Julius Caesar praised the fertility of the fields around Amiens. During the Middle Ages, Les Hortillonages, an expanse of almost 242 hectares (598 acres) at the eastern edge of the core, was set aside for the cultivation of all kinds of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Irrigated by a web of canals fed by the Somme, the district is still producing foodstuffs. Not long ago, the harvest was floated on barges and in shallow-bottomed boats to be sold on the Quai Bélu, near the cathedral. Although today the produce comes from the fields into the town center by truck, the ritual retains its medieval name, the Marché sur l'Eau (though locals increasingly refer to it as Marché St-Leu). The tradition continues every Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm, when the river's quays are transformed into a huge outdoor vegetable market.
A boat excursion April to October through the swamplands and tributaries of La Somme gives visitors a firsthand view of this archaic time-tested agrarian hideaway. Maintained and organized by the Association des Sauvegardes des Hortillonages (tel. 03-22-92-12-18 for information), it conducts boat tours of 40 minutes each, priced at 5.30€ per adult or 4.55€ for children 11 to 16, 3.65€ 10 and under. Boats contain no more than 12 passengers at a time, with recorded French commentary. Boats depart by reservations and (whenever they are full) following a very flexible timetable based on advance reservations and bookings.
A few paces north of the cathedral, straddling both banks of the Somme, is a cluster of carefully restored 13th- and 14th-century houses in a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets. Known as the Quartier St-Leu, this is a neighborhood of gift shops, antiques shops, art galleries, boutiques, and cafes.
Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, is buried in Amiens at the Cimetière de la Madeleine, rue St-Maurice, northwest of the town center. The representation of Verne on the Beaux Arts tomb appears to be physically rising from the dead. The cemetery is open April to October daily 8am to 6pm. From November to March it is open daily 8am to 5pm. Verne's home is at 2 rue Charles-Dubois (tel. 03-22-45-45-75; www.jules-verne.net). It's now a research center documenting his life and literary achievements. It is open April 15 to October 15 Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday 10am to 12:30pm and 2 to 6pm, Tuesday 2 to 6:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 2 to 6pm. Off-season hours are Monday and Wednesday to Friday 10am to 12:30pm and 2 to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 2 to 6pm. Admission is 7€ adults, 5€ students and 3.50€ kids 11 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.