Tag Archives: Longvilliers

On This Day – Boulogne, France

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 11th August 2010 I was in France in the Northern port city of Boulogne.  I have been to Boulogne several times and I am happy to declare it one of my favourite cities in all of France.

Boulogne Old Town

I like Boulogne, I like Northern France, I especially like Northern France in August because all of the French people have gone south leaving the north for us Brits and the asylum seekers trying to get a boat to cross the English Channel.

The old town is built within the original Roman walls and has recently been well restored and it was in complete contrast to the concrete and glass of the sea front and the modern glitzy shopping streets.  Here is the beating heart of a medieval city with history gently oozing from every corner with a castle, a cathedral and narrow streets lined with charming properties, little shops, inviting cafés and bars.

Boulogne 02

From the car park we walked along the main street full of interesting shops and busy restaurants and under the walls of the huge cathedral which was rebuilt in the nineteenth century as a symbol of the revival of the French Catholic Church.  During the 1789 Revolution the old cathedral had been closed, Catholicism was replaced by order of Robespierre by ‘The Cult of the Supreme Being” and Christian worship forbidden.  The Church was declared the property of the State and then dismantled and sold for building projects, stone by stone.  In 1802 Napoleon reinstated the Catholic Church in France.

The medieval cathedral was the site of a shrine to ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ a representation of a vision that appeared in Boulogne in or around the year 646 and which arrived in a boat without sails, oars, or sailors, on which stood a wooden statue of the Virgin holding the Child Jesus in her arms.  The French Revolutionaries didn’t have a lot of regard for this sort thing and so at the same time as they destroyed the cathedral they burned the priceless wooden statue as well.

Anyway, the church was rebuilt in the nineteenth century complete with a massive dome, one of the largest in Europe, and inside there is a modern replica of ‘Our Lady of Boulogne’ which is one of four that were sculptured in 1943 and toured France until 1948 when it was known as ‘The Lady of the Great Return’ and is today symbolic of the reconciliation between nations.

This was nice I thought, such a shame that we in UK have foolishly chosen to turn our back on Europe…

Boulogne 01

From the cathedral we walked along the Rue de Lille and negotiated the pavement table barricades scattered almost randomly across the pedestrianised street and then to the Hotel de Ville with its immaculate gardens like a green  oasis in the centre of the cramped city where we stopped for a while and enjoyed the hot sunshine and the contrast of a cool beer under the shadow of the city’s twelfth century UNESCO World Heritage Site medieval Belfry.

Inside the town hall there was free entry to the Tower that included a guided tour and history of the building which was helpfully given in English as well as French.  There was a long climb with a couple of stops for informative narrative and there were good views from the top of the tower and we were lucky to be part of only a small group of visitors because we had time and space to enjoy the rooftop vista.

Boulogne 09

We left the old town by a gate next to the Castle Museum and I am forever amazed at the bits of trivia that I pick up on my travels because who would have guessed that inside is the most important exhibition of masks from Alaska in the whole world?  I couldn’t help wondering why the most important exhibition of masks from Alaska isn’t in Alaska?

After the break we walked half of the walls and then returned to the car to go to the fishing port to find some lunch and after we had some difficulty finding a parking spot we strolled casually down the hill into the town past the Nausicaa Aquarium, one of the largest aquarium museums in France.

We strolled along the busy docks which, it turns out, is the biggest fishing port in France and there is a large fishing fleet including deep-sea trawlers and factory ships, as well as smaller sea-going and inshore fishing boats.  A third of France’s fresh fish catch is landed here, and a huge quay-side fish processing factory makes 20% of the nation’s tinned fish, and half of the frozen fish, fish fingers and other fish based ready meals.

Boulogne Fish Market Postcard

At a seafront restaurant we asked for menus but things went spectacularly wrong when an unexpected strong gust of wind blew my glass of beer over straight over.  It was getting quite windy now so we tried two or three different tables and then abandoned the seafront lunch idea and returned instead to the shelter of the old town where perhaps we should have stayed in the first place.

Here we selected a restaurant on Rue de Lille and ordered what we thought was going to be a snack but turned out to be quite enormous meals which, although we didn’t know it at the time was going to spoil our evening meal.  Mum didn’t enjoy her Welsh Rarebit, Alan had an oversize omelette, Richard had a pizza that would have been sufficient for all four of us but I did get the pot of moules marinière that I had been promising myself.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Creepy

Uninvited Sleeping Partner…

During the night a crawly insect had disturbed Rachel but Richard had dismissed this as imagination and told her to back to sleep.  He was forced to reassess his judgment and apologise next morning when he came across a spider that was at least four inches from the end of one of its legs to another.  I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep with it that’s for sure and Richard absolutely wouldn’t tackle it without back-up!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow Fields

Longvilliers Northern France

To get to Hardelot required a cross country journey through a succession of small towns and villages along narrow roads meandering through undulating countryside with golden fields of freshly cut hay contrasting with and harmonising perfectly against the rich green meadows with their herds of lazy grazing cattle.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

Uninvited Sleeping Partner…

During the night a crawly insect had disturbed Rachel but Richard had dismissed this as imagination and told her to back to sleep.  He was forced to reassess his judgment and apologise next morning when he came across a spider that was at least four inches from the end of one of its legs to another.  I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep with it that’s for sure and Richard absolutely wouldn’t tackle it this morning without back-up!

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France 2010, Hardelot Plage (again) and Etaples

Longvilliers France

The cottage was just a few kilometres from the holiday resort town of Le Touquet Paris Plage but we hadn’t visited yet so we agreed that as this was our last day that we really ought to go and see the place and after breakfast we loaded the cars and set off.

We made good progress at first but as we got closer to the coast the roads began to get busy, progress slowed down and then eventually ground to a complete halt.  I calculated that we were still about six kilometres from the town and the coast and the traffic was at an almost complete standstill.  It seemed that everyone else in Northern France had also decided to visit Le Touquet today.

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France 2010, Berck Plage (again) and French Beaches

Berck Plage France

I can only put it down to the peace and quiet of the place but everyone seemed to be taking things easier by the end of the week and even Molly was sleeping longer and she didn’t wake me up this morning until almost eight o’clock.  This was still earlier than all of the others however and it was well past nine before we sat down for breakfast and some time past ten when we had finished clearing up.

This didn’t matter because we were in no particular rush today and planned an easy itinerary with a return visit to the beach at Berck.

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France 2010, Boulogne Sur Mer

Street Entertainer Boulogne Sur Mer

We were all relieved to find that it wasn’t raining and it looked as though Camille’s welcome forecast was completely accurate because the weather this morning was in complete contrast to yesterday, the sun was already shining and the sky was a blank blue canvas.

We followed the early morning routine that we had already established, went to see the ducks and the hens, visited Camille and saw the rabbit and walked a while through the village before returning to the cottage for our usual farm house breakfast, part English, part continental but every day a perfect combination of the two.  On account of the good weather we did some washing and hung it on the line before we finally left the cottage and set off for Boulogne about twenty-five kilometres away.

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France 2010, A Washout

Longvilliers France

This morning there was a disappointing grey sky with heavy clouds relentlessly rolling in from the west that, in a summer holiday sort of way, didn’t look especially promising.

Longvilliers is located in the Pays-de-Calais Department which is the coolest, wettest region of the country and that is a chance that you take when choosing this part of France for a vacation even in July and August.  The main influence on the climate is the North Atlantic Ocean and whilst this keeps the area free from extremes of temperature it also makes it quite windy and wet and the flat-low lying terrain prevalent in the west of France allows these weather systems to blow far inland.

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France 2010, The Beach at Hardelot Plage and a BBQ Accident

Camille Longvilliers France

There was much better weather the next morning so after breakfast we were in no particular rush to leave the cottage and stayed around the garden and entertained Molly before taking a slow walk along the village lanes to see the farm animals.

Camille spotted us and came outside to say bonjour and then insisted on a guided tour of his garden with its immaculate vegetable plot overflowing with plump ripe produce.  He couldn’t speak a word of English but he explained in great detail what everything was and how best to prepare, cook and eat it.  I could follow some of this by picking out the odd familiar schoolboy French word but to be honest most of it was just a rapid Gallic blur.

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France 2010, SeaFrance and Carrefour

Les Cottages de Longvilliers

In the previous year we travelled to Northern France and stayed in a farm cottage just outside of Boulogne and we had such a good time that we agreed to repeat the adventure in 2010.  It was perfect really because we had little Molly, my granddaughter, with us and with Sally, my daughter, being such a notoriously untidy packer it was convenient just to take the car and fill it up with overflowing bags of clothes (many of which would never be worn) carrier bags full of last minute thoughts and all of the other items of necessity when travelling with a two year old.

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