From Art Deco to Middle Ages

Last week we gave us a two days tour in Nort-East part of France.
However we chose two cities for their architecture and Heritage, the main goal of our trip was an amazing complex imaginated and created by Jean-Baptiste André Godin, based on Fournier‘s utopia ideas, the Familistère of Guise.


Here I’ll try to share with you our trip, give you advices and nice places to see, but also how to save money and have a cheap nice trip.


Saint Quentin

For us Saint Quentin initially was just a big town to stop to have lunch. We had a very nice surprize; the town has a lot of “Art Deco” buildings. That was pleasent to walk on streets and watch front walls.

However, the City Council kept its very old Flemish front wall.


Let’s visit the church Basilique de Saint Quentin, close to city council.

We had not time to go to the main train station, but I know it is worth the detour to see its “Art Deco” architecture.

Going to Saint Quentin

From Paris you can reach Saint Quentin by A1 motorway, straight to the North, and, quit it, going to the East.
But this motorway is quite exhausting due to a lot of lorries and it does not show you nice landscapes.
I really advice you to quit it as soon as possible, close to Compiègne city, and then take the D1031, quiter, less expensive and exhausting than the A1 motorway.
Even if the trip will take some minutes more, you should save money and see nice landscapes.


Where to park

On Boulevard Richelieu you’ll find free car park places, it’s 10 minutes maximum far from city centre by walk.
Parking there, you’ll save few money more.

Where to eat

A friend of mine who lived in Saint Quentin advized me a restaurant called L’Edito.
That was a very good advice !
This restaurant is located on the main place of the town “Place de l’hotel de Ville”. And you can not miss it.
There is a huge variety of dishes (from fajitas to typical dishes), all cooked there. And they are very good. Service is professional and serious.



Familistère de Guise

After a very good meal we had a small walk and then took again the road to drive to our main goal of this trip : the “Familistere de Guise”.
Jean-Baptiste André Godin had a stove plant and a lot of ideas based on the utopia from Charles Fournier’s theory. He decided to apply them to its plant and built a whole complex dedicated to its workers recreating a whole society. Its construction ended in 1889.
This complex, made of several buildings (flats, theatre, schools, swimming pool, laundries …) inspired some future architects as Le Corbusier. And nowadays it can be visited, but some buildings are still habited.

Please, take into account that the visit is very impressive and interesting, that’s why it can take quite a while to visit all the buildings, it took us two hours. You’d better arrive early in the afternoon to have all the time to visit it. Buildings close at 5:30PM

Our Night stop : La Tour de Crecy

We decided to stop on a small hotel located close to the next city we wanted to visit, in the city of Crécy-sur-Serre. The prices were quite cheap (50€/night) and I red many positive comments about this hotel : La Tour de Crecy.
That was a very nice surprise.
Even if roms are not at the last modern design, they are spacious, clean. Its owner are very warm and friendly. The restaurant’s cook is marvelous and breakfast copious with very good and local products.
That was the best familiar hotel I ever tested.


Laon (you need to pronounce [lɑ̃]) gave us the bitter feeling of this mini-road-trip.
The city does not obviously benefits from a clear and active policy of promoting and welcoming tourism.
As the city is built on a plateau, we thought it would be a better idea parking at its bottom, at train station car park, and take a bus to get the top and the city centre. Moreover this idea is promoted bay the transportation service.
The plight is that parking is limited at one hour and hald everywhere in the city, and there is a bus every 20 minutes. It obviously does not give us time to visit the whole city. So we decided to reach the city centre by car, praying to get a place to park.

As you have 1h30 maximum to visit it, and as it’s free between 12 and 14PM, we advice you get in Laon at 10:30AM just to benefit 2 free hours at midday. But this idea is clearely braking tourism. If we had not seen these two free hours we would have walked away and got back home.

The other plight is that you need a special device to park in these limited hours areas. It’s a cheap cardboard wheel that you’ll need to buy. And to buy it, you’ll need to park. That’s clearely anti-foreing tourism.
Maybe you’ll find it at the little supermarket in Crecy-sur-Serre.

Once you’ve passed all these pitfalls, you’ll pleased to discover a very nice and rich Middle-Ages city that is worth the trip, even if we felt as a sad feeling, the city centre is quite sluggish, maybe due to the poor tourism attractivity.

The very first good surprise is that you’ve got many buildings with Heritage Label “Monument Historique”. Houses, old churches and more. I felt there is one every 50 meters. That’s really amazing.

So ? Indeed we really enjoyed this charming city and its huge Heritage.

Where to park

You will have to buy this special device (2€) before parking. The cheapers are at librairie Charlot, rue Eugène-Leduc. It’s a blue square cardboard with an cardboard wheel inserted inside. You should mark your arrival time with the wheel and place the blue device behind the screen.

Where to eat