Dover to Le Touquet
PUBLISHED: 16:48 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:48 11 November 2013
A long weekend in France is easily achieved, thanks to MyFerryLink and Kent's proximity to the channel
While its most recent visitors include Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the chic French seaside resort of Le Touquet is no stranger to celebrities, with a list of fans that stretches back to the 1930s, when Ian Fleming rubbed shoulders here with Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich.
Famed for its beaches, stylish boutiques and gourmet restaurants, Le Touquet remains a favourite destination for wealthy Parisians – and at a mere 50 minutes drive from Calais, it’s easily accessible from Kent.
As a teenager, I spent part of my summer holidays at my mother’s house in France, which was located in a tiny village about half an hour’s drive from the coast.
One of the highlights was a trip to Le Touquet, where I would laze on the beach with my sisters, before hitting the food shops and boutiques on the rue Saint Jean.
We always popped into Au Chat Bleu, a divine chocolate shop started by two elderly sisters who adored their Persian blue cats – hence the name of the shop.
Another favourite treat was the bright orange, spicy fish soup from Péraud, which had a wonderfully gritty texture and was best accompanied by huge chunks of fresh baguette smothered in butter.
I recently decided to revisit my old haunts with a group of female friends and treat ourselves to a fabulously indulgent pampering weekend. And as soon as we were onboard the ferry, the magic began.
I love the MyFerryLink ships with their huge double-height atriums. You can lose yourself completely while you stand and watch the sea slip past and gaze at the ships in the far distance bound for exotic ports all over the globe.
It’s an easy drive too off the ferry and straight onto the A16 autoroute which takes you virtually all the way to Le Touquet.
On this particular journey, we took a little detour to pop in to the Chocolats de Beussent workshop, located in the charming village of Beussent, not far from my mother’s old house.
Owner Alain de Rick is passionate about chocolate and his enthusiasm is infectious. The company, which owns its own cocoa plantations, prides itself on producing a high-quality product that tastes divine and also, according to Alain, is good for you.
I couldn’t resist buying a gift-wrapped box of assorted goodies, reminding myself to heed Alain’s advice and only buy chocolate made with healthier and more ethical cocoa butter rather than palm oil.
We’d booked rooms in Le Grand Hotel which was a bit of a gamble, as I’d never been there before, but I was attracted by its location on the outskirts of Le Touquet, alongside the Canche estuary.
With its constantly changing tidal landscape and hundreds of migratory birds, the estuary is a beautifully serene location and perfect place to unwind.
The hotel was a delight. Its owner has a passion for collecting art and around every corner we came across something different and often quite quirky.
Our rooms had a wonderful seaside feel, with driftwood-inspired furniture and brightly striped fabrics. Best of all was the downstairs bar, with its huge stuffed chairs and stools that could have come straight from the set of Alice in Wonderland.
After a morning spent wandering around the market – one of the largest in northern France, so well worth a visit (but do turn up early before the crowds get too dense) we had a quick lunch at L’Escale, a neat modern restaurant tucked into one of the buildings at Le Touquet’s tiny airport.
From the restaurant double doors open straight onto the runway, where you can see the light aircraft touching down. We were almost expecting a Robert Redford-like pilot to walk through the doors in full 1930’s aviator gear.
Nestled in the sand dunes at the far end of Le Touquet’s vast beach is the Thalassa seawater centre, our destination for the afternoon. The centre offers a huge range of treatments from massages and facials to invigorating seawater therapies.
I had a swim in the huge seawater pool before my treatments, which included an invigorating douche à jet (literally sprayed with a hosepipe ) and a relaxing hydrojet (gentle back massage with jets of water).
The afternoon was rounded off with a herbal tisane, which we drunk wrapped in soft, chunky bathrobes sitting in chairs overlooking the sea. Heavenly.
It was difficult to wrench ourselves away from Le Touquet the next day, but I did so with a promise to return again soon.
We kept off the autoroute to make the most of the stunning views along the Opal Coast back to Calais and headed up on the D940, which winds its way through the seaside towns of Wimereux, Audresselles and Wissant before arriving at Calais. There was just enough time to pop our heads round the doors of the Cité internationale de la dentelle et de la mode de Calais (lace museum) to take a quick look at its exhibition of sculptural dresses by young Dutch designer Iris van Herpen.
We couldn’t leave France without a final indulgence, and La Sole Meunière restaurant was the perfect place for a huge plateau de fruits de mer washed down with a glass of crisp white wine while enjoying the charming view of the port.
It was only when we spotted our ferry arriving on the far side, that we realised it was time to travel back to Kent. A truly fabulous end to a fantastic weekend. n