Beaches, Canals and Countryside
Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
129Trip End Ongoing
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For anyone who hasn't been on the Euro Tunnel before - it's really quick and easy, and for me, by far the best method for crossing the channel. You literally drive down to the platform, drive onto the train and along the inside until you park up. Thirty minutes later you drive off in France.
We left Folkestone in mist and drizzle and arrived in Calais to a much brighter more welcoming day.
Dunkerque was our first destination - my granddad was rescued from the beach here during the war. I never met him, but my dad has always wanted to come here, just for nostalgia. Dunkerque was much bigger than I imagined and on arrival we got caught up in a huge industrial area with factories belching out smoke and goodness knows what into the atmosphere. I didn't have a town map with me, just a general road map to get from one town to another and so we were driving round trying to see signs for the relevant beach.
Eventually I saw a sign for La Mer (the sea) and figured that if nothing else we could find the sea and drive along the coast and probably get a cup of coffee, so I told John to follow that. It turned out to be a good choice as it actually led us right to where we wanted to be.
By the time we got there and parked up we headed straight for a café for some lunch - where we got plagued by tiny spiders (not big enough to make me squeal fortunately) and then we strolled along the front. These little spiders turned out to be everywhere!!
Dunkerque is probably most famous - certainly in Britain - for the rescue operation that took place from the beaches during the war, I've seen black and white pictures since I was a kid of thousands of troops lining up on this beach waiting for ships and boats to arrive to take them away. This town has moved on since those times, it is now a popular seaside town with café's, hotels, beach huts and ice cream stalls. My mum and dad said that they could feel a sadness about the town, an atmosphere about it that wasn't quite right. I honestly couldn't feel this and I am sure that it was more the memories of their parents and things they had been told as children - more a psychological reaction than one that was actually there.
We decide to go into an ice cream parlour to get dessert - man was it good!! So many flavours to choose from and they all looked delicious - I opted for one scoop of pineapple and one scoop of banana in the end, it tasted just as good as it looked.
We walk along the beach eating our ice creams, we go into the town and look at the remaining pre-war buildings then stroll back along the promenade to the car.
From there we drove inland through the countryside to Bergues. The countryside in this part of France is very familiar as it looks just like you could be driving through parts of England - I guess it's hardly surprising since there is evidence to suggest that we were actually connected to mainland Europe up until just after the last ice age.
Bergues was quite a pretty walled town, part moated with various café's and eateries lining the town square. The belfry dominates the town square and was housing an art exhibition today, so we looked round that and then went to for a drink in a café. Afterwards we made our way further into the countryside to the village of Bollezeele, which is where our hotel for the night was.
From outside, the hotel looked like an English country manor house and for £25 per person bed and breakfast I'd bagged an absolute bargain. In our room we have a huge walk in shower - so I'm gonna be in shower heaven!!!
It's a beautiful evening so we meet mum and dad for pre-dinner drink out on the patio in the grounds of the hotel. We can hear a band in the distance which appears to be getting closer - I left the others at the table and walked down the drive to the road for a better look - It's a brass band marching along the road and I watch it before it turns into the hotel drive, so I walk back up to the patio and the band comes and stands directly in front of us and plays a tune before turning round and going back out onto the road - I really enjoyed it, in an unexpected kind of way.
We get seated in the restaurant, where there seemed to be a continuous stream of appetizers before out selected starters make it to the table, followed by our main course and then we are told we can select two desserts each!!! We were all full by that point and certainly couldn't manage two desserts each, so we just have one each. The food was absolutely spot on and delicious - although the waiter wasn't too happy with me - anyone who has been to France before will know that they like their steak almost blue - so I asked for it to be 'very, very, very well done' - in the hope that it was served with no pink in it as that's how I like it - he pulled a face at me -it was pure disgust!!! (in a joking way of course). We took coffee in the lounge afterwards and it was all very civilised - it was lovely, After dinner the evening is still mild, so we walk up into the village to burn off some of that food. For tomorrow I have my eye on the nearby village of St Omer.