Pas de Calais - a favorite place for a photo is 3 miles from Calais, on the Calais-Boulogne coastal road. A monument built over war ruins looks over Calais, the sea and countryside.
In February 2002 a few of us had a short break away in France. It was only a long weekend, but a long weekend in France always feels like longer (in a positive way!) Leaving from London Tessa and I, Peter C and a friend of mine Paul, drove in convoy with Liam and Jessica in their Jeep Wrangler. Geoff Northcote and his wife Louise were to meet us later on in France. We travelled on Friday night battling London traffic and a flat battery/race alternator combination and caught a ferry from Dover. Staying the night in Calais, we then progressed down the coast road to Bologne and then on to Le Touquet. The coast road from Calais - the D940 - is a fantastic little road, which sweeps over open fields, up and down hairpins, through sand dunes and small village ports. It is far preferable to the nearby A16, and almost as quick if you are lucky.
We always get a great reaction to the car in France - people wave and smile and always want to know more when you stop. On this trip it was funny to see the reaction as first Tessa and I sped past, followed by the faster and louder Peter, then followed by a rumbling Jeep loudly playing country music!
Le Touquet '02 Le Touquet Paris-Plage is 20 mins from our B&B and provides miles of sandy beaches and the faded charm of a once cosmopolitan resort, though its popularity is on the increase again.
On previous trips Tessa and I had discovered a B&B in the tiny village of Brimeux, just outside the walled citidal of Montreuil. A charming farm with 5 bedrooms, Mme Trunet Germain is a delightful host. She speaks and understands English, but gently encourages you to practice French. Her large drive is protected by a security gate at night, and a barn offers dry cover if required. Mme will happily reserve a table for you at one of the many restaraunts nearby, and order a taxi if required. Her breakfasts consist of fresh bread and croissants, naturally, but always accompanied by a freshly home cooked apple tart, French toast and home made jam.
Montreuil Our favorite B&B in France is just outside the walled town of Montreuil, in a small village called Brimeux, 15km inland from Le Touquet. Madam is delightful, secure parking, great rooms and the best breakfast.£25 per room, several good restaurants nearby, lovely walks along the Canche and around Montreuil -20 mins drive from Crois en Ternoise.
We stay there whenever we go to the track at Crois en Ternoise, which is only 20 minutes down the road, and cannot recommend it enough. M. Trunnet went for a ride last time we were there and loved the car - if you go say hello from us! I shall put details of how to contact Mme Trunet at 'Ferme du Saule' in my Travel Tips section.
A pre-breakfast blat for Geoff and Peter ended up with a puncture. Unsurprisingly a replacement 10" ACB10 was not available in the villlage - a run to the Calais followed by a tyre delivered to Dover solved the problem!
This was not the first problem to hit Peter's car on this trip! A race alternator had understandably struggled to cope with London traffic. headlights and stop start driving, and it was hilarious to see Paul, wearing a full face crash helmet, sprint down Tooting Bec Highstreet trying to catch up with Peter, whom he had just bump started for the third time. Peter was keen to keep the engine running - Paul just had to catch up at the next lights!
On arrival at Montreuil Peter pulled up alongside us at some traffic lights. As the lights went green we both shot off - imagine my surprise to find myself ahead a short while later. After a mile or so it was apparent that Peter had stopped somewhere round the corner behind us. Imagine his surprise when on dropping the clutch one of his headlights had decided to jump free, dangling by its wire between front wheel and chassis and thus considerable reducing Peter's steering lock. Now usually I have to admit Peters car is very reliable - just not this weekend...
Off to the 'garage' - or in this case - a barn
There are some wonderfully peaceful walks around the B&B, the peace only disturbed very occasionally by the small local trains that run just behind the farm. You hardly notice them.
The village is right on the River Canche, and many ponds and tributaries can be found dotting the area.
"I don't care if you were here first, you are in my space..."
The B&B is a working farm, harvesting wheat and grasses in the summer. They have recently added a family room, with two bedrooms. The tractor was delivering a very small amount of sand for the building work!
Caterham friendly, as long as you avoid the gate post bracket in the middle of the gateway - it will scrape your exhaust or sump. Electronic gates close at night for security - though in this tiny village you doubt they are needed.
Monsieur, after his first ride in a Caterham. Madams breakfasts are all home cooked, varied and huge. Your hosts will go out of their way to be helpful.
All trips must come to an end, but the ferry adds to the experience - especially if there is a good sunset to watch as you sail out of Calais.