Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Montreuil sur Mer - part one

Part one I hear you moan! I can see that you fear endless posts about our weekend in France, page after page of photographs of us drinking coffee, meals we ate and oh so funny people that we met and will never see again. Rest easy dear reader, all I'd like to do is share a favourite town with you and say that you don't have to venture far across the channel to become immersed in 'la vie francaise'.

Last weekend was our wedding anniversary and as we had, at last, finished the winter project of the bedroom, we decided a short break was in order. One of our favourite towns is Montreuil sur Mer, although it is no longer by the sea as the river silted up many centuries ago. Situated in the Nord Pas de Calais region it can be reached within an hour from the channel ports making it a perfect place for a short break. Famous for its cloth industry in the 11th to 13th centuries and in a perfect location for trade from the south to Boulogne and Belgium the town grew wealthy. But the silting of the river, counterfeit cloth, the Hundred Years War and finally plague. took its toll and the town slid gently into decline. It wasn't until the 19th century that things started to improve and the town was of supreme importance during the first world war.

Roof tops of Montreuil

On this trip we stayed at the Hotel des Hauts which is just off the main square. I think we  first stayed there over 25 years ago but it is in a perfect location, has a lovely courtyard and the staff are very friendly. We arrived Thursday afternoon, dumped our bags and headed out for a glass of wine and a spell of people-watching before an excellent meal at Le Clos des Capucins. If there is one thing I struggle with in France it's being vegetarian, there has usually been a barrier in restaurants. It's not that restaurant owners aren't helpful, they often delightful, but rarely do they see past an omelette or a goat's cheese salad. At Le Clos they have a vegetarian option, and it was good!

In case you were wondering the second course was cooked in a wok
I did go for dessert, settling for a créme brulée. Little did I know that this was in the very fashionable 'three ways'. Yep three of them! Ordinary, pistachio and chocolate. I waddled back to the hotel.

Now, as I promised at the beginning this is not a blow by blow account of our trip, so I'm skipping Friday as we spent most of the day in Le Touquet. Oh alright then - just one photograph!

The very distinctive architectural style of Le Touquet
One of the reasons that we like Montreuil so much is that it is a everything you want in a French town. Yes it is very pretty but not everything is picture perfect.

Only the French can make shabby shutters look attractive!
It has all the shops you need for normal living: a small supermarket; a couple of charcuteries/traiteurs; several bakers; hardware shop; chocolate shop (essential!); florist; cheesemongers; hairdressers; a vet; a weekly market and a lot more beside.

Andrew can never understand why French towns have so many florists. Or hairdressers.
Several visits were made here

The name? Victor Hugo only stayed here for half a day but set 'Les Mis' in the town. Each year there is a son et lumiere production in the citadel.

So I think that's enough for one post. I hope that I've whetted your appetite and you'd like to see more. I'll leave you with a view from the ramparts.

Montreuil sur Mer


  1. We've never been there. Clearly within reach of Calais, we're sure to take a break there one day soon. Thanks for the hint. And yes, hairdressers. Shabby old Laroque, short on shops, has three, and in a nearby hamlet, a hairdresser is the only commercial enerprise there is.

    1. I would certainly recommend a trip (but please don't take your camera as you'll take much better photographs!). It also has a railway station with links to Calais & Boulogne so you don't even need to take the car. I only had to mention that you'd commented about hairdressers and Andrew was off on another rant!

  2. What a charming place for a mini-break.
    P.S. that menu had me at 'bleu d'Auvergne' :)

    1. The terrine was superb and bleu d'Auvergne is a favourite. We're seriously considering moving to the town just for the cheese shop. And the boulangerie next door which sells sublime pain aux raisons but with cranberries.