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City of Color: Amiens France

City of Color: Amiens France

January 2020 · 5 min read · Amiens

It's been a while since my last post. Lately, I have been busy and bored and generally uninspired to write anything. Maybe it's the rain? Maybe it's the gloomy cloud filled skies that make me want to sleep for days on end? Or maybe it's nothing more than my own lathargy and lack of enthusiasm? Anyway...

Like many people, this time of the year is particularly hard for me. It's the time of the year when sunshine and color are in short supply. Days of sun are few and far between and the colors remain mostly grey and dreary.

Today is one of those days. It is the opposite of sunny and bright. It is gloomly and wet. The skies are a deep grey and droplets of water persistently drip from shrubs, gutters and the dead branches of trees. It feels melancholic.

I could use some sun and some color. We all could I'm sure.

A few weeks ago we were actually fortunate enough to get some sun. It was a particularly bright and sunny day so in order to take full advantage of the rare occasion my wife and I decided to visit the city of Amiens, a city historically known for its color.

Color and Cloth

Throughout its history the city of Amiens was a major hub for the textile industry in France. It is located along the Somme River which made it an ideal location to manufactur cloth fabrics and leather, both of which rely heavily on a constant supply of running water for their production.

The Saint Leu District is a historical part of the city that embodies the very idea of cloth. It is where weavers, tanners and textile workers would gather to sell their textile related goods. The area is also home to canals that wind their way through the streets and to brightly painted half timbered homes, some of which were built as far back as the 13th century.

Though many of the homes here have been converted into restaurants and cafes, the quarter has not lost any of its charm. The buildings are painted bright colors which gives the area a ton of character and a distinctively quaint sort of charm. It has a sort of modern and historical feel to it that makes me think of it as a hipster-esc haven.

Many of the homes and some of the iron bridges are painted a magnificent sky blue. Interestingly it is a color which holds quite a lot of significance for the area.

Historically Amien was known for producing spectacular blue fabrics, the pigment of which came from the leaves of the woad plants that grew readily in the region. Many of the homes and bridges in the area are painted in that pigment seemingly to demonstrate the cities historic underpinnings.

Speaking of hipster-esc: album cover shot courtesy of my wife.
Speaking of hipster-esc: album cover shot courtesy of my wife.

At one point while walking through the streets my wife and I stumbled upon a strange structure located on a bridge within the heart of the district.

It stood tall and was covered in old socks and strands of fabric (some braided) that had been tied to it by unknown inhabitants.

The fabric flowed from the structure and beyond. More socks and fabric were tied onto the railings of the bridge in which it sat. For obvious reasons the whole thing reminded me of the many bridges in France where hopeful lovers symbolically pledge their love to each other by securing a lock to a chain link fence of an overpass.

Upon approaching the structure I noticed a sign that read "Arbre de Chaussettes" or "Tree of Socks." It really is a neat little spot of human absurdity. One of my favorite spots to stumble upon for sure.

In my search through the internet I could not find any sort of write up on the tree of socks of Amiens but I assume that it exist as a sort of tribute to the areas history in textiles. Very clothy, very colorful, very cool.

Marie sans Chemise

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Outside of the Leu District there is another interesting historical structure that loosly relates to clothing, or in this case a lack thereof. It is a statue of a topless woman that has been dubbed "Marie sans Chemise" or Marie without a shirt" (the title sounds better in French).

The statue was created by the sculpture Albert Roze in 1898 and is fixed to a theatrical and curvy Rococo style clock that was designed by Émile Ricquier. After its completion the statue caused quite the scandal among the Puritans in Amiens who were quite offended by the topless woman. Was it because they could see her breasts? Or was it because the statues designer was seemingly rebelling against the city's historical background in textiles?

"We make clothes here and she has no clothes! What the hell man!?!?"

Luckily though, despite recieving backlash from a portion of the public, this beautiful statue survived the time and remains standing to this day.

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Amiens is a quaint and charming town with an interesting history related to cloth and canals. If you get a chance to go I would certainly recommend taking the opportunity. Just make sure that it's a bright and sunny day so that you truely experience what makes it so special - its color!

Thanks for reading.

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