Rather than get caught up in all the jubilee festivities we decided to make a short visit to France. Hyw thought it would be relatively crowd free but had forgotten that not only were others fleeing jubilee fever but that it was also half term, no matter. Apart from the boat being full of families, we had a trouble free crossing and even managed to get put on an earlier boat as many people were caught in the traffic jam. We had left early, so although we were caught in it too, we still arrived with time to spare.
Our first day, the weather was brilliant so we didn’t waste any time but hot footed it down to the town square for a spot of people watching and of course, several beers. Our hotel room is at the back so its nice and quiet in the evenings. We ate at Le P’tit Montmartre and had an excellent meal and service. We had various starters, then I had a steak and for desert, a chocolate cake to die for.
We knew the weather was not going to last, and sure enough, on Sunday it was grey, dank and misty rain. Undeterred, we went to Ypres and saw the Menin gate, quite a salutary lesson, even to the most cynical of us. We had lunch in a very smart restaurant opposite the cloth hall. As I am driving I can’t have the strong beers but I did have a local beer at 7 % only I didn’t realise it at the time. We bought various chocolate confections and Hyw made himself sick on his purchase later that night. As we had had a good lunch we decided to have a snack type supper, goats cheese on toast and kidneys in a hunter sauce for my main.
It was raining again on Monday, but showed signs of clearing, so we set off for Le Touquet, stopping en route a Montreuil for a mooch around town. It was bloody cold so we didn’t see it to its best advantage. Most people were huddled in their coats, shops were for the most part shut and anyone with any sense was staying at home.
Although the weather improved, it was still a cold wind and Le Touquet wasn’t doing itself any favours either. It is a town of 2 halves with all the big hotels up one end and the somewhat seedy beach front tatt at the other. Having said that, I did have a rather good Perigordian salad, minus the walnuts! and some excellent carrot cake, so not all bad. Hyw did some excellent map reading so we went home the scenic route. The evening was quite pleasant and this time we went to the St Charles, which we had been to on a previous visit. Brilliant food, attention to detail, my snail starter was in a creamy sauce and my breast of duck was served in a fig sauce, delicious. Nougat ice cream for desert.
We had been to the supermarket (Auchan) on the Monday but called in at a Carrefour on Tuesday when we went to get petrol for the journey home. I could spend hours in supermarkets just looking at the differences in packaging styles alone! We must be the only family that regularly smuggles Dop shampoo back into the country! Hyw had a bad back today so we didn’t go to Lille as planned. The weather was much better than forecast so we had an extensive walk around town, exploring all the back streets and drinking coffee in sleazy bars. The town was obviously very wealthy in the past and parts of it have really been done up, other bits, like the canal side docks, haven’t been touched yet but knowing the French, it won’t be long until they do, recession permitting.
Feeling sufficiently limber, we drove out to Merville in the hope of a riverside walk. It has a magnificent church and town hall but only one bar! It wasn’t what we expected so after a beer we headed off for Bethune which was far more civilised and rather elegant. Light lunch of goats cheese salad.
A few photos to wet your appetite!
Restaurant cards from where we have eaten
Street sign in a park in Ypres
Me in the rain, Sunday in Ypres
Me in the park at St Omer
The square Foch, St Omer
A quizzical Hyw