Category Archives: Tourism and Shopping

Pas De Calais Tourism – New Events

The Pas de Calais region of France is determined not to be put in the shade by the forthcoming Olympic Games just across the Channel in London, and has come up with a new Non-Olympic Games event of its own.

By the look of it the Pas De Calais event will be far more spectacular and entertaining than the London one which mostly involves running round in circles.

Here is a team training for the Anti-Gravity Marathon.  (photo: Pas De Calais Tourisme)

Olympic Anti-Gravity marathon training

And some competitors training for the difficult Extreme Skydiving (Freestyle) which is like Skydiving but without parachutes.

Olympic Extreme Skydiving practice

Berck Kite Festival 2012 ~ World Championships

This year’s spectacular week of kite flying. Demonstrations, Competitions, Exhibition stands and lots of other attractions –  AND the World Sport Kite Championships. This show is worth a visit!  Just head for the beach!

Here’s a video of the kind of precision flying you’ll see.

A Tourist Day Out and Restaurant Review

We are pleased to re-publish a piece including a restaurant review which appeared recently in “Sand-Blog”, an occasional journal written by Frogsiders publisher and local gite owner, Patrick Hay.

“Yesterday was my birthday, and in keeping with a family tradition that now

View from the fish quay at Etaples

stretches back 12 months, we took part of the day off to put ourselves in the place of our Sandboys holiday clients, and go and do something “touristy” in the region. This time we drove a few miles along the coast to have a look at Etaples and, in particular, the Museum of the Fishing Industry, « Maréis », which we had heard was well-presented and very interesting.

Etaples used to be one of France’s biggest fishing ports in terms of the tonnage of fish landed, but over the last 50 years, the estuary of the River Canche has silted up to the point where today’s larger fishing vessels are unable to use the harbour. The fishermen of Etaples, however, unwilling to lose the town’s major industry, have simply moved their boats a few miles up the coast to the port of Boulogne.

The fishermens’ cooperative of Etaples numbers some 50 boats in its fleet. Most of them sail at the beginning of each week and remain at sea until Thursday or Friday when they return with their catch, a proportion of which is retained by the cooperative for sale in their own fresh fish shops and restaurants in Boulogne and Etaples. Some of the boats keep back a little of the catch to be sold direct to the public from the stalls on the fishmarket quay at Etaples.  Each stall is decorated with paintings and the colours of the boat to which it belongs. Altogether, in supplying, manning, and maintaining the fleet, marketing, processing, transporting, selling, cooking and serving the fish, the cooperative provides work for thousands of people in Etaples and Boulogne.

MAREIS in the old "corderie" at Etaples

At Maréis you can see how the different types of fishing nets work and the variety of fish that are caught in the Channel waters between France and the south coast of England. There are aquaria where you can see the fish up very close, and rock pools where crabs crawl among mussels, starfish, oysters, scallops, shrimps and other seashore creatures. You can stand on the bridge of a modern fishing boat with its radar screens and depth sounders demonstrating the complicated world of the fishing boat skipper. There are guided tours and demonstrations, and films showing life on the boats are screened.  Finally there’s a tank where you can gently stroke rays, as they swim playfully around from one hand to the next.

We enjoyed our visit, and left via the shop where we found some nice books, games and souvenirs including a soft toy in the shape of a ray.

As a special birthday treat in the evening we had dinner at a restaurant in Montreuil which has been getting exceptionally good reviews recently. As

Magret de Canard with lovely sauce, crisp potato cake and vegetables

a result of one of the best meals we’ve eaten in France for many years, we can thoroughly recommend L’Atelier 26, in rue d’Hérambaut.  It looks like an ordinary bar or cafe from the outside. Inside it is furnished sparsely and simply, but it is warm and there is a friendly welcome, and above all, the food is top quality at reasonable prices. After a delightful complimentary appetiser and excellent seafood starters, our main courses were Haddock with a Smoked Herring sauce, and Roast Breast of Duck with a Cocoa Bean and Hot Pepper sauce. Both were superbly cooked, beautifully balanced for flavour, and nicely presented. The “moelleux au chocolat chaud coeur coulant caramel”, Chocolate “Moelleux” dessert with a fondant centre, was superior to anything we’ve had in top London and Paris restaurants. Normally a 3 course meal of this quality would cost almost double the 65 euros we paid for two, including wine and aperitifs.

Photos of L'Atelier 26, Montreuil-sur-Mer

L'Atelier 26 at Montreuil sur Mer

We’ll certainly go again to L’Atelier 26 soon and report more details. It seems it is open at lunchtime Monday to Saturday, and evenings on Friday and Saturday only. They will serve a simple omelette and chips, or a full three course meal. On the evidence of our one visit, value-for-money is outstanding.”

This photo of L’Atelier 26 is courtesy of TripAdvisor

P&O Ferries New Special Offer

After the news that P&O are soon to be challenged on the Dover-Calais route by two other ferry companies, it is hardly surprising that they would come up with what is known in the media as a “spoiler”.

Having had only SeaFrance with their unreliable timetable, ill-maintained ships and appalling customer service,  as competitors for the last few years, P&O now faces some eager new challengers on the Dover-Calais route.  Not surprisingly they are responding with a pre-emptive “Special Offer” in an attempt to to retain as much of their market share as possible during the new lines’ start-up period.

The limited duration P&O offer comes into effect from today, coinciding with the launch of their brand new ship the Spirit of France (commencing service on 9 February), which joins her spectacular sister ship Spirit of Britain.

TRAVEL ON SPIRIT OF FRANCE OR SPIRIT OF BRITAIN
BOOK BY 14 FEBRUARY, TRAVEL BY 13TH DECEMBER (T’s and C’s Apply)
The offer is available online from 10am today and is only available to book for a short time, so make sure you don’t miss out on a great opportunity.

Subject to restricted space, sailings and dates. Price shown is only valid for travel on the Spirit of France or the Spirit of Britain. Book by the 14th February with all travel to be completed by the 13th December. Price shown includes £2.50 web discount. P&O Ferries reserve the right to withdraw or amend the offer at any time without notice.   From £39/47 euros each way for peak periods: 30th March – 15th April 2012, 1st June – 10th June 2012, 20th July – 2nd September 2012.

CLICK HERE!  FOR MORE DETAILS OF THE P&O OFFER CLICK ON THIS LINK

DFDS launches Dover-Calais ferry service

Frogsiders has received news from DFDS, the owners of the successful and popular former Norfolk Line ferry service, that they are to start a new Dover-Calais Ferry Service in association with LD Lines, starting on February 17, 2012 .

We are delighted to announce that a DFDS Seaways and LD Lines joint initiative will launch a new Dover-Calais ferry service, starting 17 February this year.

Together with our thriving Dover-Dunkirk operation and now, LD Lines’ Newhaven-Dieppe and Portsmouth-Le Havre routes, we are able to offer an unrivaled choice of ferry routes to France.

We look forward to welcoming you onboard during 2012!

***SPECIAL OFFER!***

To celebrate the launch of our Dover-Calais route, we have released another fantastic special offer.

LOW SEASON – Car plus 4, £29 each way

HIGH SEASON – Car plus 4, £39 each way

CLICK HERE! To find out more about the DFDS Dover-Calais Launch Offer click here, then follow the Dover Calais Special Offer link

Grande Place, Arras, February 1919

The Grande Place, Arras in February 1919 from a panoramic photo in US Government Archives

Click here to see the whole panoramic view

This panorama was taken by Fred Schutz of Washington, DC, who was commissioned after World War I to photograph some of the war`s destruction and impact, especially in northern France.

Restaurant Review: Les Pieds Dans L’Eau at Berck Sur Mer

We are pleased to re-publish a restaurant review which appeared recently in “Sand-Blog”, an occasional journal written by Frogsiders publisher and local gite owner, Patrick Hay.

Exterior view of Les Pieds dans l'Eau restaurant

A good seaside place to eat - Les Pieds dans l'Eau at Berck

“The other night we were planning to eat out before going to the cinema in Montreuil.  The film (The Company Men, with Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones, in English with French sub-titles) was not scheduled to start until 9pm, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely meal beforehand.  We had aseafood place in mind, too – somewhere we hadn’t been before – the Brasserie “Les Pieds dans l’Eau”, aptly named as it is on the beach at the seaside resort of Berck (about 12 miles drive from Fort Mahon).   This is the restaurant at Berck’s Agora Leisure Centre which I had noticed while attending swimming club training sessions in the excellent pool there.

Brasserie Les Pieds dans l’Eau, Agora, Berck-sur-Mer, Tel. 03 21 89 87 10

Sandboys Sand-Blog reccommends Brasserie "Les Pieds Dans l'Eau" at Berck

Seafood specialities and wines by the glass.

The restaurant is very comfortably furnished and nicely decorated in a modern style.  It is accessed either through the basement level of the Leisure Centre (the restaurant is actually underneath the seaside promenade) or by steps down to the beach from the promenade.

Appropriately for a seaside restaurant, the kitchen at Les Pieds dans l’Eau leans towards seafood, though salad and meat eaters are certainly not forgotten and will find plenty of choices on the extensive menu.  There are some spectacular-sounding specialities as well as a sensible children’s menu.  You’ll find almost all seaside restaurants in France are well prepared for families with small children – we noticed that Les Pieds dans l’Eau had a good supply of high-chairs available to cope with the summertime family seaside holiday rush.

Comfort and fresh decor at this seaside reastaurant

The comfortable interior of Les Pieds dans l'Eau

We chose to eat inside, although it was a lovely sunny evening, and there was plenty of room at the open-air beachside tables.  We both chose the same cold starter, Tartare de tomates fraîches et confites, copeaux de Parmesan, a delightfully fresh and zingy dish.  Sue had Moules Frites for her main course – it’s virtually this seaside region’s signature dish – while I tested the kitchen with a more demanding Turbot rôti, sauce vierge, escalivade de légumes.  I was very happy with my excellent fish, though I personally found the dressing on the vegetables a little too oily for my taste (most people will probably disagree with me)

There is an excellent choice of wines, including a range of wines you can order by the glass.  Unusually you don’t pay any extra for the “by the glass” option.  A 12.5 centilitre glass is priced at one-sixth of the bottle price.  We chose a very acceptable French Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc, and since we had 3 glasses between us (only one for me, the driver), we paid for exactly half a bottle.

We had to leave it there without trying any of the interesting range of desserts so that we could make it to the cinema in time, but we’ll be back on another occasion to see what they’re like.

All in all, Les Pieds dans l’Eau gets our Sandboys stamp of approval as a very decent, comfortable and superbly positioned French seaside restaurant.”

This restaurant review is reproduced with the permission of the publishers of  Sand-Blog

Restaurant Review – Art by the Yard and a Vegetarian Menu

This review first appeared in Frogsiders Magazine section in 2009

According to the Michelin Guide there are a number of good restaurants in Montreuil. Curiously, though we’ve tried several, we’ve never had a really satisfactory meal in the town. We were once treated by friends to a meal in one of the more highly rated Michelin listed places. We’ve never gone there again. The place was scruffy and uncomfortable, the service was sloppy, and the food was dull.

We’ve heard good things about the Chateau, and of Jeroboam’s at the Hermitage hotel, but on this occasion we wanted to try out the vegetarian menu at Les Hauts de Montreuil, a hotel and restaurant, not Michelin listed, in what is claimed to be the oldest building in the old town. The hotel is a member of Logis de France, a label that we’ve often found to be a reliable guide where there’s an absence of Michelin, Gault Millau or other recommendations. Hotels in the Logis de France guide are required to meet high standards, including having a decent restaurant.

Beams, bricks and large oil paintings characterize the comfortable dining room

First impressions were good. We were greeted at a reception desk and shown to our table on the upper of the two floors in the split-level restaurant. The tables are large and there’s plenty of room between them so you feel comfortably private. The room is in the oldest part of the building with old beams and exposed brickwork. There are also some impressively large oil paintings which lend an air of expensive luxury – if art were valued by the square metre these would be priceless. Without delay aperitifs were served accompanied by some truly delicious olives and a few dainty bite-size savoury pastries. By now, with a Kir and a Coupe de Champagne in hand, there was a palpable feel-good factor in the air.

I have often eaten totally vegetarian meals and enjoyed them, but this time I chose from the normal 32 euro menu, while my wife Sue, who eats no meat, took the vegetarian menu at 29 euros. Worried about the drive home, and at the suggestion of the maitre d’hotel we ordered a 50cl pichet of very decent house red instead of a bottle from the extensive wine list, which includes a number of rare classics. So far, so good

‘Aioli du Maraicher à la Provencale’ - a vegetarian dish here served with an optional portion of fish for non-vegetarians

There was nothing wrong with either of our starters. My “Flamiche Montreuilloise”, a cheesy tart with leeks and smoked duck’s breast, a speciality of the house was a tad oily, but the sharp dressing on the accompanying salad counterbalanced it well. The vegetarian choice of “Mousse de Betterave au Crusty de Patate Douce, Sorbet Betterave” certainly looked good, but my wife, a great fan of beetroot, hinted that it was just a little short on flavour. As I hate the taste of beetroot I would have praised the chef for subtlety and given him an extra mark.

Our main courses and the desserts that followed were less good. My generous “Roulade de Mignon de Porc”, stuffed with prunes and lardons, was nicely cooked but not particularly well presented and its ‘speculoos’ flavoured sauce was overpowering and too sweet for me.

Roulade de Mignon de Porc, stuffed with prunes and bacon, and a “speculoos” sauce

My cabbage, too, was laced over-lavishly with strongly flavoured lardons, and looked as if it had been prepared too far in advance and re-heated once too often. Sue thought her “Aioli du Maraicher à la Provencale” was far too oily and strong. These disappointments were not made up for by the desserts. My ‘Soupe de Fraises’, apparently a speciality, was too sweet and its decorative dobs of chantilly came, rather obviously, from an aerosol can. Sue’s ‘Pudding Maison sauce chocolat’ looked unappetising even to me, and she could manage very little of the stodgy lump.

So, unlucky again, we left Montreuil a little disappointed. Although we dined in comfort and style and received excellent service, we felt let down by the chef’s unbalanced flavours. The bill was about 90 euros including aperitifs. We won’t be rushing back there, but would probably give it another try on another day. Go there for comfort, ambiance, and generous helpings rather than a gourmet experience.

10 great things about Montreuil – (restaurants and history apart)

by Lesley Delacourt

(Article first published in Frogsiders Magazine – Summer 2009)

If you know Pas de Calais well, you’ll probably have been to Montreuil sur Mer and know that it has a Michelin-starred restaurant and about 15 other places to eat. You’ll probably also know that it was founded in 987 AD and wears its history (which is amazing! don’t get me started) and other charms on its sleeve. But there is more besides the Citadel, the museums, the Saturday market, restaurants, cute little theatre/cinema and small choice of chi-chi shops.

Behind the scenes there are (at least) 10 other great things about Montreuil, that may take a bit of digging around before you’ll come across them, but they are delightful when you do. In no particular order try:

1.    Summer Sunday afternoons outdoors jazz and blues concerts as the sun sets at the Creperie in the Rue Clape en Bas. Last month pony tailed duo “Pere et Fils” between them played double bass, ukulele and guitar. “Fils” is 12 years old and is already an accomplished musician, especially impressive as he’s only played double bass for less than a year. Have a drink or a crepe while you listen to the music; a crepe with ratatouille and Maroilles cheese is a great snack or light meal.

2.    Saturday Auctions. The furniture auction rooms are more or less opposite Le Patio hotel/restaurant (great food and a pretty courtyard for summer dining) on the main cobbled street that winds through Montreuil. You don’t have to attend the whole auction; check out the reserve price of what you want, leave your bid and go back later to see if you bid successfully for that pretty 18th century boat bed.

3. Malins Plaisirs. Sometimes 10 days, sometimes 2 weeks depending on each year’s state subsidy, the festival of Malins Plaisirs (Wicked Pleasures) takes place in August. There are opera and theatre performances, concerts and talks, visits to surrounding historic villages, wine and food tastings, all of them very professionally performed by artistes who use Mailns Plaisirs as a glorious dress reherasal for winter in Paris theatres. Good humour, surprise and aplomb are the order of the day. In particular the Last Night is Continue reading “10 great things about Montreuil – (restaurants and history apart)” »

Electric car fleet for Paris in 2011

Paris is to get a fleet of eco-friendly electric cars which will cost users no more than a tube fare to use. Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris announced this week that the “Autolib” scheme will start next autumn.

The mayor hopes Autolib will be as popular as Vélib, the highly successful bike rental scheme he introduced in 2007, which has been copied by cities around the world including London. Before committing to the project the city collected evidence that it would be likely to be both useful and economically viable – the average car in the capital spends about 95 per cent of its time parked – only 42 per cent of Parisians own a car – 16 per cent use theirs less than once a month – and, according to surveys, 2.4 million people in the Paris area intend to use the system which requires only 160,000 to 200,000 subscribers to become economically viable.

This week it was confirmed that a four-seat vehicle made by the French company Bolloré had been selected for the Autolib scheme. 3,000 of the distinctive Bolloré “Bluecar” battery-powered vehicles will be placed at 1,000 self-service ranks across Paris and the suburbs.

The scheme will cost 12 euros per month for annual subscribers, who will then be required to pay five euros for the first half-hour of use, four euros for the next and six for every extra 30 mins at the wheel. The idea, as with Vélib, is to encourage short trips. One-off weekly subscriptions will cost 15 euros and daily passes 10 euros.

The Bluecar, designed by Bolloré’s Italian partners Pininfarina, has a maximum speed of 130kph (around 80mph), a range of around 250km (155 miles) and its lithium metal polymer battery will take four hours on average to charge. It is fitted with satnav and an emergency call button – for use in the event of breakdown, we assume. Drivers will be able to book via internet, phone or at stations, and can book arrival parking spots in advance.

Having used and enjoyed the Vélib scheme, Frogsiders suspects that Paris will soon be able to celebrate another successful transport innovation.

Montreuil Christmas Crafts Market – the very place for the nicest gifts

We went to the Christmas craft market in Montreuil last Sunday and were most impressed, both by the variety and the quality of the handcrafted goods on sale.

Colourful and delicately-formed glass objets

Among our purchases were a nicely presented pot of home-made chutney, a very attractive and practical hand-made kitchen apron, a delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake a pot of something for skin-care (I think), and a couple of pieces of beautifully crafted objets made with tremendous skill and artistry in glass.

The range of jewellery, decorated household and personal items created by the talented glassworker we met at the fair would solve anyone’s Christmas gift problems.  How about a bookmark in brightly coloured swirls of glass, a pretty cheese knife or handsome salad server set with exotically coloured glass handles, or some exquisite hand-crafted jewellery, guaranteed unique? – something in the range is bound to charm even your most ungrateful, anti-Christmas, Uncle or Auntie Scrooge.

Salad servers - the perfect gift!

The young artist who makes these beautiful glass pieces goes by the fabulously Italian name of Paola Boccanfuso, appropriate enough, since she uses rods and beads of Murano glass for her creations.  But her workshop isn’t far away in Italy, it’s in Montreuil, and you can call in during normal afternoon shopping hours, every week Wednesday to Saturday, to browse her shelves and trays of goodies.

Here are the details:

Paola Boccanfuso, L’échoppe No 11, 11 rue du Clape-en-Bas, 62170 Montreuil s/ Mer.

If you’re lucky, Paola might be exhibiting at this weekend’s Christmas Market in Montreuil, or at one of the other Christmas Markets in the region during the next week or so.

If you can’t visit her workshop or find her at a Christmas market, you can always look up her delightfully quirky website where you can order online.

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