Just across the bridge from Le Touquet is the less famous but equally delightful port of Etaples sur Mer with its fishing and sailing boats. Etaples has all the usual facilities you would expect to find, ranging from a pony club to mini golf and numerous nautical attractions. A perfect spot to stop for a fishy lunch is ‘Aux Pecheurs d’Etaples’ just on the right as you approach the bridge coming from Boulogne. Here you can also buy fish to take home from the glistening display in the ground floor shop or dine in style on the first floor. In the main square of the old town, there is a bustling market on Tuesday and Friday mornings and the town is well served for shops, brasseries, bars and restaurants. The Hôtel le Charles VIII has an excellent restaurant and there is also the Hôtel de la Baie. Besides the sailing ‘Centre Nautique’, there is mini golf and nearby the House of the Flora and Fauna invites you to experience all the riches and pathways of the Nature Reserve of the Estuary of the Canche. The Nature Reserve is open all the year round but for any information, telephone 03 21 84 13 93.
From 1880 to 1914, a colony of artists established themselves at Etaples, drawn by the incredible light of the Bay of the Canche. This school rivalled those of Barbizon or Honfleur in its importance. A little further along the road is the Maréis - an amazing place where simulation allows you to experience being at the controls of a 24 metre trawler, steering it through all weathers, to stroke the fish that live in the Channel in shallow aquariums, and finally to learn how to tie nautical knots. Next to this is the Office de Tourism. The Atelier et Maison de la Miniature has over 280 models and the workshop where they are made is behind the house.
Opposite the port is the Musée de la Marine, in the old fish market – a symbolic place for the fishermen. On 3 levels the museum deals with the lives of the local fishermen, their costumes, their religious festivals, the conditions under which they worked and so forth.
The Museum also covers the technicalities of fishing, the evolution of this trade, the naval carpentry, sails and other tools of the trade and a video covers the work of the trawler and of the fish to the end of the century. Nearby you can go on a 45 minute boat trip around the bay and see the nature reserve and a different view of the British Cemetery from the estuary. The Musée Quentovic deals with evolution, fossils, coral, the earliest vertebrates found in the cliffs of Cap Blanc Nez etc.
Etaples had traces of Paleolithic man, the Iron Age and of course the Romans, but in the 14th,15th and 16th centuries it was repeatedly pillaged and burnt by various armies including the Normans, the British and the Duke of Lancaster to mention just a few. In 1596 a severe outbreak of plague decimated the population but the town always emerged from the ashes. The original Chateau dated from 1172 but was dismantled in 1641. It saw the signature of the Treaty of Etaples between Henry 7th of England and Charles 8th of France. The First World War brought such terrible conflict to the town that Etaples was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1920. To the north of the town, 11,000 Commonwealth servicemen lie in the Military Cemetery, overlooking the estuary, with an impressive monument designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was inaugurated in 1922 by King George V and Field Marshall Douglas Haig.
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Distance from Coquelles - 48 mins - 63 Kms (Approx)
Etaples-sur-Mer Tourist Office, bd Bigot Descelers, BP 102, 62630. Tel 0033 (0)3 21 09 56 94 /Fax 0033 (0)3 21 09 76 96 See web-site www.etaples-sur-mer.com
Copyright text: Sarah Francis 2011
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