Le Cambrésis offers an intriguing glimpse into how a former coal-mining region has dusted itself down to reveal the rich cultural seam which originally brought it fame and fortune.

Forget for a moment the traffic trundling through the town centre. Le Cateau-Cambrésis is every bit an architectural gem as big sister Cambrai. It’s just a smaller version, whose considerable chocolate-box charm includes the Matisse Museum. Relocated in 1982 to the tree-lined grounds and flowerbeds of this former 18th-century palace, a hugely enlarged version reopened in the fully renovated palace in 2002. The museum houses France’s third-largest collection of Matisse’s drawings, paintings and sculptures. It also features the geometric works of the abstract artist Auguste Herbin. More recently the Tériade donation (Tériade was a friend of Matisse) gave 31 items to the museum, including work by Piccaso and Chagall.

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