If in the South you’d see more mountains and rocks, here all the land was covered with green fields and forests. No any even a hill available. The climate was more chill or better to say cold. It was beginning of June and if on these days people were wearing summer clothes in south and in Paris, here everyone was on fall coats because of quite cold temperature and wind coming from North Sea. I didn’t expect this kind of change and wasn’t prepared for cold weather in summer days during my vacations. Well.. this was also some kind of experience, but because of this I couldn’t spend enough time outside and couldn’t see all that was around. But of course I wasn’t staying at home all the time and I’m going to tell you about all that I had chance to see and know about this region in coming few days.
So let’s start from Calais which is the largest city in Pas-de-Calais and overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England (but this is another subject about which I will tell you a little bit later in today’s story).
Due to its position, Calais since the Middle Ages has been a major port and a very important center for transport and trading with England. It was annexed by Edward III of England in 1347 and grew into a thriving center for wool production and was called the “brightest jewel in the English crown”. There is a well-known lace museum, that locals say it’s a must visit place, but when I tried to go there, it happened to be closed on that day for some reasons (why I am so unlucky with museums? They are either closed or I’m in a hurry.. 😕)
Calais was a territorial possession of England until its capture by France in 1558. During World War II, in May 1940 the town was a strategic bombing target of the invading German forces who took the town during the Siege of Calais. At that time the Germans built massive bunkers along the coast in preparation for launching missiles on England.
Calais is also know for its Calais Jungles, which is a refugee and migrant encampment starting from 1999. It’s an area where you could see up to 6.000 migrants living in camps without proper sanitary conditions. Those were the ones who was trying to reach UK in different illegal ways: via the Port of Calais or the Eurotunnel by stowing away on lorries, ferries, cars, or trains travelling to the UK. After several complaints from UK government, in 2016 migrants were evacuated from the encampment, with the intent of resettling them in different regions of France, and French authorities announced that the camp had been cleared.
The Calais beach is covered with golden sand and seems endless. Only on one point there is a Navigation Lighthouse seen at the end of the pier. With the clear weather it would be very easy to see the White cliffs of Dover of UK on the horizon. The only distance separating French coast with England was the Strait of Dover. Unfortunately the day was rainy and clouds closed the view and the only visible part were few hundred meters of Atlantic ocean.
Thanks to this link, many people come to France for some fun and shopping, which costs surprisingly cheaper for them than could be in UK. For this they don’t need to go far. Right here, just in a few minuted from the train/ferry terminals there is a huge area dedicated for this, which is called Cité Europe (or Euro City). This is a shopping center located next to the French terminal of the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles. It has over 100 shops, a Carrefour hypermarket, cinema complex and many restaurants for any taste. In the area there is a free parking space for more than 4000 cars. In this area there are also several hotels built where people stay overnight before leaving back home.
We’ve had a lunch in one of the Asian restaurants nearby, where you can pay once and eat as much as you can from their big range of dishes and desserts from different cuisines. All that I tried there was quite tasty. If I had more space in my stomach, definitely I’d had more from their yummy food 😄
The day was over with this. Going home now with a plans about visiting another areas for tomorrow.
Calais was different for sure, somehow nice, somehow “grey”, but if you plan to come here, try to get a clear sunny day to enjoy your time with walking more in the old and new towns, as well as spend some more relaxing time on the velvet sandy beaches of Calais and if you have more time, to visit Opal Coast (Côte d’Opale) bordering Belgium that extends over 120 kilometers, which is marked by the presence of two big cliffs situated between Calais and Boulogne: the Cap Gris Nez (literally grey nose cape in English) reaching 50 meters and the Cap Blanc Nez (literally white nose cape in English) reaching 132 meters. Pity I didn’t have this chance, but maybe next time?)
See you soon on a new place 😉