35 minutes by Eurotunnel and 60km down the French coast south of Calais lies Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, widely known as Le Touquet.
The town was originally the brainchild of an Englishman who bought the land in 1903 to attract visitors from English high society. It came to prominence in the 1920s when it was developed to accommodate the likes of Noël Coward, PG Wodehouse and friends when they decided to hop over La Manche to enjoy the delights of the Côte d’Opale.
The centre piece of the town is The Westminster a splendid art deco inspired Hotel (Classic – double room from €166) which maintains much of its charm and elegance, particularly in the foyer which features an ornate caged lift and sweeping staircase. There are reminders of its multitude of famous clientele with signed photographs on the walls of the rich and royal including the Aga Khan, Princess Grace of Monaco and Sean Connery.
We stayed at the Hotel Residence Hippotel, (Apartments from €67) which offers basic but very comfortable accommodation with apartments that include a kitchen and all the necessary equipment (bar an electric kettle). The Hotel itself is delightfully nestled amongst the fabulous holiday homes of rich Parisians, some of the houses are thatched and the sort you’d expect to find in Suffolk or Kent rather than Northern France as you sweep by them on the well-designed avenues.
Next door to the Hippotel on Avenue de la Dune aux loups is the Parc Equestre. POD was keen to repeat her riding experiences which to date have been limited to trips to Hatchlands, so we decided to book her a ride one morning. The hotel told us the centre was closed as this was out of season but as we were so close we thought we’d chance our arm. We returned at 3.30 as requested and having paid our €10 were given a riding helmet and assigned a pony called Sami. The rest was up to us.
During our stay we also took the opportunity to visit the covered market in the centre of town, open on Thursdays and Saturdays (and Mondays in summer). Cheeses, sausages, a wide selection of seafood, arts and crafts and clothing are all on display and available for sampling from many of the food stalls.
There’s a wealth of restaurants in the town. Of the three we sampled our favourite was Le Coq Hardi. As well as having a name that inspired several minutes of double entendre fun it ticked all the boxes for a cosy, rustic French dining experience. The lunchtime menu, 3 courses for €15 included steak and chips, moules and rabbit terrine, the menu enfant €7.50, a carafe of red wine €9. The restaurant also has it’s own titular beer and we gratefully quaffed a cold glass or two.
We couldn’t leave without a trip to the beach. Although the weather was sadly against us we were able to appreciate the wide expanse of white sand and enjoyed flying the Spiderman kite we bought for POD at the covered market – ignoring the 40 mph wind whipping sand into all our crevasses!