Saturday, 11 October 2014

Etaples and Lille

(lots of photos)

Our holiday this year was a little later than normal as I am no longer restricted to school holidays. Hubby and I decided to return for the third year to Etaples and the beautiful Fisherman's Cottage, it really is like a Tardis inside.

Beautiful lounge through to the kitchen
through to the dining room
Having spent a lovely weekend in London (Saints Bar & London post) we only had the London to Dover drive which was so much easier than from here at home. Early Sunday we drove to Euston and meet our daughter Philippa who was spending the first few days with us in France.

Arriving early at the docks P & O kindly allocated us an earlier crossing which to my relief was lovely and smooth, arriving in France mid afternoon.

Etaples is just a short drive from Calais so we were soon settled, Philippa loved the cottage and thought it was huge inside. Sunday evening we enjoyed a meal at Buffalo Grill followed, on Monday, by a trip to Saint Valery sur Somme. We drove first to Le Hourdel which is a lighthouse at the southern point of the Somme Estuary.

Philippa, Me and Hubby (taking photos)
Le Hourdel
Huge expanse of beach - in the far, far, far distance
 lay a small group of seals sunbathing
Saint Valery sur Somme
ancient town
Philippa - beautiful French scene
Tuesday is market day in Etaples which is always great fun; such lovely fruit and veg, bread, cheese and meat stalls. Our favourite bar/café is Au Vieux Port and a coffee outside on market day is a must, as was a last night (for Philippa) meal later that day.

We squeezed in a quick trip to Montrueil-sur-mer Tuesday afternoon. It's a beautiful place, the setting/inspiration for Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, and was once the port for La Canche but as the river has silted over time the harbour is now at Etaples and Montrueil has very little 'mer'.
Ramparts at Montreuil-sur-Mer
Montreuil's cobbled streets
Philippa returned home by Eurostar, so Wednesday was a trip to Calais. Hubby and I used the day to do a little wine checking for our later purchases for ourselves and Round 4 of the Wine Challenge.

Thursday was quite emotional. Hubby and I walked to the Etaples Military Cemetery about 1.5 miles out of town. I have been doing some work at Nuneaton Library documenting World War 1 stories and Etaples played a major role. It had the largest Military Hospital and was a resting camp between Boulogne and the front line. Although this was our third visit to Etaples it was our first to the cemetery, I had seen the name on some of the paperwork I have researched and so now felt I had a small connection and better understanding.

It was an incredible place to be - so still - even with a hive of generators and workers re-engraving the headstones with mini drills, the railway running by and traffic on the main road.
Etaples Military Cemetery
A metal box set in the wall containing
a visitors book & books of all grave details
 in alphabetical order
 10,816 lie here - 35 unidentified
So peaceful even with engravers (right) at work
My grandfather was in this regiment
- I wonder if they served together?
Their names liveth forevermore
Saturday we went to the museum in Etaples as they had an additional exhibition about the British Hospital. The maps were fascinating showing the resting camps, hospital camp and the cemetery across the main road. The railway (so important during the war) was clearly dominant with some of the roads still the same.

 All in all quite a moving, interesting and thoughtful visit to both the cemetery and museum.

On our last night we returned to Au Vieux Port for dinner - there is so much choice on the menu but I couldn't resist Mussels au Bleu. They were delicious and so many it took me 50 minutes to eat. Hubby enjoyed a lovely duck dish, we both had café gourmand for dessert, with bubbly - Blanquette de Bourgogne - perfect.

Mussels with blue cheese sauce
Duck breast
Café Gourmand
Our week in Etaples passed by so quickly, it's a lovely town which is beginning to feel like a old friend. We had some rest days as well as trips out and enjoyed many evenings on 'our bench' harbourside although being later in the season the airport & harbour were quieter with the nights drawing in.
Sitting on our bench
We didn't return straight home from Etaples but travelled north to Lille, a town we've wanted to visit and loved the old part. The streets are all cobbled, the buildings are beautiful old Flemish style and the atmosphere city like without being overbearingly busy. The roads were very confusing - they sort of merge with the paved pedestrian areas so when you're walking it's confusing to suddenly be 'crossing a road'.

Lille centre
Church courtyard

Beautiful buildings
Garden at Porte de Paris
Stunning floor, windows and statutes
Porte de Paris - still has it's drawbridge through
original gateway
Loved this windmill on the outskirts of Lille
3 Brasseurs
Welsh and chips (scoop shaped)
Another wonderful holiday in my favourite country France - and Monday we're off to Turkey. I'm not very good at flying, in fact after our honeymoon 25 years ago I've only flown 3 times. We have not done hotel package holidays since our honeymoon so a whole new experience going all inclusive to Turkey - a great way to end our Silver Anniversary celebrations :)


  1. Super pics of your time away.

  2. Looks wonderful Clare, and the mussels in blue cheese sauce sound delicious


I'm so pleased you're enjoying my travel and wine ramblings - I love reading your replies too, thank you for posting a comment