How to spend a weekend in Pas-de-Calais | EUROtoday

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How to spend a weekend in Pas-de-Calais - the stunning sandy beaches of the Opal Coast

Take a break in northern France and uncover an genuine, picturesque, and welcoming nook between the ocean and the land says Janine Marsh…

The division of Pas-de-Calais within the north of France is a land of contrasts. The unspoiled Opal Coast stretches for 75 miles, a shoreline of Demerara sugar-colored sandy seashores and dramatic cliffs, Belle-Epoque seaside resorts and flourishing fishing villages. Inland, the pastoral countryside is peppered with picturesque villages and historic cities. In Saint-Omer simply half-hour from Calais, is France's final cultivated wetland, a UNESCO-listed biosphere, a haven for wildlife and the one place in France the place publish is delivered to the island properties by boat!

There's simply a lot to see and do – and I ought to know, I dwell right here! But enable me to avoid wasting you time, listed below are only a few favorites to indicate you how one can spend a weekend in Pas-de-Calais:

Fabulous for Families

The Calais dragon, giving rides to delighted passengers

Follow the route of the Opal Coast and also you'll uncover conventional little seaside villages the place children can sprint up and down sand dunes, paddle and pootle about in rock swimming pools, and fly kites on the boundless breezy seashores. The excellent outing for waterproof kids and affected person dad and mom.

At the Tour de la Horloge Museum in Guines, uncover the historical past of the world from the Vikings to the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 when King Henry VIII visited and jousted with the King of France. Kids can gown up like a Viking or a knight, play video games and board a Viking ship!

Goggle at a dragon in Calais! Yes actually. A hearth-breathing, eye-lid battering, 72-ton dragon roams the historic websites of Calais a number of instances a day and lives in a glass lair on the seashore. Take a 45-minute trip on the dragon's again (children beneath 3 go free).

Nirvana for nature lovers

The Opal Coast, looking out to the White Cliffs of Dover

This space is nice for wandering or biking. Meander the coastal paths of the GR120 alongside dunes and sandy seashores, or head inland to find unspoiled countryside criss-crossed by a community of 1000’s of miles of maintained and signed posted routes. Pop into any native vacationer workplace for particulars and maps and look or for the Vélo© signal which flags up bike-friendly eating places, lodging, charging factors, rental, and restore retailers.

At the seaside resort of Berck-sur-Mer, head all the way down to the water's edge on the south facet of the seashore on the Baie d'Authie, to see an enormous colony of greater than 100 wild seals splashing about within the water, lazing about on the sandbanks, and calling out to one another.

Cozy up beneath a blanket on the hills of the Deux Caps, the Two Cliffs, which overlook the White Cliffs of Dover and revel in a picnic. Nothing says France greater than a baguette with a piece of cheese or some tasty charcuterie with a glass of wine – or a flask of espresso.

Uncover the traditional historical past of the marshes of Saint Omer on the Maison du Marais interpretive middle. First dug out by monks within the 7th century, there's nonetheless a thriving market backyard on this horticultural wonderland. You can tour the marshes by boat (O'Marais by Isnor), uncover the normal wood boat makers, they’re additionally the final to make boats utilizing Viking strategies in France, and spot a wealth of waterfowl and different wild creatures.

Fabulous for Foodies

Seafood market at Le Touquet

Chocoholics will love the Beussent Chocolate workshop. Take a 45-minute tour (in French and English) to witness the magical bean to bar chocolate course of.

Sweet desires are made from cheese! Try the native fromages – from the King of pongy cheeses Vieux Boulogne, to pungent however delicious Maroilles. You'll discover loads of bistros and estaminets (conventional Flemish inns) serving mussels and chips and native dishes like beef stew cooked with domestically produced sugar and beer and a regional favourite – Le Welsh. Legend has it that Welsh troopers launched the Welsh rarebit throughout Henry VIII's siege of Boulogne in 1544.

Beer – the Champagne of northern France! They've made beer for hundreds of years right here and there’s a thriving microbrewery scene. At Brasserie La Brèche in Bethune, attempt the craft ales made with ardour and at Chez Marcel in Arras, meet with a 'beerologist' and revel in a tasting session.

Wander a market – you'll discover among the greatest right here and there are markets day by day of the week. On Friday head to Etaples voted greatest market in France in 2021. On Saturday there are glorious markets in Montreuil-sur-Mer, Saint-Omer, and the Sunday market in Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Historic Cities and Cultural hotspots

Picturesque perched walled town of Montreuil-sur-Mer

Meet the Greeters – uncover the key hotspots solely the locals find out about. The greeter system operates throughout the area with volunteer guides exhibiting you round 'their' France, sharing snippets of native historical past to teams of as much as six. Completely free.

Arras is the right small metropolis to go away the automobile behind and take a stroll. The two principal squares are distinctive in Europe, lined with columned arcades and 155 homes in luxurious baroque Flemish model. The cobbled Place des Héros, is dominated by the UNESCO-listed belfry which tops the architecturally wonderful city corridor. Voted France's favourite monument in 2015, the 75m excessive platform is the right perch from which to drink within the magnificent views over the city. And say hey to the giants, adored heritage figures of the north of France, who stand guard on the bottom flooring.

Medieval Montreuil-sur-Mer sits atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne-like countryside of the Seven Valleys – there isn’t a sea regardless of point out of the ocean within the identify. Take a wander around the ramparts, go to the 16th century Citadel which was fortified by Louis XIV's engineer Vauban, and stroll the cities cobbled streets and squares and cease for a mug of steaming scorching chocolate in the primary sq. earlier than the beautiful Italianate theater. It was on this city in 1837 that Victor Hugo stopped for lunch and was so impressed by his experiences within the city, it impressed him to jot down Les Miserables.

Bring historical past classes to life:

Napoleon's Column, Wimille, Pas-de-CalaisIndelibly marked by two world wars, there are numerous main remembrance websites in Pas de Calais and plenty of museums and monuments pay homage.

In Arras, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Experience in Beaurains provides an interesting glimpse into the group's painstaking work sustaining Commonwealth cemeteries, monuments, and memorials around the globe. And the close by Wellington Tunnels are an immersive memorial to the Battle of Arras, a step again in time to the First World War.

La Coupole close to Saint-Omer, a 55,000-ton concrete dome with 18 toes thick partitions, is the place Hitler had a secret V2 rocket base constructed. Today it’s a fascinating and haunting historic and scientific museum, and residential to essentially the most superior planetarium on the planet. With a novel 15m large display with 10K decision, watch unimaginable 3D movies from interactive seats.

In the port cities of Dunkirk and Calais and throughout the Opal coast you'll discover monuments, memorials and museums devoted to the 2 world wars and providing an interesting window to the previous. Don't miss the Atlantic Wall Museum in Audinghen, a German World War II fortress with its eerily undisturbed relics from uniforms to cutlery and cups. Outside is an extremely well-preserved and uncommon railway gun.

Climb Napoleon's Column in Wimille on the outskirts of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Here, in 1804 the good basic and Emperor of France mustered his forces and had 2000 ships constructed, in sight of England. Though the deliberate invasion by no means passed off, Napoleon started the custom of the Legion d'Honneur medals, and the second is marked by this immense column. Climb 296 steps for eye-popping views over the English Channel.

Agincourt 1415 Museum takes you additional again in time and tells the tumultuous story of one in all historical past's most well-known battles: Agincourt. Brush up on the historical past of this monumental second in time, the place the battle was over in simply hours, making the British victors and King Henry V legends for the remainder of time.

If you're pondering 'that's loads to pack in for a weekend' you're proper – keep longer!

Find masses extra to see and do at:

Janine Marsh is the creator of a number of internationally best-selling books about France. Her newest ebook How to be French – a celebration of the French way of life and Art of residing, is out now – a have a look at the French lifestyle. Find all books on her web site

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How to spend a weekend in Pas-de-Calais