Monday, August 01, 2005

a trip up north

My in-laws grew up, met and married in the departement of Pas-de-Calais, which is the northernmost tip of France. Every year, they go back to their village for two weeks for visiting family and friends. Last week, Steph and I drove up to spend a few days there.

Now, I should say right up front that we didn't get as far north as Dunkerque or Calais; actually we did more visiting with family than we did touristy stuff, but I can tell you a little about what we did.

My first impression was that, even though we were only 40 kilometers from the sea (or the English Channel, if you want to be really technical), you would never, ever know it. Well, at least I wouldn't, having grown up only half an hour from the beach myself. Everywhere you look is just farmland, farmland, farmland, and then suddenly you catch a whiff of some salt air, you drive over a hill, and bam!, there's the sea.

Steph's brother, sister-in-law, 14 year old nephew (boy, he's gonna be a heartbreaker in a couple of years!) and mother went with us towards the sea on Wednesday. We spent the morning in Berck-sur-Mer. Actually, we spent the morning walking toward the sea. You see, we arrived just at low tide, and I am not kidding you when I say that we walked at least a mile to get from the street to the water, including doing some clever maneuvering to reach a little sand bar. In any case, it was really lovely to stick my feet in the sea again (even if it only was the English Channel!).

By the way, as a quick aside, I wouldn't recommend going around France calling it the English Channel. They call it "La Manche," which means "The Sleeve." Now that I think about it, it is rather odd that the English would name it after themselves, as it is shared with a couple of countries. Well, I don't want to start an international incident, so I'll move swiftly along....

After a lovely lunch of moules frites in a restaurant overlooking the sea, we jumped back in the car and we headed down the coast to a lovely little town called St. Valery. Here we walked along the river that comes off the sea and climbed up into the town to walk around a bit. In the rain. Yeah, it was a light rain, but it didn't stop us. Anyway, it was a lovely town to walk around and quite a lot of French luminaries took their vacations there, so there is a bit of history there as well.

Like I said before, most of the rest of the trip was visiting family or going fishing, so there really isn't that much more to report. I can gladly tell you that we did not sleep in a tent, which Steph threatened on me, because it was much too damp, due to days and days of rain. Instead, we crammed on the not-very-comfortable sofa-bed. Be careful what you wish for....

And finally, I don't have any pictures to show you, as once again I'm using a disposable camera and I haven't finished the roll yet. But! I did make my artistic impression of our day on the beach here (which I nicked from her), complete with cabines, sandbar, and threatening clouds.

Honestly, I don't think she's got any worries where competition is concerned...

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