At the final end of our French road trip in May we visited a small town of Boulogne sur Mer, which is not too far from Calais, and the Channel Tunnel. The fortified town holds a fantastic cathedral and boasts the first fishing port of France.We really had no reason to be in Boulogne sur Mer except that as we were leaving Amboise, we had needed to divert via Rouen, as we’d accidentally left Noah’s favourite toy cow at the hotel there. Poor little Noah had been mooing and signing cow for three days, as he obviously missed his friend. So following our little diversion I literally zoomed in to Calais on the map app on my iPhone, went left a bit, stuck my finger on a town and hit “Start” for directions. As we drove, I confess that I did do a little bit of reading to make sure we weren’t heading for a total dive with nothing to look at, but we had chanced upon a pretty place!
We found a large, free, car park and set out to explore. The first thing we noticed was the large wall surrounding the town – similar to York – and behind the wall a spectacular dome.
Inside the Notre Dame is an interesting tour of sculpture and wall murals of religious art. You can also visit the crypt, though we didn’t (€5 for adults, free for children, some concessionary prices), though I have since discovered that the underground is rather interesting! This reflects the risks taken when you don’t plan travel!
Outside of the Notre Dame, the town is filled with cafes spilling out into the streets, souvenir shops, and, of course, everyday life. We were able to wander around the walls, and then at tea time we headed to a square with tables of restaurants.
Unfortunately we discovered that none of them served food until 7pm, so we fed the boys with a sandwich and religeuse from the patisserie at the edge of the square. It was interesting to watch people finish work and pop to get their fresh bread before heading home as it struck me as a simpler way of life and much nicer than our trudges round the supermarket. The plan was to eat (and stay the night) in Boulogne sur Mer, but after a wander around the port after the boys’ finished their tea, we decided to stay somewhere else.
We went back to the car and looked for a hotel nearby. There is an Ibis Hotel overlooking the cathedral, next to the car park we were in, which had a family room available, but we don’t like to make things easy for ourselves! We instead decided on something a little closer to the Channel Tunnel Hotel Le Bellevue, in Wissant. The hotel had good reviews for the restaurant, though it was the lowest star rating of all the hotels we stayed in on our trip. When we arrived, we were advised that dinner service only ran until 8:30pm, and as it was 7:50 we went straight into the restaurant.
We ordered the fixed price meal – at €32 each this was not the cheapest choice but not the most expensive, either, but wasn’t too far off the price of our disappointing meal at Mont Saint-Michel. Yet, this was a million miles away in terms of taste and quality. The starter was a salad that I would happily eat every lunchtime for weeks! Our main meals were delicious also, and then we waited for a long, long time before our desserts were brought to the table. After tarte Tatin and tiramisu we headed up the stairs to our room. The family room is two rooms connected together, with a single bathroom. I can’t say I’d recommend the hotel as a place to stay, but the restaurant was lovely and our breakfast the next morning was a continental style buffet, and sufficient.
Finally we left France, via the Channel Tunnel, and returned to the UK for a trip north to Tatton Park, where we enjoyed the Geronimo Fest.