Nord-Pas de Calais
Nord-Pas de Calais (Dutch: Noord-Nauw van Kales) is a region of northern France, located to the north of the French capital Paris and situated on the English Channel at the point closest to the English coast. The region also fronts much of the French border with Belgium.
- Lille — capital of the region
- Le Touquet
Destroyed in parts by both world wars, home to heavy industry, and cold by French standards, this is not a major tourist region. However, there are some areas of beautiful countryside, fine local foods and beers, and many historical landmarks. War history buffs in particular will find much to see. The lack of crowds can be a plus for people desiring a slower pace. Too many people passing through on the way to Paris miss out.
Take the train from Paris or Brussels to Lille and branch out from there.
- Vimy - of particular interest to Canadian and World War I buffs, the column of limestone surrounded by allegorical figures. Re-dedicated after extensive renovations in 2007, the site is also home to an interpretive centre and two small cemeteries. The whole site is Canadian territory, donated by the French people in recognition of Canada's sacrifices during that war. The town itself is not a major tourist attraction, except for the slow trickle of Canadians and school groups learning about the war. Getting off train, one quickly realizes that there is not even a station or a plaform. Walking from the train stop to the monument takes about 1 h. Locals would be happy to guide you but only speak French. Only 2 trains come by per day, so be on time. A bus tour from Lille or Arras may be easier.
- La Coupole (Near St. Omer (see website)), ☎ +33-321-12-27-27. Open 9am - 6pm year-round, extended hours in summer. This underground bunker near St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais, was once home to Nazi Germany's V2 rocket programme, and now hosts a museum dedicated to the history of the programme, including its links to the space race. Popular with school groups, the site offers audio guides in English, French, Dutch and German, has a great gift shop and is bound to make history come alive. 9 euros adults, 6 euros children.
- La chocolaterie de Beussent Lachelle, 66 route de Desvres, Beussent (See website), ☎ +33-3-21-86-17-62. You can tour the artisanal chocolate workshop at Beussent and learn the secrets of chocolate-making in an entertaining presentation, with a free sample included, before purchasing (slightly pricey but delicious!) chocolates from the on-site shop. 2.80 euros pp for a group tour.
- See England from Cap Gris-Nez (Audinghen) and Cap Blanc-Nez (Escalles). On a clear day you can see the White Cliffs of Dover, and view the ships on the world's busiest shipping channel, from these points.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Site "Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin" consisting of 109 separate components.
- Beaches The best beaches are along the 25 mile stretch of coast from Equihen-Plage in the north to Fort Mahon-Plage in the south. The wide sandy beach is broken only where the Canche and Authie rivers meet the sea. The sea goes out a long way at low tide. The main resort on this coast is Le Touquet, but there are several smaller seaside towns or villages that, depending on their size, offer shops, cafes, a seaside promenade, as well as access to the beach.
- Audomarois marshes, 3, rue du marais, Clairmarais (Near St. Omer), ☎ +33-3-21-39-15-15. Visit the marshlands near St Omer, with a guided boat tour, or row yourself! The marshes are home to unique flora and fauna and offer a different experience to the usual tourist activities. Great for bird-watchers, lovers of nature and still a relaxing & interesting experience for anyone else! Be warned, it can get quite cold on the boats. Some tours require booking in advance, see the website. Price varies according to length & type of trip.
The escargots are a traditional French appetizer that have to be tried by everyone visiting.
Unlike most of France, this area is better known for beer than wine. Luckily the beer is also amazingly cheap compared to other places in Europe. A particular local favorite is "Bière de garde," a type of French pale ale. A good one to try is 3 Monts. A 1L bottle (looks like a wine bottle, complete with a cork in it) costs only €2 in a Lille supermarket.