I love the fact that in the past two years I’ve rediscovered travelling closer to home. Don’t get me wrong, exploring far and wide is pretty fabulous, but it takes time and money whereas trips across the channel can be a real bargain while still offering a completely different cultural experience to the UK.
My latest mini adventure was to lovely Le Touquet, a small town on the French coast that’s only 45 minutes drive south of Calais. I went with friends for New Year, as unlike many beach resorts its a year round destination and we found it was a perfect place for a couple of nights away.
We arrived in Le Touquet just as it was getting dark so being the festive season our drive in was through streets strung with pretty white lights which also moved up and down in the trees. With a bit of wind it honestly looked like snow.
Then we got to the Hotel Red Fox and saw that the street it was on, Rue de Metz, was not a million miles different to Rue des Abbesses where we’d stayed in Montmartre the year before. No surprise then that the town’s full name is Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and has long been somewhere that Parisians have visited and often bought second homes.
Rue de Metz is lined with foodie shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. A stroll along it the next morning revealed cheese shops, florists, delis and a clutch of seafood shops around the junction with Rue Saint-Amand that were all doing a roaring trade in huge seafood platters.
Local Le Touquet residents, and presumably visitors who’d rented homes for the holidays, queued patiently outside every one of them collecting their New Year’s Eve dinners. Nearby, outside the post office, a pianist accompanied a clarinet player to entertain the waiting crowd.
When we reach Rue Jean Monnet we came to the Le Touquet town market. Dozens of stalls, some under cover and some outdoors, were piled high with fruit, olives, cheese, clothes, wicker baskets and of course more seafood. It doesn’t open every day but I think on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and Thursdays too in the summer months. The tourist office has a website with info like this which Google helpfully offers to translate.
The streets leading from the market towards the top of Le Touquet’s main town centre are filled with some very nice houses and just a couple of blocks away you’ll also come across the Hotel de Ville (town hall) and a lovely catholic church, Eglise Sainte Jeanne D’Arc, named after France’s famous heroine who was burned at the stake in the 15th century.
Cut through the park (or La Foret Enchantee as it was re-named for the festive season) and you’re across from the rather fabulous looking Westminster Hotel. Significantly more expensive that where we stayed, but I’d imagine it would be very nice for a treat. Near here was a traditional Christmas market with fairy light strewn cabins, mulled wine and the twinkling white lights in the trees that we’d seen driving through.
Also just around the corner is La Phare de la Canche, the Le Touquet lighthouse. Following a series of shipwrecks in the bay two lighthouses were built in 1845, but then destroyed during the Second World War. Four years after the war ended this new one was built next to the old lighthouse keeper’s house.
Heading back down towards the beach there are plenty more shops along Avenue Saint Jean, including L’Atelier which is great for gifts, and then in Rue Saint-Jean which eventually crosses Rue de Metz, the junction where our hotel was. Handily for us these are the two main shopping streets in Le Touquet and there’s plenty of browsing to be had as well as lots of places to eat. We had lunch at Le Paris Plage in Rue Saint-Jean which was really good and a nice environment to relax for a while.
And then of course there is the beach. It wasn’t the time of year for sunbathing or swimming in the sea, but it looked a nice spot for both in warmer weather. There looked to be a busy bit at the centre with a water park, but then sand dunes stretched far into the distance so I’d say it wouldn’t be too hard to find a quieter spot.
We walked along the path through the sand dunes joining quite a few others doing the same or cycling. As it started to get darker and wasn’t clear when the path would end, we decided to cut through the dunes to stroll back along the beach and watch the sun go down. A perfect way to end a very nice day.
Not that it was quite the end as we did have a very good (and very extensive) New Year’s Eve dinner at Le Coq Hardi in Rue Raymond Lens. We actually had to say we’d share one cheese and one dessert course between the three of us as it became impossible to fit it all in. Another restaurant recommendation is Le Paris in Rue de Metz. Their New Year’s Eve menu was €110, double the price of where we went, but the evening before we had their standard set menu which was €22.50 for three courses and absolutely delicious.
For drinks there are lots of bars. l’Impasse and Le Globetrotter on Rue de Metz are both popular spots and Bar Saint Jean, round the corner in Rue Saint Jean was nice too. There are even some clubs if you’re looking for a later night and a bit more action.
For us we were very happy with the action we’d had on our visit and didn’t just tick Le Touquet off our list we kept it on for a return trip. At £99 for a return P&O ferry crossing for three of us and the car and £75 each for two nights in the hotel with breakfast, its a very affordable way to enjoy un petit peu de France. Not to mention the huge saving we made bulk buying our favourite Picpoul wine which only costs just over £3 in the Cite Europe Carrefour in Calais!
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