Friday lunchtime and Lana calls. “Let’s go to France for the day tomorrow”…
As random things to do go, this one is up there, but it turned out to be a great but long day. Some quick Friday afternoon web surfing secured a ferry crossing from Dover to Calais for a very reasonable £45 with Seafrance, leaving Dover at 8:15am and returning from Calais at midnight. The plan was to take the Mini across and then find some nice places to go and visit for the day, as well as picking up the usual cheap booze on the way home 🙂
Up at 4am for the 150 mile trip from Southampton to Dover (the sailing times from Portsmouth to Cherbourg and the short notice ruled out a day trip from nearer home) which was dispatched in just over 2 hours. After a quick stop at the AA shop to pick up a piece of documentation required for taking my company car abroad, we checked in and joined the queue waiting for the ferry. As this was the last weekend of the school summer holidays things were quite quiet and we were one of the first cars on, which meant we had no problem securing a table in the restaurant for a well needed breakfast. The sailing itself was calm and quick, and we were soon driving off at the other side.
The plan saw us head down the A16 motorway for about 60km to the seaside town of Le Touquet. According to Wikipedia, the town was built by the owner of Le Figaro in the 1890’s. It has a reputation for being the weekend/summer getaway for rich Parisiens and was also popular as a weekend break location for the likes of Noel Coward. We parked up on the seafront and took a quick walk along the huge and immaculate beach. The weather was overcast and windy but essentially dry, providing perfect conditions for an impressive number of kiteboarders. The town itself consists of two distinctive parts. The part directly behind the beach is dense and full of little bistros, wine bars, shops and the odd casino. We found a lovely little wine shop in which I bought a bottle of 1996 Jacquesson Avize Grand Cru with the intention of laying it down for a few years until some special occasion demands drinking it! Further back from the seafront, the town develops into a forrested area of impressive houses displaying a range of distinctive architectures.
After a few hours exploring Le Touquet, we started a drive back up the coast to Boulogne to visit the fortified centre of the old town, bordered by walls from Roman times. Again we wondered around looking in the shops and viewing from afar a couple of weddings disgorging out from the cathedral. On our way out of Boulogne we passed the British cemetery at Etaples, and made a stop at the one at Terlincthun further along. Unfortunately the stop was short lived as we noted the amount of broken glass near the entrance and then read a stark warning in the visitors book that a number of British cars have been broken into whilst people pay their respects to the dead of the two wars.
Moving back up the coast towards Calais we moved out of tourist mode and into shopping mode as we visited Cite Europe, a huge shopping complex along the lines of Lakeside and Bluewater in England. Our visit revolved around a trip to the Carrefour hypermarket to load up on wine and beer. By this point we were starting to flag, but had another four hours before our ferry back. We decided to head back to the port and enquire if we could change to an earlier ferry. Unfortunately this time the fact that it was the last weekend of the school holidays counted against us as every ferry was full. Therefore we made a trip into the centre of Calais to find a bar to sit and read the paper in. Needless to say as a dock town, Calais is fairly nondescript and after an hour or so we headed back to the port to get our place in line and catch up on some sleep.
The ferry trip back was reportedly quite stormy. However, we slept right through to Dover. Lana drove back all the way to Southampton and we rolled into bed just before 4am, when my alarm clock set for the previous morning went off marking the end of a long but very enjoyable 24 hours.
Some more photos are on flickr.
French day trip #2 comes up in a few weeks when I’ll be off with the rest of the WebSphere ESB team on a trip to Paris. This time going by Eurostar.