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Top Ten Things to do in Lille for Mother’s Day

Lille is the perfect location for a girls’ getaway and, with Mother’s Day coming up, a long weekend with your Mum would make a fantastic treat for her (and you). In a blatant attempt to persuade you to visit, here are our favourite things to do, eat and drink in Lille. Together they add up to make a Mother’s Day or even a weekend to remember.

Top Ten Things to Do, Eat and Drink in Lille for Mother’s Day

1. Personal Shopper at Printemps

39-45, rue Nationale

Printemps, Lille, France

Splash out at this famous department store with your very own assistant guiding you to the latest fashions that will flatter your figure and reflect your personality. You’ll need to book it in advance. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 63 62 76.

 

2. Visit Wazemmes Market

Place de la Nouve Aventure

Wazemmes Market, Lille, France

If markets are more your style than department stores, then a visit to Wazemmes famous Sunday morning market is a must. Pop inside to pick up some fabulous cheeses or wander around the outdoor stalls selling a huge variety of things including flowers, Indian fabrics, antiques and street food from around the world.

Open: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Metro: Line 1 to Gambetta

 

3. Morning Coffee (and cake) at Coffee Makers

151 rue de Paris

Coffee Makers, Lille., France

Reputedly serving the best coffee in town, Coffee Makers are also known for their delicious homemade cakes and tasty sandwiches.

 

4. Cycling Tour of Lille

Cycling tour of Lille, France

Perfect for the more active Mum, a cycling tour with Le Grand Huit is a great introduction to the parks and historic sites of the city. You can read about my experience with them on my personal blog, Exploring Lille by bicycle.

 

5. Lunch at Guinquette de la Marine

8 Avenue Léon Jouhaux

Guinquette de la Marine, Lille, France

After all that cycling you’ll have worked up an appetite and this quirky riverside brasserie is the perfect place to refuel. Try their Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew) or their Tarte au Maroilles (Cheese Flan), both traditional to the area and utterly scrumptious. Arrive early to be sure to get a table. Tel: +33 (0)3 20 39 85 43.

 

6. Afternoon Tea at L’Impertinente

9 boulevard Papin

Impertinente, Lille, France

A fantastic tea room with a warm and friendly atmosphere where the delicious homemade cakes are bound to tempt you.

 

7. La Piscine, Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent

23 rue de l’espérance, Roubaix

La Piscine, Roubaix, Lille, France

Not far from Lille in neighbouring Roubaix, which you can easily get to by tram, is my favourite museum and art gallery, La Piscine, a former art deco swimming pool with a fascinating history which you can read about in this previous post, La Piscine, a beautiful museum in Roubaix, Lille.

For more information about public transport in and around Lille visit the Lille Tourism website and for more information about opening times and prices visit their website, La Piscine.

 

8. Waffles and chocolates at Méert

27 rue Esquermoise

Méert, Lille, France

A beautiful and historic shop and café, famous for its chocolates and waffles. You’ll also find them in Lille’s Printemps store.

 

9. Champagne at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

17 Quai du Wault

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lille, France

Just ten minutes from Lille’s main square you’ll find the city’s only champagne bar. Located in the glass-roofed courtyard of this 17th century former convent, the hotel beautifully combines many historic features with modern design. (And they are currently running a 3rd night free offer which you can find out more about at the end of this post.)

 

10. Dine at Basilic Café

24 bis rue Esquermoise

Burgers

A little further down the same street as Mason Méert, away from the tourist traps of the main square, you’ll find this trendy, reasonably priced restaurant known for their excellent burgers with a twist. They have a number of vegetarian options and I’ve heard they can also offer vegan dishes on request (although talking to them in advance is recommended).

 

3rd Night free offer at Alliance Couvent des Minimes

To make this Mother’s Day a day to remember, book a long weekend in Lille at one of the many lovely city centre hotels. The elegant Alliance Couvent des Minimes currently has a 3rd night free offer for travel completed between 15th February and the 9th March. With this offer the price for 3 nights, including breakfast and travel by Eurostar, is from £187 per person based on 2 sharing a room. And you can travel in style with an upgrade to Eurostar’s Standard Premier from £73 per person each way.

For more information or to book call 01489  866932.

Please note that the price for the Eurostar element is subject to fare availability.

 


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Top 5 château breaks in France

Our range of châteaux are among the most exciting and rewarding properties at Great Escapes. The grandeur and flamboyance of one of France’s most impressive and historic buildings make for an unrivalled holiday experience. Whether you opt for the rolling vineyards of the Champagne region or a base close to the ocean in Pas de Calais, we have a range of breath-taking châteaux awaiting holidaymakers in 2016. To help inspire you further, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 château breaks in France

 

1. Château de Fère

Located in the stunning and famed Champagne region, Château de Fère is the perfect base for exploring the vineyards, verdant hills and historic towns of Champagne. The fully restored chateau dates from the 16th century and is set amid the imposing ruins of a 13th-century medieval castle. This 5-star hotel and spa is a pleasure to stay at, equipped with luxurious suites and rooms, a gastronomic restaurant managed by a Michelin-starred chef, pool facilities, and a stunning location amid the pristine countryside of Champagne.

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2. Le Château Fort de Sedan

Introducing another of Champagne’s premier châteaux, Le Château Fort de Sedan is part of the largest medieval castle in Europe; surely one of the most prestigious places to rest your head during château breaks in France? A step back in time will be awaiting you at this château, with original stone walls ensuring that the character and medieval charm is retained throughout the hotel. Comfort isn’t sacrificed however, with large and relaxing bedrooms decked out with all the usual mod cons, while an on-site bar and restaurant promises to keep guests fed and watered with the best culinary treats of the region.

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3. Château Hotel Mont Royal

Located only 35 minutes from wonderful Paris, a stay in Château Hotel Mont Royal will reflect all of the romance, flamboyance and style of the French capital. This stunning 18th-century château can be found nestled in the heart of the picturesque Chantilly Forest, providing a relaxing and peaceful escape from the hustle bustle of Paris. The hotel’s immense location and splendour is reflected in its facilities, boasting a spa, fitness centre, sports infrastructure and an ancient ballroom in which the hotel’s renowned restaurant is set. The guest rooms are thoughtfully decorated, while also providing all of the comforts of any modern hotel, promising all-round relaxation during chateau breaks in France.

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4. Château Hotel Clèry

Surrounded by five acres of parkland amid a wooded grove within the realms of a charming French village, the stunning manor house that encompasses Château Hotel Clèry is a remarkable sight to behold. Awakening your Downton Abbey dreams, albeit in the wrong country, the splendour and traditions of this hotel encapsulates a unique and flamboyant holiday experience. 25 beautifully decorated rooms are on offer, as well as a reading room, bar, terrace and gourmet restaurant called ‘Le Berthier’.

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5. Château Tilques

An attractive 19-th century château set in beautiful parkland and reflecting an attractive Flemish style, Château Tilques is one of our most popular châteaux. Just a short drive from Calais, Château Tilques is one of the most accessible of its kind for those on self drive holidays, introducing visitors to a region of France famed for its verdant countryside and winding canals. Features at this hotel include a comfortable lounge bar, an indoor swimming pool, classic château rooms and more modern rooms, as well as a fantastic gourmet restaurant.

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Tempted by a holiday to France full of splendour and style? Have at our full range of chateau breaks in France.


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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

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As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

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I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

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As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

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And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

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Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

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And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

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Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

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So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

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Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

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And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

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Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

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Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

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Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Bruges at Christmas


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Great Escapes Autumn Sale

The later part of the year is a wonderful time to visit Belgium or France. One of our favourite annual events is held in Bruges, the  ‘Magical Winter Moments Christmas Happening‘ which runs from 21st until the 30th of November in 2014. Previously known as “The Grand Christmas Happening Bruges”, this is a stylish and festive event in the heart of the city, featuring all the newest trends in home and floral decoration.

 

Bruges at Christmas

Bruges at Christmas

Mid-November sees the first of the fabulous Christmas Markets open. These are held in many towns and villages throughout Belgium and northern France. The atmosphere is festive with the smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine in the air. Find our more about the Christmas Markets in Belgium and France in our post, Dates for this year’s Christmas Markets.

Lille at Christmas

Lille at Christmas

Autumn SALE, book by 31st October 2014

Great Escapes is currently holding an autumn sale on short breaks to France and Belgium, offering £40 discount on any package booked between now and 31st October 2014 for travel in 2014 or 2015. Bookings must include ferry, Eurostar or Eurotunnel travel and include at least 3 nights’ accommodation. Discount is valid with ‘free night’ offers for even greater savings.

Here’s just a couple of our favourite examples to tempt you but you can find more on our website, Great Escapes.

Bruges, 3rd night FREE at the 3* Hotel Bryghia

This  family run hotel dates back to the 15th century and overlooks a quiet square within very easy reach of Bruges’ main attractions making it an ideal base for exploring this beautiful town.
A box of chocolates, to be collected locally, is included in all packages booked to Bruges.

Hotel in Bruges

Other information:  3rd night FREE offer valid from 03/11 to 13/12 for Sun to Tues arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included.  Package also includes return travel Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (car + 4 passengers). Package price from £109pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40

Lille, 3rd night FREE at the 4* Alliance Couvent des Minimes

This elegant and comfortable hotel is a stunning  is the perfect blend of ancient architecture and modern design. A former 17th century convent, the Alliance Couvent des Minimes is less than a 10 minute walk from the Old Town with a fabulous range of restaurants, museums and shops close at hand.

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

The rooms are comfortable with all the amenities you would expect from a 4* hotel including free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities. The glass atrium in the centre of the building adds to its character giving the hotel a great feeling of space.  The piano bar and the new champagne bar are the perfect place for relaxation in refined surroundings. The restaurant serving appetising dishes at very reasonable prices befits the excellent standard of the hotel.

Other information: 3rd night FREE offer valid from 12/09 to 31/12 for Fri-Sat arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included. Includes return travel by Eurostar (Standard Economy). Package price from £209pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40
Things to do in Arras


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Giants, secret tunnels, heritage and history plus a warm welcome awaits you in Arras

Described as one of the prettiest towns in France, Arras, the capital of Pas-de-Calais, is just a 75 minute drive from the port of Calais and a great alternative to some of the more obvious choices for a short break, any time of year. The people of Arras are well-known for the warm welcome they give their visitors and the town itself has a wealth of heritage and architecture, fabulous cuisine and all has the requirements for some serious retail therapy to boot.

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Any first time visitor to Arras should start at the Town Tall, where you’ll find the tourist information centre. Their friendly staff love showing off their city so you’ll easily get your hands on loads of useful information, however, this is in no way the only reason to start your visit here. Be sure to climb the dizzying heights of the Belfry (or use the lift) for a spectacular view of the city from this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Next venture deep underground on a tour of the Boves, a labyrinth of tunnels that run underneath the town but, somewhere along the way, don’t forget to stop and admire the magnificent rooms of the town hall itself. It’s here you’ll find the town’s giants, Colas and Jacqueline, together with their son Dede, unless they are out enjoying a local festival, of course.

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You’ll find the Town Hall in La Place des Héros, one of the two famous squares of Arras, lined with Flemish Baroque-style architecture and the stone-pillared arcades that have sheltered traders since the Middle Ages. As well as many fabulous shops in the arcades themselves, twice a week, on every Saturday and Wednesday morning, you’ll also find a bustling market. And of course there are plenty of pavement cafés and fabulous restaurants too.

Much of the town was destroyed during  World War I, but you’d never know it as the Belfry, and many of the buildings in the squares, have been lovingly re-built, brick-by-brick, so that it virtually impossible to tell the difference between the original and the new.

Beyond the squares there is plenty to make a visit to Arras worth making more of than a quick day trip. Check out the museums and art galleries or hire an audio guide from the Town Hall and follow the “Heart of the Town”, a1.9km marked walking trial taking in the main historic sites along the way.

Further afield explore this lovely region’s rural heritage with many a picturesque village, château or windmill to discover.

Things to do in Arras, Vimy Ridge

And of course there are the famous battlefield sites and museums including Vimy Ridge (above) and the Wellington Quarry (below), where some 20,000 troops of the Commonwealth hid underground, while preparing the most surprising attack of World War I.

Things to do in Arras


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Christmas shopping in France

As summer ends and the air turns autumnal, it may still seem a little early to be thinking of Christmas but it is a very popular time of year to visit many European cities. The best hotels, in the best locations soon fill-up. I’ve already shared a post about Christmas Market dates for this year but it’s not just about the markets. There are some wonderful bargains to be had in the shops leading up to the festive season. And where better to replenish your wine and champagne stocks in time for Christmas then by taking a short break to France.

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Hop across the Channel to Calais

The most popular shopping street in Calais is the now trendy, Rue Royale, which as well as the big high street stores has some great specialty shops including designer crockery, crystal and Lalique porcelain, at prices much cheaper than you’ll find in the UK. At Brulerie La Tour, you’ll find  some 70 different teas on offer while chocolate lovers should visit Au Royal Chocolate, a really charming chocolate shop. Also on this street you’ll find the stylish Passage Royale, with a fabulous range of little boutiques and cafés inside.

For genuine Calais lace, from tablecloths to lingerie, visit Royal Dentelle on Boulevard Jacquard. Nearby you’ll also find The Living Centre, one of the newest shopping centres in Calais.

Another must for chocolate lovers is De Neuville Coquelles for their world-famous handmade chocolate. For general shopping head to Cité Europe, with over 140 stores including a hypermarket.

Christmas shopping in Calais

4* Mercure Calais Centre

1 night from £56pp including ferry crossing

This modern hotel, in an excellent central location, is just 5 minutes’ drive from the ferry port and from the huge Cité Europe with over 140 stores including a hypermarket. All of Calais’ bars, restaurants and shops are also within easy walking distance allowing you to make the most of your short break here.

Mercure CALAIS Centre H6739

Enjoy a 1 night shopping break from only £56pp (car with 4 passengers) or from £76pp (car with 2 passengers) including the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries and accommodation. The price also includes hot and cold buffet breakfast and a voucher per couple for 2 bottles of wine to be collected from Calais Vins. Extra nights are available from £34pp.

Visit the beautiful Champagne region

If it’s champagne you are after than a visit to Reims, in the heart of Champagne country, is an ideal choice and many prestigious champagne houses offer tours and tastings, including Lanson and G.H.MUMM.

Christmas shopping in Reims

Reims’ also boasts a Les Galeries Lafayette department store and the Halles du Boulingrin covered market, in a fabulous art deco building, as well as some excellent specialty stores. If you visit between 21st November to 28th December,  you can also enjoy Reims’  Christmas Market.

4* Best Western Plus Hotel de la Paix, Reims  

3 nights from £146pp including ferry crossing

The Best Western Plus Hotel de la Paix  is located just a stone’s throw from Reims’ magnificent cathedral, shops and restaurants. Its facilities include an indoor pool and secured parking.

Christmas shopping in France

We’re offering 3 nights for the price of 2 with packages starting from £146pp (car with 4 passengers) or £166pp (car with 2 passengers) including your ferry crossing from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (free night valid for all stays completed in December) and  accommodation. The price also includes breakfast, a guide book, a bottle of Champagne per room and a tour of a Champagne house including tasting.

Enjoy the festive spirit in Paris

Paris, the city of lights, shines even brighter at Christmas with streets like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Place Vendom, as well as the major departments stores, such as  Les Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, all trying to out do each other with their seasonal lights and decorations. For dates and loads more information visit at PARISINFO.

Christmas shopping in Paris

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You’ll find a wonderful array of speciality shops in Paris and here are a few of my favourites. For cheeses try La Fermette on rue Montorgueil, a fabulous street full of foodie delights. For fantastic coffee head for La Caféothèque on rue de la Hôtel de Ville, while at Rémi Flachard on rue du Bac, you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of antique and out-of-print cookbooks. Interesting that all my favourites are food and drink orientated and for more edible ideas visit the website Paris by Mouth which has a great guide.

4* Victor Hugo, Paris

3 nights from 182pp, accommodation only

A delightful hotel in a quiet area, yet within easy walking distance of the Champs Elysées.

We’re offering 3 nights for the price of 2, starting from £182pp,  accommodation only on B&B based on 2 sharing.  Packages including Eurostar are also available.

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 For a personal quote and to book, call 0845 330 3434 or visit GreatEscapes.co.uk
nord-pas-de-calais memorials


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Discovering Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ museums and memories

Today we’d like to share a guest post from our very own Ingrid Delamarre, who has worked here for over 10 years. She originally moved from France to Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, to be with her husband, who she met on a ferry between the two countries (how romantic!).

Over to Ingrid…

I have recently returned from a great couple of days exploring Nord-Pas- de-Calais, organised by the region’s tourist office. Although I am French (from Rouen in Normandy) I didn’t know the region all that well, so I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating part of France.

Nord-Pas- de-Calais coast line

Nord-Pas- de-Calais coast line

The Wellington Quarry Museum, Arras

On arrival in Calais, we drove to the Wellington Quarry, where an underground museum has been created in a section of the many kilometres of tunnels dug by the British Army during the First World War. These tunnels connect with original tunnels and quarries dating back to the middle ages and Roman times underneath the city of Arras.

It was here that some 24,000 troops hide to be near the German front lines and the museum tells the story of the lives of these troops from many parts of the World. As we approached the end of the tour, we stopped at exit 10, where men entered the remorselessly kill or be killed battle on April 9th, 1917.  The tour was very well organised, informative and of course, very moving.  It is impossible not to feel humble before the memory of these men whose courage will never be forgotten.

Hotel de l’Univers

As I very much prefer character hotels, I was very pleased to check into the Hotel de l’Univers in Arras where we received a very warm welcome.  My room was very comfortable and charming in a classic French style, which I love. After an aperitif in the cosy bar, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the hotel’s  “Le Clusius restaurant”.

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A moving visit to memorials and cemeteries

After breakfast on our second day, we drove to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial raised in remembrance of the 11,000 Canadian soldiers reported missing during the WW1. A clear blue sky enabled me to capture the monument’s beauty in photographs.

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From the memorial, in the distance, we could the see the coal slag heaps, a memory of a distant mining age. Our guide explained that vines had been planted on one of the slag heaps and soon a new wine, cleverly called “Charbonnay” – charbon meaning coal in French, will be bottled. I hope I get to try some!

Arras museums

We then drove to the French cemetery, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, the World largest French cemetery, where over 40,000 casualties are buried. While a sad sight to see, the cemetery is, at the same, very beautiful. The Neo-Byzantine basilica with colourful mosaics and numerous memorial plaques is stunning. Its 52-metre high lantern tower can be seen over 70 kilometres away when lit-up at night.

The British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge

The British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge

Moving on, we also visited the British cemetery, Cabaret Rouge, one of the largest in the area. Its name came from a small red brick café close to the site, which was sadly destroyed in March 1915. Over half of the 7,000 soldiers buried in the cemetery are unidentified; a poignant sight.

The Louvre-Lens Museum

We then carried on to Lens where we had a delicious lunch at the stylish Atelier-Marc Meurin restaurant opposite the Louvre-Lens museum, an extension of the Louvre museum in Paris. On a much smaller scale, this museum displays art from different historical periods; my favourite piece being Oedipus and the Sphinx, painted by Jean August Dominique Ingres in 1808. Many pieces had commentaries available through the audio system which brought it all to life.

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Following the visit of the museum, we then drove to the India memorial, which really reflected the meaning of “World” war; so many different nationalities and cultures fought in the region. From there we carried on to the Portuguese cemetery designed with the idea of a church in mind. Sadly the cemetery didn’t look as well-kept as the others.

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After this very enriching day, we checked in to La Chartreuse du Val St Esprit, an elegant property with very attentive staff. My room was delightful and again in the traditional French style which, of course, I was very happy with. After a glass of Champagne, in the very welcoming bar, we were served the most sumptuous meal I have experienced for a long time, complemented with fine wines in the Robert II restaurant.

From lace to wines!

On day 3, after a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set off to the lace museum in Calais “La Cité de la Dentelle”. I couldn’t believe that I had visited Calais so many times yet had never set foot in this great museum. From the history of lace to the process of making lace as they would have done in the original workshops, this museum is very interesting. An array of garments all using lace throughout the ages is on display. A temporary exhibition that changes every 6 months is also featured in the museum. I would well recommend a visit to anyone who has an interest in fashion.

Before our return home, we stopped at Calais Vins where we sampled a wide selection of wines and purchased a few bottles. I did enjoy tasting wines I had never tried before. As Calais Vins is conveniently located near to a traditional French cheese shop and a bakery, I was able to buy some supplies for my forthcoming dinner party.

These few days in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais were fascinating and I am eager to return with my husband soon. The trip has given me a keen interest to learn more about the Great War. I have also learnt that The Nord-Pas-de-Calais is a region rich in not just history but also culture and gastronomy; a region well worth visiting.