19 Jun 2011

The north of France


Last week was the annual trip away with the Bize club – a coach trip to the North of France. All new ground to me – as is most of France, so I was really pleased to see this very different region. 

The recent French comedy film “Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis” (“Welcome to the Sticks” or “Welcome to the Land of Shtis”) is set in this region. It’s a very funny movie, and was a huge hit here in France. The main character in the story was dreading his relocation from Provence in the south to a small village in this northern region. He learned to love it and in fact was loathe to finally leave.

And I can see why – it’s a lovely part of the country. It’s a real contrast to the south – and not only the weather. The inevitable very pretty villages, flat or gently rolling countryside with many different crops – different grains, linseed, canola and sugar beets, to name a few. It made for an interesting patch worked landscape.

And cows! Not something we see down south. Maroilles is a cheese of the region – rather smelly but delicious.

But back to our early departure – we left from the boules ground in Bize at 4.30 on a Sunday morning – travelled all day and arrived in the seaside town of Berck-su-Mer at 8.30 in the evening.

We certainly covered some ground – a day trip to London via the Tunnel (that was interesting with all the French people – most who have never been to the UK), and another day trip to Bruges in Belgium. 
Our not-so-trusty bus, on the train, going through The Tunnel
First stop in England at 11.00am - obligatory for the driver to take a break.
Coffee or tea? No. red wine, baguettes and
pâté…

We did have a breakdown with the bus, fortunately it was back on French soil. Though it meant we missed out on seeing the beautiful town of Arras. 

There’s always an upside - we managed to pull into a huge supermarket parking lot, and I found a cheap source of sunflower and sesame seeds that I use to make muesli with – I can get them in Narbonne but for reasons I don’t understand, they’re really expensive here. So I could hardly stagger when I left the store but have enough to last me for quite some time.

So as not to turn this post into a tiresome blow-by-blow, day-by-day travel diary, I’m going to turn it into a tiresome photo gallery instead! Well, actually - I’m going to put up a selection of the things we saw and places we visited.

I’ll just say that it was a lovely week away with the same group of good people. There was discussion of where to go next year – the majority seem to be leaning towards Greece. Sounds good to me.

The famous boardwalk on the beach at Cayeux-sur-Mer –
one of the the longest in Europe, with about 400 cabins.
The road-side view
Cayeux-sur-Mer - looking out over the Channel
The beach at Berck-su-Mer
We came across this man heading back across the sands -
he'd been digging for worms to use as fish bait. They're huge!


BELGIUM:
Beautiful Bruges, known as the 'Venice of the North'.
We took a boat trip on the canals - it certainly lives up
to its reputation, it's a lovely city.



Lunch at the Half Moon Brewery ("De Halve Maan") in Bruges.
We had a choice of red wine or beer with lunch......
Above-table lighting at the Half Moon Brewery
LONDON: We were lucky enough to pull up right outside Buckingham Palace
just as the lights turned red and the traffic was stopped - for the
changing of the guards. So got a high view from within the bus.
Pure luck with the timing.



And of course, a stop and wander near
the statue of Charles de Gaulle
BACK IN FRANCE:
The Bunker of Eperlecques -
built by Nazi Germany during WWII
to be a V-2 rocket launching site.

Battery Todt at Wissant near Cap-Gris-Nez which housed four 38 cm guns
Cap Blanc Nez
White cliffs at Le Treport
The easy way to the top - funicular railway
The view from the top
The beachfront - and more beach cabins
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