Archive for the ‘Picardy’ Category

Back through France

From Hendaye, we continued up through France to Vouvray, just east of Tours on the north bank of The Loire. Traffic was not too busy but busy enough around Bordeaux. Sharon did  nearly commit murder in a service station en route!  I’d gone to the loo and left her looking out over our car parked in front of the café when a car pulled in and slammed their door into ours! Not being shy – Sharon darted out to catch the woman responsible before she left, but she (the door slamming, evil criminal) managed to evade Sharon’s wrath by backing out of the space and driving back on to the motorway, pretty quick sticks! We were left with a dinted door.30161183796_7e9823d524

The sun shone throughout the afternoon, but by the time we arrived at our Chambre d’Hote just outside the village, it had become chilly and we were glad of our Lidl ‘extras’. In Hendaye, it had been so cold that we had looked around for warmer clothing and found a tracksuit for me and a long sleeved shirt for Sharon in a Lidl just around the corner from our hotel.  As I say, thank goodness for those Lidl ‘extras’.

We walked into Vouvray twice while we were there; a 4.5-mile round trip each time. The first time was to explore the village (it’s tiny) and the second time to find food; there are several places – but we had to find them. Whilst there, we checked out one of the Caves and made some essential purchases. We ate at La Scala.

After a comforetable breakfast we continued our journey up through France to Boulogne. It being Saturday, we expected more traffic but the roads remained quiet and uneventful for the entire journey. Although we’ve visited the area around Abbeville lots of times, we’ve never been to Le Crotoy (and there’s quite a bit of mention in Bernard Cornwell’s book – Harlequin – which I’ve just read) so we called in there for lunch (I had a bucket of mussels!). We will certainly try to visit again, it looks lovely.img_7321

Our Boulogne Chambre d’Hote was right in the middle of the old town, yet we were (just) lucky enough to grab a parking space not too far from our bed. Our room was on the first floor and huge. The windows overlooked the town hall square, where this year they had planted a sensory garden. Well done Boulogne once again.

The Sunday roads in England were also surprisingly quiet. The M20, the M25 and then the M11 were a breeze. So setting off from Boulogne at 8.30am French time to catch a 9:50am train (on time) we were home for 3:00pm UK time.  Not too shabby.

Poppies in Picardy

I’m not sure if I mentioned yesterday; my initial view, that the poppies were past their best was wrong! In the wet lands around the Belgian border and all across Picardy (yesterday) they are blooming everywhere. Obviously, some of the wheat, oats and barley being grown in this region have grown higher than the weed, but almost everywhere else there are huge seas of red.

Gorgeous. 

Today, Monday, we set off in good weather. This got better and better as the day went on until mid afternoon, when it spoiled itself by raining heavily. However, our morning, lunch and early afternoon meanderings were blessed with good sunshine. We wound our way around the wet lands east and north east of Calais and around the canals which head for (from?) the St. Omar region. We’d done a bit of this last July with my brother Andrew, and Debbie but thought it would be nice to take another look. We also managed a sunny picnic by the Moulin, overlooking Watten.

The countryside around Nord Pas de Calais is varied to say the least. We drove to Watten via Wimereaux, Ambleteuse, Cap Gris Nez, Wissant, Guines, Ardres and Bourbourg – and the differences between the various farmlands is great. Different crops, different colours, different landscapes completely. After lunch we had a coffee in a bar and then drove back to Boulogne for a bit of hypermarket shopping.

Because there had been a smash on the motorway junction our road passed under we had to duck and weave to get back and the roads outside our hotel were gridlocked. We therefore dumped the car in a not too far away car park and walked to the bar where we usually have our morning coffee. Everyone was pissed!! The landlady was dancing on a table and they had loud music playing. They were worried that strangers were sitting there but soon came around and started chatting (!!) with us. Excellent.

We’re back to blighty tomorrow, but not home quite yet. We’re staying with Martin and Lin for a few days before I need to get back to a weekend of marking and a week full of work (mustn’t grumble!) 🙂

Le Sacre De L’Empereur

Yesterday, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne, within the old walled town. A re-enactment of course, organised by the Association de la Grande Armée (with participation by de l’Association EMPIRE 1804) – whose members I suspect come from all over France. I assume (as one might) that this is a French version of the Sealed Knot (or LARP) and it made for a very interesting day. e.g. http://www.anb62.fr/forum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=674

Sadly, Boulogne does not seem to have the ferry trade it once had, so the ‘Spectacle’ (which the French do so well, and so often) was perhaps a little low key. The weather may have had something to do with that though because it was cold – damn cold!

We decided to stay in Boulogne on Saturday to watch the parades, which went on all day.


We’ve become fond of calling across the road from the hotel for breakfast pastries and the eating them in a local bar, where the coffee is magnificent. It’s a good start to the day and we were well fortified then, when we went into the old town to see what was going on. Many of the different regiments were beginning to assemble (representations of the regiments of course – not whole regiments!) and were practicing their marches (see above). They had all slept; bivouacked on the old town ramparts and some looked a little worse for wear. It was fun to see all the different uniforms and the way in which the whole thing was play-acted. Well done France – despite the appalling weather.

The old town restaurants were all booked up with camp followers, weekend visitors and Saturday revellers, so we had to drop down the road to the lower town for dinner.

Sharon had a fabulous salad that purported to be Niçoise (!!) and I had that evening’s ‘suggestion’ – Scallops with Spinach and Asparagus. This was also magnificent. I was presented with nine perfectly seared king scallops and a fistful of white asparagus on a huge bed of wilted but flawlessly seasoned spinach. The fact that it looked good and tasted good made the cost (€€€) easier to bear.

Today was mother’s day (fete de meres).

We set off for Cayeaux sur le mer in heavy cloud and intermittently heavy rain. We had to have the heater on in the car and we felt thoroughly miserable as we made our way. We visited the town with Andrew and Debbie last year and though it quite pretty and somewhere to come again. But, as we pulled in it seemed deserted. The rain had stopped but it was bitterly cold as we walked from one end of the huts to the other – probably ¾ mile. As we walked back along the town’s streets the weather seemed to improve and we eventually decided to stay and have lunch there.

The weather continued to improve, so we put out our chairs and read for a while before beginning our meander back up the coast via all of the towns and villages at the mouth of the Somme. This far south, the poppies are much more in evidence and some fields looked truly beautiful.

By now, some of the Somme area towns (Le Crotoy, Quand plage les Pins, Fort Mahon Plage etc) were beginning to fill up and parking was impossible in some of the larger places.

We stopped eventually at Merlimont Plage Plage, which seemed a little run down compared to the others but which nevertheless had a superb beach and a nice outlook. It reminded me of Byron Bay in New South Wales, but without the hippies.

We’ve just finished a picnic tea in our bedroom – as we had not eaten to planned picnic at lunch time.

Nord et Picardy 2011

[25/05/11] We set off from Slaithwaite (having bought milk and ‘sorted’ the post office) about 9.45am. An uneventful journey via M1 > A57 > A1 > A14 > M11 > M25 > M20 (+ 2 pee stops and a late lunch at Maidstone Services) saw us arrive at the Folkstone Euro Tunnel terminal in time to catch the 15.51pm departure – a whole half hour earlier than booked!

For the first ever time we were ‘inspected’ by customs and excise (slack day?) Which was interesting. We’d already passed over the video cameras in the road but now they wanted to check all the door handles for something or other – presumably, if we’d been handling explosives, we wouldn’t have washed out hands first and the swabs would therefore have picked it up. Anyway, we were cleared to go and off we went!

We both enjoy France, so simply arriving in Calais after a very swift journey under the English Channel was a delight. 25 minutes later we were booking into our hotel in Boulogne (Ibis Vielle Ville). We unpacked – which took ages because were had just bundled things into the car before setting off (both of us were out of the house form over 12 hours the previous day!) and went out for a walk. We’d already packed enough food for the day, so as the sun was shining – we made the most of it.

Full day 1 was Thursday and we’d decided to amble across country to Fresnoy le Grand, the home of Le Creuset. I’d been twice before, but Sharon had never been – so we’d made it a feature of one day out. We drove along A and B roads (N and D!), which made the journey slower – but much more enjoyable. The fields of wheat and barley had grown just enough to cover the poppies which must have been magnificent over the last few weeks. They are just starting to show in England, but the only ones we’ve seen over here so far, are those which live on the borers of fields and along the road side. However, even these are being out back – it must be trim the roadsides week over here as we saw many farmers out cutting the edges.

We had a late breakfast overlooking gorgeous valley just outside Boulogne at what I think was Quesques.

Fresnoy le Grand has changed much since I last visited, the factory has gone (it’s still in the town, but it’s  moved) and the pub/restaurant by the gates is closed. All buildings formerly between the pub and the factory shop are now a factory shop car park. Progress! We did find the town to be quite delightful but very closed. No idea why, but everywhere except the chemist was closed. Bars, Bakers, Butchers – all closed. Strange.

Anyway, it’s late now so I’ll finish. But as a reminder for tomorrow. Wind!