Monday, 18 June 2018

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

Northern France is a superb holiday destination, not always one that comes to mind when thinking of French sun, sea and sand but it has it all .... and more.

This year we travelled Newhaven to Dieppe on DFDS, a four hour sailing that both directions began in fog. I don't think I have been on a ship where you can just see the wake and hear the ship's fog horn sounding, quite a nervy trip if you think too much!

The fog did not prevent me enjoying a glass of Sancerre, it is such an unbelievable price on this crossing, or enjoying a fish and chip supper. I say supper as it was late evening when we arrived in Dieppe, an experience to find our hotel and then room for sure!

Travelling north we had all day to discover the north east coast of Normandy and we were delighted to discover a funicular railway when we arrived in Le Treport. Built in 1907 and restored in 2006 the railway is 'self-service' as in a lift, you press the button once inside the car. It's an amazing journey with spectacular views over the town, across the estuary to Mers-les-Bains and further to Picardie's white cliffs.

Funicular at le Treport
The view from the top overlooking Mers-les-Bains
Arriving in Saint-Valery-sur -Somme later that afternoon we were met by Monsieur Guetre and shown around the apartment we had booked for the week via Home and Away. A very modern well maintained complex with security doors, glass paneling, a lift, carpeted corridors and pir lighting (which I had great fun playing with). The apartment itself was immaculate, a great living area with a balcony overlooking the grounds making it very peaceful and the perfect place for a glass of wine. Monsieur very kindly gave us a cake as a welcome gift, a speciality of the region and as we had picked up a few bottles of wine when we did the supermarket shop on the way - the balcony called ......

Getting the holiday off to a good start 
We had visited Saint-Valery-sur-Somme before a few years earlier on a day trip on the wonderful steam train and then the following year for a day trip with our daughter when we were staying a little further north in Etaples. It's a super little place full of history, cobbled streets, the tourist steam/diesel train that runs to Le Crotoy and the harbour full of yachts.

Sails galore
Steam Train just leaving for Le Crotoy
The Diesel returning from it's trip 
We sat rail/harbourside enjoying a beer seeing the last steam train depart and then an hour later the last diesel return. There is a turntable at Saint Valery where the steam train uncouples, turns, moves down the track, reverses and hooks back up, and at one at Le Crotoy so the steam engines are always pulling the train. However the diesel pushes or pulls the carriages, and sometimes it pulls backwards. It was such fun to sit and watch, right next to the rails, no barriers as we would have here, the trains ran right into the town, crossing footpaths and roads (with barriers and lights) - such a great sight four or five times a day. We could hear the train from our balcony, always good to catch a toot !

Waiting for the trains :-)
And here they are 
Saint Valery has plenty of history too; William the Conqueror launched his invasion of Britain from here, Joan of Arc was kept here before being taken to Rouen and the Somme was a major battlefield in World War I. The Cité Medieval's buildings are beautiful, as are some of the older houses in the town. From the old city walls you can see right across the Baie to Le Crotoy showing just how vast it is. 

Cité Medieval
Joan of Arc traveled through here
Joan of Arc prisoner of the English, from Crotoy to Rouen
she crossed this town gate on 20th December 1430
The Medieval church
Beautiful old houses in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme 
To our surprise when we descended back down from the old cité to the estaury/harbour across the water was a shepherd with his two dogs and a huge flock of sheep. Judging by the noise they were certainly enjoying their dip in the water. They were not the only animals we saw on the beach this holiday, one of our trips our was to Le Hourdel which is on the very tip of the estuary. At low tide the Baie has many sandbanks which a colony of seals has made its home for many years. Although across the water you are very close to them; it was super watching them play in the sea and wobble around on land. Further out to sea on the bigger banks were dark patches, more groups of seals, there must have been hundreds all told. It is only low tide you can see these amazing animals as the sea covers the banks completely at high tide, in fact the Baie is quite a dangerous place with many warnings about being stranded as the sea comes in around you.

A Shepherd and his sheep in the Baie
They seemed to enjoy the water
Seals at Le Hourdel
It's quite a moving part of the world, there are signs of war all around, both ancient and more recent conflicts. On the beach at Le Hourdel is a huge German Bunker and in all the towns there is evidence of where modern buildings replace ones bombed in the war. There are many military cemeteries in this area with their white gravestones in immaculate grounds standing in lines as if still on parade. As we drove around it was surprising how many fields were full of poppies, quite overwhelming at times. 
The German Bunker - that's me next to it, it was huge 
Fields of poppies - such a moving sight 
For us part of our French holidays is about looking for our favourite and finding new wines. This region of France does not have vineyards but it does have large wine stores in Calais. It was an hour's drive so worth a day out. This holiday we were travelling in my little Citroen C1 so although we could look we were limited on buying. Quite a few have come home, it was surprising how much the C1's boot would hold, and we did enjoy a few on our balcony whilst on holiday.

Cellier des Dauphins is one of our favourite French wines
- a must on any holiday
A new wine that I really enjoyed
French sparkling wine is superb
We had a super time in Saint-Valery-sur Somme, our apartment was perfect and we could have spent the whole week in the town without travelling further as there was so much to do, so many nice bars and restaurants and of course train spotting. One of my favourite moments was re-enacting a photo of our daughter from our visit a few years ago - not quite as good as the original but fun to do ;-)


1 comment:

  1. Oh my Clare I would have loved to take this trip. I have longed to go to Normandy and the surrounding areas. I can see how all the fields of poppies would have been overwhelming. There would have been tears in my eyes. I love how you explained everything you saw and did. Those wine bottles were very impressive...such lovely designs. You had another great trip. RJ@stitchingfriendsforever

    ReplyDelete

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