Legend goes that Amiens was named the Venice of the North by a French king, long ago (a compliment, we can only assume). An unusual and picturesque destination, Amiens city gives way to a remarkable 65km network of canals flowing around Roman-made floating water gardens.

You'll want to start your day with a coffee and a pastry at Maxime Boulangerie Cafe. Locals say "you come for a baguette and leave with half the shop". Allow $20 for temptation, or $30 if you want some sandwiches for your lunch.

Maxime is 10 minutes' walk from Cathedrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens, a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world's great cathedrals, $10. It is stunningly tall; the nave is 42m high. This incredible feat of architecture feels all the more precious after the partial destruction of her Parisian sister.

Big Benis a fantastic lunch option, don'tletthe name fool you. A popular spotfor its perfectly cooked burgers and steak and delicious wine and beer. Book ahead, you might score a prime view of the cathedral. Set aside $40, although you probablywon't spend it all.


Just steps away is Saint Leuby theRiver Somme. Lots of colourful, traditional houses, beautiful gardens and narrow cobbled streets to explore. On Saturdays you can catch the hortillons gardeners who have been working these lands since medieval times at thewater marketin the Place Parmentier. There are only about 10 hortillons left.

The best way to see Amiens' ancient floating gardens is on a barque gondola tour, $10, which takes about 45 minutes.

Most morning trips are reserved for groups; come around 2pm for the shortest waits. Nearby is the house-come-museum of beloved author Jules Verne, $3.

Set aside an hourfor the place where the imagination and intimate life of thewriter has been so thoughtfully blended.

Book your dinner table on the tree sheltered terrace at La Table du Marais and enjoy a finely prepared, indulgent meal. The set menu comes in at around $50 and you'll want to have a drink or two (or three), $100.

TOTAL: $183