Calais - gateway to France (from the UK!)
Calais - gateway to France (from the UK!) Reviews
Calais - gateway to France (from the UK!) Mar 07, 2011
Calais is a huge town on the north western coastline in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region in Northern France. When Calais is mentioned, one thinks of the ferry port which transport's passengers and their vechile to Dover, 17 miles north in the United Kingdom. One thinks of the immigration camp in nearby Sangatte which was closed down years ago, but still immigrants try to go across to the UK for a better way of life (or is it?).
Calais is so much more than that and in someways can be worth stopping off for (just watch out for the immigrates, and I am being serious there, but they usually hang around the ferry port and in the industrial estate).
OK, I start of with transport. By Train, Calais does have regional trains to Boulogne, Lille and Dunkerque, and TGV trains from Calais Frethun to Paris and Lille plus limited Eurostar trains to London and Paris (does not stop for Brussels services). By Road, the main A26 runs along the coast between Boulogne and Brugge in Belgium, but nearby auto routes do take you to Lille and Paris. Ferry services run from here across to Dover with www.seafrance.com and P&O ferries. Average journey time is 1h30. The Le Shuttle car train runs from the Coquelles terminal across to Folkestone in England, average time is 35 minutes and can be booked via www.eurotunnel.com
Now for the nice part. Calais has a very nice city hall in the centre (which was currently under repair when I last visited in July 2010) which is built in Flemish Renaissance style and can be seen from the ferry far out in the sea. In front of the city hall is the statue of 'The Burghers of Calais' (Les Bourgeois de Calais) which is a famous statue. (For more, please check out my blog on Calais - 2010). Calais was very heavily bombed during the Second World War, so very little buildings from pre-war remains, and the town is virtually been built from new.
Calais has a nice long sandy beach which starts near the town centre and heads out to the west. The town has loads of restaurants, cafes and shops, but there has been a downturn in tourists which used to travel to Calais for duty free prices. The prices have gone up in France within the last seven years, so the tourists (mainly from UK) have gone away and business has gone. Just the locals shop in the town now. Also most of the shops can be found in the huge shopping mall on the outskirts of town (near the Channel Tunnel terminal) called the Cite d'Europe, which is worth a visit itself, especially if you want wine!
Near the ferry ports, there are a few remaining warehouses which sell cigarettes and wines, but slowly these are all closing down due to the downturn of tourists.
Calais is also a great place to start a good day out in cycling (especially if you have come over from Dover) and heading south along the coastal road is the best way to go (towards Boulogne).
Overall, Calais is a nice town, bit busy, worth stopping off for an hour, but for me, will always hold happy memories of the time around 2002 on my first solo trips to France.
Part of the list Danik's guide to France - Danik ecrit des revues sur France!
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