I wish I had more to say about the little town of Amiens. However, a) we were there for less than 24 hours, b) those hours spanned Sunday afternoon to Monday morning, and c) those exact hours are considered the weekend in Amiens and all the businesses are therefore closed. All that to say that this should be a fairly short post.
Anyone who has been to both England and France on the same trip knows that in order to get from the British Isles to mainland Europe, you have to cross the English Channel. With the building of the Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel, in the late 20th century, this is now a fairly easy journey. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience, at least when you’re on a bus. Our driver drove the bus straight into a train compartment that was barely bigger than the bus itself, with no windows and a walkway on either side of the bus that was just wide enough for one person. Not to mention it got really hot and stuffy really quickly since the driver had to turn off the bus and thus the airflow, and both the train and the bus were rocking at different rates. I don’t suffer from either claustrophobia or motion sickness, but after the 25-minute ride, even I was feeling less than stellar. If you have to make that trip, I strongly recommend taking the passenger train instead, as I imagine it’s much more tolerable.
When we emerged onto the highway, we found ourselves in the countryside in northern France. Marianne came on the microphone and explained to us that much of both World Wars I and II had been fought in this very area. We passed through Flanders, which is the subject of a significant amount of World War I-era poetry, and as I watched the green fields roll by, it was hard to imagine that the pristine landscape had once been torn up by trenches and littered with the casualties of war.
After stopping for lunch at one of France’s fancy rest stops and successfully ordering “un baguette de jambon et fromage” from the deli, we continued on to Amiens. Upon arriving, it was a quick turnaround from checking into our hotel to changing into our concert clothes to walking across the street to Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens. Every city in France boasts a Notre-Dame cathedral, it seems, and this particular one was incredibly impressive. In fact, according to my colleagues who had been to Paris before, the famous cathedral there was nothing compared to the Amiens cathedral of the same name.
Of all the concerts we performed on the trip, this one felt the least tight to me. I found it difficult to hear anyone but myself, and I think this was because the ceiling was so high that instead of sending the sound back to us, it simply sucked everything upwards. It was also freezing in the giant stone building. Nevertheless, it was a successful first concert in France, and the audience loved it and requested an encore.
From there we changed clothes and headed out to dinner. Remember how I said all the businesses were closed for the weekend? I believe the restaurant we went to had opened just for us, and they didn’t seem particularly thrilled to have us. In the end we weren’t particularly thrilled to be there either, since the pre-ordered meal was some sort of sausage that proved to be completely inedible. Some people even got sick to varying degrees after cutting into it and discovering unspeakable things.
Needless to say, none of us were too upset to be leaving Amiens less than 24 hours after arriving.