Amiens: Hortillonnages and Art Festival
During our recent weekend in France, we used the opportunity to explore fishing villages of the Opal Coast and culture in Amiens.
Have you ever been to Amiens? It is a delightful city right in the middle of Somme region in France, and it is an accessible 2 hours drive from the popular ports of Calais and Dunkirk.
When I started researching sights in Amiens, I discovered Hortillonnages, floating gardens, still used by small number of farmers to grow vegetables. While hortillonnages were more used in the past for their primary purpose, now they have been transformed as a peaceful location for boat rides, garden parties and Annual Festival “Art, Villes & Paysage”. This year it is running from 7 June to 20 October 2019.
We took a boat ride in May, while majority of the installations were still being constructed and our lovely guide Marine told us about the history of the Festival and its organisation.
Now in its 9th year, the competition is open every year for artists to submit their ideas for a garden design and then a panel of judges will select winning designs. The artists then will be given a fantastic opportunity to have their garden built, so the future visitors can enjoy the space they created.
There will be a totally White Garden with white furniture and white flowers, I imagine this would look very dreamy at the height of summer.
The next garden was the favourite of our guide Marine as it showed the different stages of farming and garden reflection on food. One part of the garden is showing impoverished soil, exhaused by the intensive farming. This stands in contrast to the wild blooms and lots of vegetation, allowing you appreciate both sides of the garden story.
Another very interesting find was logs laid out in neat lines, where the artist was trying to bring order to the ladscape.
As all contemporary art, many gardens that we saw leave a lot to a viewer’s imagination, as art installations are weaved into the landscape and you can try and find your own meanings in different settings.
You can also see a traditional garden where vegetables would be grown for sale, and we saw healthy crops of strawberries, rhubarb and cabbage.
There are two ways to explore the festival: you can either walk to couple of islands, but if you want to see more you will need to hire a boat at Port à fumier, rue Roger Allou (opposite n°50) in Camon . Majority of islands are accessible and you can get off and on as many times as you like.
What I liked most about this place is that although it is quite close to the city centre , once you are on the boat it feels like a whole world away from the buzz of the city. It is peaceful, you can hear the birds and appreciate nature and culture in a slow way. Sometimes in our busy city lives we forget to get the speed down and breathe in fresh air.
Our visit was hosted by Art and Jardins, Hauts-de-France, but all opinions are my own.