Pleasant town, industrial outskirts
www.saint-quentin-tourisme.fr. Elevated above the plain and the Somme (which rises some 10 km to the north-east), Saint-Quentin spreads its industrial outskirts around a pleasant town centre. Philip II of Spain laid siege to the town in 1557, and captured the Constable of France, Montmorency, but left the Basilique standing; First World War German troops had other ideas and mined the entire edifice, but ran out of time before setting the charges. Its Gothic bulk, much-restored, looms large, and there is an unusual tiled pattern like a maze in the nave which the faithful were expected to follow on their knees.
The Musée Antoine Lécuyer, www.saint-quentin.fr, merits a visit for its 78 portraits of 18thC bigwigs by local-born artist Maurice Quentin de la Tour; while the Musée Entomologique, rue des Cannoniers, spotlights the insect world in most of its weird, wonderful and stomach-churning forms. This is one of the finest collections in the world consisting of more than one million poison-tipped and velvet-winged exhibits.