Eur ’19 | Cote d’Opale and home

The rain of the previous day was nothing but a distant memory when we awoke to another beautiful sunshiny day. Unfortunately, it was home time and this (our final day) needed to end in Calais where we would be hopping on a ferry and sailing back across the Channel. But despite our trip coming to an end, it wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying the journey.

All the driving we had done that morning was enjoyable but it got even better when we hit the coastal roads. Lush green fields tipped into the blue green sea, the sky was clear and blue, just a smattering of white clouds hung across the distant horizon. The roads rolled along the coast, the views coming and going with the undulations. We pulled over whenever the fancy took us, making the most of our remaining time.

We found a small track that climbed down across the grassy dunes and onto the sandy beach below. There was a stiff breeze keeping the heat of the day at bay. The green grass, enmeshed with pinks and yellows of wild flowers, grew in patchy abundance. All of this gave way to the beach, golden craggy rocks and flat yellow sand, which in turn gave way to the sea, where the water which was almost teal in colour lapped the shore. We tottered over small rock pools and ambled along the sand, jumping over the deeper streams that were making their way down the beach. Sat on the craggy rocks, we realised time was running away with us and decided to move on.

Our next stop was at Cap Gris-Nez. It is part of what was once the Atlantic Wall, bunkers and heavy artillery sites were built by German forces along the coast with the intention of holding off the anticipated invasion by the allies. Cap Gris-Nez covered the approaches to both Calais and Boulogne, which were protected by a number of huge concrete blockhouses (one of which is now used as the Atlantic Wall Museum) as well as other smaller defensive sites. The area was liberated in September 1944. A network of wide gravely tracks crossed the cliff tops, linking up in a series of viewpoints along the cliff edge.

The fields had been left to grow, swathes of tall, meadow-style grasses were swaying in that same stiff breeze we enjoyed earlier in the day. The view point had information panels offering basic details of the area’s history, marine life of the Channel and shipping information. The view inland is dominated by the lighthouse, rather drab and grey; it was built in 1958 to replace its predecessor that was destroyed in 1944. This lighthouse and the accompanying radar station provide guidance to over 500 ships that pass the cape every day. More impressive were the views in the other direction Beautiful and far-reaching, a whole lot of sea topped off with a whole lot of sky… all in all, a whole lot of blue.

On our return from the viewpoints we found a little hedgerow track that took us down past the lovely sea-view houses to the water’s edge, depositing us on a slipway and a beach made up of huge boulders. We enjoyed the noise of the water on the rocks for a while before retracing our steps and heading off to see what else would take our fancy. Our next stop of was to be our last of the day (apart from some errand running in Calais!)

We left the van in a small car park in Cran d’Escalles, which lead straight out onto a long concrete slipway and down to a very thin stretch of beach. We walked until the casual flow of people stopped and made ourselves comfortable on the pebbles. High cliffs rose steeply behind us and the sea encroached from the front; we lay back listening to the waves rolling in and discussed the uncanny likeness of this stretch of beach to one we had visited near Møns Klint, Denmark, although this one was farmland on top instead of forests. The ‘going home’ feeling was creeping up on us but we enjoyed the sun and nothingness nonetheless.

Back towards the van we diverted last minute and went for a walk along the cliffs. The wind felt stronger here as we followed the flattened grass track that ran along the edge, the fields on one side and the drop on the other. The afternoon sun had a slight golden tint to it which prefectly illuminated the colours of a kestrel, hovering and swooping just ahead of us. We could have walked all afternoon but reluctantly, after a mile or so, we turned back.

Boarding the ferry was stress free and for the duration of the journey back we sat in the sun, looking out over the water and, as the white cliffs drew nearer, we were already discussing where we would like to go on our next trip!

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