"Amiens - Bombs and Bullets or Marks and Sparks?" Amiens by JohnnySpangles
Amiens Travel Guide: 121 reviews and 346 photos
Amiens claims to have been badly damaged in both World Wars, and they say that’s why a lot of the older buildings have disappeared. However, the ‘miraculous’ sparing of the tourist-magnetic gothic cathedral from any war damage whatsoever might reveal a darker truth. My own theory is that there was a covert operation in the 1960s to surreptitiously remove all of the quaint little medieval buildings one by one. They then sneakily replaced them with high–rent chain-stores, coffee shops and mobile-phone emporia. I reckon they demolished the old houses at the rate of one a night, whilst everyone was fast asleep in their beds, and before anyone had really noticed Amiens had been transformed into Croydon.
So now Amiens is a bustling shopping hub with not a lot of interest unless you are a caffeine addicted text junky with a penchant for labels being worn on the outside of your inflammable sportswear. Making a city into one huge shopping mall is all well and good but if you are visiting from the UK you’ll find that the meek and subservient pound in your pocket will currently buy you sod-all when it locks horns with the mighty Euro. At the latest exchange rate I was able to buy a postcard, one onion and a croissant for £523, and that was after haggling over the onion.
Having said that, there is a very nice zoo in Amiens in which I was able to barter with a gibbon over a banana. The banana was a snip at only £68. The zoo also has amusing penguins and smelly elephants, or vice versa depending on whether you have a cold and no sense of humour.
Rather than banana-trading with streetwise gibbons a much more profitable time with animals can be found at Amiens Hippodrome. The track hosts fairly regular race meetings on evenings throughout the summer. They don’t race hippos any more, as that was banned many years ago along with mole-tossing and weasel-sharpening. At the Hippodrome these days they only race horses.
As well as just seeing which horse can run the fastest they also engage in a continental oddity called ‘trotting’. Trotting is where the jockey sits in a little chariot right behind the horse’s bum. This can be mighty unpleasant if the horse suddenly slams on its brakes. There’s a French charity that exists only to provide mental health support to jockeys that have been left traumatised by having seen far too much of the inside of a horse’s rectum.
In trotting races the horses have to run in a certain way i.e. a trot, and they are not allowed to break into an all out sprint. To ensure fair play there is a little mini-bus full of referees that follows the horses around the track to make sure they trot properly and don’t break into a sneaky gallop. I reckon that they are also watching out for blades coming out of the chariot wheels.
On the evening I visited the Hippodrome I was quite clever with my investments and I managed to make a profit of two Euros on my bets. This may seem like a very small profit but once I got home, and exchanged my money into pounds, this was enough to buy me a three-bedroom house in Chelsea.
As usual in France very good and well presented horse-racing at minimal cost. Only seven euros for the whole family to... more travel advice
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