To the southeast of the Somme, away from the coast and the main Paris through-routes, the often rainwashed province of Picardy becomes considerably more inviting. Amiens is a friendly city whose life revolves around its canals, while both the Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals are highlights of the region. In the départements of Aisne and Oise, where Picardy merges with neighbouring Champagne, there are some real attractions amid the lush wooded hills. Laon, Soissons and Noyon all have handsome Gothic cathedrals, while at Compiègne, Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoléon III enjoyed the luxury of a magnificent château. The most rewarding overnight stop is off the beaten track in the tiny fortified town of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, which is perched on a hill between Soissons and Laon.

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