Mike Strachan’s e-mail journal — Entry #17, from France
Received 10 May 2008 Travels for May 7/08 — Boulogne and the Channel Ports
What better thing is there to do than send e-mails on a hot sticky day in Kortrijk?
I got the car at 9 AM and headed south to Montreuil — it was on the QOR route. An interesting place with a fortified old town of some size. It has monuments for the franco-Prussian war (1870-71) and for WW1. The church is undergoing a major renovation including a new roof. The figurines over the doorway are restored at the bottom, but are very eroded at the top. I even found a statue to General Haig of WW1.
Next on to La Capelle-les-Bains which was also easy to find, still on the QOR route, and they passed this way in Sept. 1944 to be part of the battle of Boulogne.
On to Cap Gris Nez and I pass through tiny hamlets as I approach the Cape. On the high ground is a lighthouse and a rotating radar dish on a building. The area has construction going on but I walk in. There is a bunker on the cliff, and the remains of other emplacements which are being removed or built over for a new tourist centre and parking lot. I can see Wissant up the coast, but not England due to mist on the sea.
At Calais the ferries are in — several large ones at the docks.On the strand there's a column commemorating the return of Louis XVIII from England in 1814. He had to leave again in 1815 when Napoleon escaped from Elba. (See an image of the plaque at the memorial, below.)
The city hall in Calais is an odd mixture of styles, and there are flags in front, including a Canadian one. Across the street is a memorial to Calais citizens who fought in wars from Algeria in 1845 to WW1.
In the plaza in front of city hall is the Rodin sculpture The Burghers of Calais. They made a deal in 1347 with the attacker, Henry V of England, to forfeit their lives to spare the town.
Calais is busy, but no truck traffic — it must go by a different route. Both the IH and the QOR were involved in the attack on Calais in September of 1944. The 1H returned to Cap Gris Nez to capture it on September 28, and Calais fell on September 30.
On to Dunkerque, and I find out that the whole area from Calais to Dunkerque is one big industrial zone. I wind up at the gare, but there are no signs of the beaches. A local woman tells me to go a little further north to Malo-les-Bains, and yes there's a beach there but no memorials that I can find. Looking south it appears that the port and industrial areas block access to the other beaches, and I haven't time to search them out. It's now 4:45 PM and I have to have the car back by 6:00.
On the way to the A16 I just have to stop and photograph the town hall in the Dunkerque suburb of Rosendael. Then fast down the A16 at 130 km/hr plus where I can, as this is rush hour on the eve of the VE Day holiday.
At Boulogne I go all the way to the port exit and come into town the back way, right near the hotel, gas up and make it to the rental office by 5:45. The total cost for one day, with 30 km over my limit and including VAT (like GST) of 19.6%, is €126.45. What a business! I think I'll stick with Avis wherever I can in the future.
Dinner at the hotel, and I ask at the desk if there is a cyber cafe nearby, and there is. It's 10 blocks away, and when I get there it's closed. The walk affords the site of the church of St. Louis in a local neighbourhood, and a robin searching for worms —same as ours but without the red breast.
The train leaves at 10:42 AM and I want to see the wreath laying ceremony at the gare at 10:15 AM. It's dark at 9:45 PM, so I finish my journal, read a bit, then to bed.
Tomorrow — Boulogne to Courtrai (Belgium).