Les Hortillonnages – floating gardens and farms – are a maze of canals and man-made land plots located in the marshland not too far from the city center of Amiens. Even though I had done a bit of reading about them online, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we took Chelsea and Mike there last week.
While each plot of “land” is individually owned and maintained, the association created to protect these little gardens runs 45-minute boat tours through the canals for visitors. They’re only open to the public between 2 PM and 5 PM, so we arrived around right after opening to make sure we wouldn’t miss the boat.
It turns out there’s a bunch of boats, and lots of people who want to see Les Hortillonnages, so we waited in line and got tickets for the 3:30 tour.
After spending our wait at a cafe down the street, we boarded the boat ready to see whatever it was we were going to see. The tour guide only narrated in French, but thankfully we had Marc there to translate for us.
The boat took us past plot after plot of these tiny little yards/gardens/farms. Each was a little different, but most of them had some sort of small little cabin or shelter – with no electricity, according to our tour guide.
Some looked more like they were used for family “camping” trips with bonfires going and picnic tables, and others looks like more serious farms with crops all lined up in a row.
There were tons of animals – ducks, swans, birds and even a barking guard dog that looked like he was about to jump into the water after our boat.
Some of the gardens were close together, and some were more secluded than others. Each had its own unique purpose and feel.
The canals seemed to go on forever – just hiding in the shadows of the city. You could see Tour Perret and the cathedral depending on where you were on the tour.
Eventually, we came upon some gardens that had the luxury of electricity. These had a bit more land and seemed to be more focused on actually farming rather than the more family oriented plots we had seen before. There was even restaurant/cafe that was perfectly accessible by both water or land.
The tour looped around and we ended up back where we had started.
54 Boulevard de Beauville
80000 Amiens, France
Open April 1 – October 31
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