awful lot of people around. We wondered why so many, but we put it down to the fact that it was a lovely night, the cathedral looked gorgeous with it’s lights on and it was so peaceful. Just as we agreed to leave around 10:30 pm, the flood lights suddenly went out. That’s unusual as mostly they stay on until midnight in France, but what made it odder was … people were clapping!

We were then rewarded with a spectacular show. As can be seen in the photos, the doorway arches are covered by carvings. Apparently these used to be coloured and it was only when restoration of the west portico began that this fact emerged. So, some clever person set out to recreate what colours would have been there, make some kind of film of it and project it onto the cathedral at night. What a wondrous show! I took closeups to show the detail they’d gone to and how some of the statues looked with and without the colour.  We were gob smacked and my friend was moved to tears by the amazing spectacle, so beautiful and so unexpected. We had to go back a second night just to take sure we had really seen it!

Madeleine cemetery
Madeleine cemetery

We also visited the Madeleine cemetery just north of Amiens. It’s a cemetery which in the past housed tombs of the wealthy who could afford somewhere for their entire families to be buried. It’s odd to say that it can be fun and interesting to visit a cemetery but it was! Look out for the grave of a very famous author buried there, who settled near Amiens and died there.
Look out also for the tomb that appears to have been broken open. Human remains can be seen clearly but my French isn’t good enough to go and ask what happened there. My imagination is good enough to invent my own story though. 🙂

It’s easy to navigate round Amiens, it’s got a zoo, the Hortinollages, St Leu which has moorings and we parked for a couple of nights in the free car park by the moorings. It’s got a lovely market and a great park which are both well used by residents. It’s also got the Madeleine cemetery and a laundrette and you can read about the laundrette in another post.

Samara

Iron age hut

Samara was a wonderful find as we both enjoyed the 2 days we spent there. It’s a reconstruction of iron and bronze age settlements that did exist in the area at the time.

The buildings are constructed using the methods from that time and with only the tools available to them then.  (Sadly this rule is broken only by the blacksmith who for some reason has some electrical devices.) Nevertheless it was great fun watching someone make fire completely from scratch. He used things from the ground and trusted techniques and made fire every time.

The potter was quick and efficient and that was a lot of fun. From experience when I was a teenager at school it wasn’t that hard either. Of course it’s all in French so you miss a lot, but you can make it up as you go from what they’re doing. Sadly the potter had a large sign behind him saying no photographs. I felt that didn’t quite fit in with the nature of the place as a whole so I took one anyway.

The lady making the willow baskets was much more friendly and despite the fact she spoke no English and I speak only the odd word of French, we used effective body language to make ourselves understood. I now have some willow in the van ready to make my first basket 🙂

In one of the iron age huts, which really aren’t that basic you know, a young man saw me trying to get a nice picture of sun streaming through a window and being diffracted by the smoke from the fire. He began wafting the fire to make it smokier for me. His colleague then used broken English as best she could to tell us about the hut and the people.  Another guy was hitting something with a hammer and completely ignored us when we said hello so we left him to it with his chickens heh heh.

There’s acres of ground to explore once you’re in there, a restaurant and shop and all the things you’d expect. It was only €7 I think for entry and if you keep your receipt you can come and go as you please, but we had a fantastic day there and stayed happily in the grounds the night before and after.

The evening we visited, we were walking along the riverbank when we came across a small pony in grounds. There was a very touching moment when it and Jack touched noses through the fence. Ahh!

Beetle
Beetle

Also I found a bug which was fluorescent! It was amazing, clinging to this stick I spotted it in the dark easily from around 60 feet. I couldn’t believe it when I found what it was so had to bring it back to the van to photograph it. Sadly, after all the attention it turned it’s light off so I didn’t get a picture of it glowing. 🙁 Fascinating though … I wonder what it is?

Picquigny

Some flies
Some flies

Picquigny was a nice little village that we stopped off in, on our way to Samara. The riverside walks are awesome and you can actually walk to Samara from here. It was so peaceful there and we only passed a handful of people.

My friend Nicki from Dorset is a budding photographer, and there is a pond near her house where she got some amazing pictures of dragonflies one day. That set me off wanting to take some as I rarely take pictures of animals or people.

So I took some last year when I was in Dorset and I got some rather nice ones. So because of that I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours until the light faded chasing insects by the riverbank near Picquigny in the hope of a decent shot.

I almost wore my camera batteries out in my attempts to picture them, but I was pleased enough with some of the results.

Naours

Naours
The caves at Naours

Naours just north of Amiens has what they like to call a subterranean city. It’s basically a network of 35km of tunnels dug out of the chalk and flint, to allow locals to live and hide there from the Germans during the war.

One part had a cave-in and took locals 4 years to clear they say.

You only get to see a very small part of it, I’d guess it would be repetitive anyway to see much more as it was built to hold 3,000 people. The clever priest who thought of the idea also tried to make most of the alleys mirror the layout of the town above them and even named the alleys with the same names as the streets above. This helped people find their way around and also made it seem more homely. There were tunnels in the roof that vented smoke to the surface, which came out through the chimney of one of the houses. Very ingenious!
It very much reminds me of the man-made caves in Kent built for the same reason, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of them though.

If you look at the photos you can see very black bits in the chalk. This is what the French call Silex but we call flint. They left it there as it’s very hard and helped strengthen the caverns.

This is an amazing construction designed to hold an entire village including their livestock, in complete secrecy from those above ground. The motivation and social cohesion needed to build something like this probably just doesn’t exist anymore.

Acer Aspire 8930

This is typed on my brand new laptop, the Acer Aspire 8930, bought about 8 weeks ago in desperation when Vodafone failed me (yet again!) and I thought my trusty old Dell was broken.

It’s an awful laptop and here’s why.

Although it has an 18.4in screen and is 1080p HD, with wcg (whatever that is) the screen image quality is awful. It’s bigger which is better for work, but move even a couple of inches left or right, or up o down from dead centre of the screen, and the picture starts to deteriorate. It’s extremely difficult editing my photos as I have to move my head all over the place to keep my eyes on the same plane as the screen. IN addition, the slightest bit of sunlight blinds you and even bright daylight obscures the screen.  Thumbs down for the Acer screen.

Next up is the all powerful Tube, true 5.1 surround sound. It’s dubbed (pun not intended) by Acer as the best sound coming from a laptop. Well I’m here to tell you different.
If you play a CD on it yes, the sound is pretty good, however if you play a DVD it’s a different story. What happens is if the voices are good, the background music is tinny as anything, ruining the DVD of course. If you go into the Acer HD audio manager and untick “swap centre/subwoofer output”, the opposite happens: the background music is great but the voices are thin and tinny.
Huge shame, as I have a collection of almost 1,400 DVD’s, that’s how much I like my movies. Thumbs down for the Acer sound.

Blu Ray? Pah. I bought one disc to try it out and guess what? Absolutely no difference whatsoever between that and a DVD. IN fact it’s significantly slower to load, and I got skipping and jumping as it tried to read the disc. The inbuilt Acer program for playing DVD’s doesn’t migrate to Window 7, so you have to find a player yourself and pay extra for it.
Thumbs down for the Acer Blu Ray player.

Ports……2 USB. 2 USB! Can you believe in this day and age, they fitted only 2 USB ports on a machine as physically large as this! Thumbs down for Acer design.

The full size keyboard is appalling. You have to thump it to get it to register a key press. I now have aching fingers regularly due to having to hammer the keys. Thumbs down for the keyboard.

Now this laptop claims to have a 2 gig processor, 4 gig of RAM and over 2 gig of video memory. Why then is it soooooooooooooo slow! It has by far the worst performance of any computer I’ve ever owned, despite having the highest specs. Thumbs down for performance.

It’s not easy to open with one hand and it uses quite a lot of power, so overall it’s a massive, huge thumbs down for this, and as Acer flatly refuse to supply me with a Windows disc unless I buy it from them, I will absolutely never touch another Acer again.