Places to visit

 

The Opal Coast has something for everyone. Culture vultures can head to the towns or excellent array of museums. Country lovers have some of the best national parks in France to explore. And beach boys and girls will adore its endless sandy shores...

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Explore the Opal Coast

Many visitors to Le Moulin wonder how the Opal Coast (Côte d’Opale) got its beautiful name. The truth is plainly out there on the pearly blue ocean for you to see. In fact, the region was given its name by the artist and writer Edouard Lévêque who lived in Le Touquet. He fell in love with the ever-changing, soft pearly light created by the reflection of the white chalk cliffs and sweeping sand dunes in the area and in 1911 gave it this romantic name.

This coastal region extends for about 120 km between the border with Belgium and the French province of Picardy. During your stay, take time to watch the waves and take in the stunning coastal scenery which include cliffs, dunes, marshes and splendid stretches of sandy beach. The cliffs at Cap Griz Nez (Grey Nose Cape) reach 50 metres high and at Cap Blanc Nez (White Nose Cape) they hit 132 metres high – making these some of the high points, both literally and figuratively, of your visit!

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Pas-de-Calais
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Boulogne-sur-Mer
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Lille in France Building

Pretty towns

Your stay at Le Moulin is an opportunity to visit some beautiful towns and cities. The capital of the Opal Coast is the thriving fishing port of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Boulogne has been popular with British tourists since the 19th century when people came to enjoy its fine seafood restaurants and explore its glorious gardens and cathedral in the Old Town. Today, you can easily spend a day wandering the cobbled streets, stopping off at bistros, shops and visiting the historic sites of this charming city. Children will absolutely love the Aquarium Nausicaä which is the National Sea Centre and home to over 36,000 animal species.

The city of Lille is a little further afield, about one and half hour drive from Desvres, but it’s well worth a visit for the Palais des Beaux-Arts alone. This handsome gallery has works by medieval artists through to the Impressionists and is possibly second only to the Louvre in France for the size of its collection. Traditional French cafes and bistros, Sunday markets and elegant shops add to this city’s appeal.

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Montreuillois-sur-Mer
Le Touquet
Saint-Omer

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The booze cruise is back

While there are many other things you can do on your visit to the Opal Coast, don’t forget to stock up on alcohol and other goodies. In recent years, the strength of the Pound Sterling has meant there are some excellent bargains to be had. At the supermarkets, you can pick up a good Merlot for less than £2 and Prosecco for about £3.50. As long as you are buying for your own personal consumption then there is no limit to how much alcohol you buy.

If you love cheese, then this is the place to get yourself some gorgeous local cheese (29 in total, including that incredibly stinky Le Vieux Boulogne) at the fraction of the cost. While you’re in Boulogne, head to Philippe Olivier Fromagerie, which has the reputation for being the most famous cheese shop in France, and ask Mr Olivier about one of his 300 cheeses on offer. Finally, if you travelled to France by car from the UK, it probably makes sense to fill up on petrol – at time of going online the price of unleaded and diesel remain much cheaper in France.

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Franglais Vins
Majestic Wine

“Lovely position – quiet room – good breakfast – have to come back when the restaurant is open! ”

Mrs Rosemary West  (16/06/2015)

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Beach days

Le Moulin is a great base for exploring the sandy beaches and resorts of the Opal Coast. There is a real old-world charm about the coastline here and you can get to some of the best beaches within half an hour. Hardelot has a 13 km stretch of unspoilt sandy beach which is perfect for swimming, sailing, wind-surfing or getting to grips with a bucket and spade. Children love this friendly place with its candy-stripe beach huts and an idyllic day at the beach is complete with a visit to one of the town's many creperies.

Further south along the coast is the colourful seaside resort of Le Touquet, also known as ‘Paris by the sea’. It’s bigger than Hardelot and with its 7 km of sandy beach, exciting events programme, lovely restaurants and impressive sporting facilities, the town draws the crowds in the summertime. You can enjoy everything from boule to basketball on this seafront. In February the town hosts the Enduro Race, when over 1,000 bikes race across the beach and dunes. In the main square, look out for the grand casino which is said to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond classic, ‘Casino Royale’. The seaside town of Wimereux is much smaller but makes another great beach day for all the family.

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Cote-d'Opale
Wimereux
Hardelot

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World War history comes alive

Anyone who wants to discover more about the World Wars should head to the Pas-de-Calais in Northern France. Arras (just over an hour in the car from Desvres) and Amiens (about one and half hours from Desvres by car) have countless memorials and cemeteries for you to visit and pay your respects. The Thiepval 'Memorial to the Missing' at Albert (nearly two hours away) is the largest British war memorial in the world. It commemorates the 73,357 British and South African men without graves who lost their lives on the Somme battlefields of World War I. Nearby is the Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park with its line of preserved trenches. Also close by is the fascinating underground Somme 1916 Museum.

The Pas-de-Calais and Opal Coast saw scenes of another kind in World War II. You can discover more about the Nazi Occupation, the creation of the V2 bombs that were dropped on London during the war and the Liberation of France at the fascinating La Coupole Centre D'Histoire, just half an hour away from the hotel. Visiting any of these places can be very emotional but it's good to know you can retreat afterwards to Le Moulin for some quiet contemplation in our peaceful surroundings.

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Musée 39-45
Le Blockhaus

 

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The ceramics scene is on our doorstep

If you look around the interior of Le Moulin you may find a few clues to what Desvres is famous for in its own country. The ceramic fire surround in the dining room is a massive giveaway, as are the room numbers on their individual decorated pottery plaques. In France, Desvres is best known as a centre for finely-decorated earthenware pottery. You can find out more about the 300-history of the pottery industry in the area at the Desvres Ceramics Museum in town. Opened in 1991, this museum building is a work of art in itself as it is built to look like huge ceramic wall tiles. Inside the museum there are over 600 artefacts that demonstrate pottery production in the town from the 17th century through to the present day. The informative audio guide in English, excellent touch-screen displays and pottery workshops make this a visit to remember.

You can discover more about the local ceramics scene with visits to local factories and attending workshops in the town. Visit the Tourist Centre in the town and they will be happy to tell you about some of the tours and programmes available. A tour of l’Arc International (the original factory of Cristallerie of Arques) is highly recommended, as it the walking tour of the town to look at the interiors and exteriors of the cafes and brasseries that are decorated with beautiful 19th-century tiles.

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French markets, Christmas markets

During your stay you can immerse yourself in the typical French way of life. When you are in France you almost certainly should visit the local weekly markets with their stalls crammed with fresh produce and other goodies. Most towns have a market once or twice a week. Boulogne, Calais and Le Touquet have some sizeable, lively markets where you can grab some tasty treats. If it's local produce you want – live pigeon and rabbits included – then you can do no better than heading to Desvres market which is held each Tuesday morning. If it's antiques you are after, then Lille hosts the biggest flea market in Europe. The Lille Braderie Flea Market has over 10,000 stalls and it's reputed to be the best place to bag some bargain bric-a-brac or other prize vintage finds.

In the winter months, you can add some sparkle to your life with a trip to the Christmas markets of Northern France. There are some pretty magic markets at Boulogne, Amiens, Lille, Arras, Lens and Le Touquet so you are utterly spoilt for choice. It's a great time to visit Boulogne as Christmas suits its historic old town so well – smoked herring and Christmas pudding are local specialities to stock up on. The Grand Place at Arras is the perfect festive setting for a Christmas market and you can try delicacies like chocolate rats (!) or Coeurs d'Arras which can be sweet or savoury. The market at Amiens is another favourite and is one of the biggest in Northern France – local treats include macaroons and Beauvais chocolate.

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Nord Mag

 

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All things French and a few things English...

One of the best things about coming to stay at Le Moulin is that it really is so close to Britain. Calais is just 45 minutes away from our hotel and all the exciting things there are to do on the Opal Coast and in the Pas-de-Calais. You can escape your everyday life and enjoy all things French in a matter of hours. The region has always attracted British tourists so you can seek out a few things English. Le Touquet was the stomping ground for many high-brow Brits including Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and P. G Wodehouse, and the author Ian Fleming met his wife here. Many of the lovely villas in Le Touquet were commissioned by rich Brits who lived here in the early 20th century – look out for some quintessentially English villa names like Sevenoaks and Peppermint. For more 'English' experiences, head to the bar at the Westminster Hotel (built in the 1920s for wealthy Brits abroad) or the Ascot Bar in the Twenties Hotel. If you visit Le Touquet in October you can even enjoy the annual festival known as British Week.

You probably can't get anything more English than cream tea and you can enjoy a cuppa with a scone while listening to some beautiful piano music at Le château d'Hardelot (Castle of Hardelot). This charming chateau was built over one hundred years ago by an English man. In 2009 the castle opened its Centre culturel de l'Entente cordiale to become the only institution in France to celebrate British culture. Many of the exhibitions here celebrate the ties between the British and the French and there are music recitals, open-air cinema shows and regular concerts for you to check out.

 

Get in touch to see how we can help you

At Le Moulin we have a wide range of rooms from which you can choose. We have spacious rooms on the ground floor with disabled access. If you want to bring your pet to stay then we have a room you can share with them too.

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