Northern France
What to do and see within 90 minutes of Calais








File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0



File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0



File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0


Pictured above: St-Valéry-sur-Somme; St-Riquier belfry; Wissant; Bailleul belfry; Pays du Nord magazine; Calais belfry.

All © Angela Bird.



Departmental tourist boards
First stop must be the highly informative websites of the three départements that are featured in the book:
the Nord (département number 59) including French Flanders (two of its sub-divisions, “Flandre-Côte d’Opale” and “Coeur de Flandre” areas are included in the book). You can sign up to receive regular newsletters (in English) from “Nicole”, about special holiday deals and upcoming events.
the Pas-de-Calais (département number 62), where you can also sign up for “Nicole”’s newsletter to receive regular information on new attractions.
Click on “downloads” at the bottom of the page, and you can obtain brochures and dozens of walking and cycling maps to print out and to help plan your trip in detail.
Click on “useful addresses” and you can find links to the county council, chamber of commerce and other sites.
the Somme county tourist board (département number 80) also has a specialist site devoted to “battlefield tourism”


Regional tourist boards
The Nord and the Pas-de-Calais come under the Region of Nord/Pas-de-Calais; here is a link to the Nord/Pas-de-Calais regional tourist board .
The Somme département comes under Picardie; here is a link to the Picardie regional tourist board.


Weather reports for the next five days can be found on the MeteoConsult site by typing the postcode of the town or village in which you are interested into the slot marked “La Météo où vous voulez”. Or you can just type in the indicative figures for the département (county). These are: 59 for Nord,  62 for “Pas de Calais”, or  80 for Somme.


An excellent site (in French) for coming events, local traditions and all sorts of aspects to the Nord and Pas de Calais.
The site has a page devoted to the dialect of Picard, spoken from the river Somme to toe Belgian border. You can read examples, read about famous Ch’tis (people from the North), and listen to some regional songs.


Pays du Nord
The website for a glossy monthly magazine. Pays du Nord covers the delights of northern France and adjacent parts of Belgium, with photographs and in-depth articles on cultural, architectural and gastronomic highlights..


The official site for all the main museums in the Nord and Pas de Calais.


Vide-greniers (car-boot sales)
These are very popular in Northern France. Some can be full of dross, but you never know what you might unearth. Here is the useful “Vide Greniers” website that lists events throughout France. You can click in the box on the left of its screen, “Recherche dans le calendrier des vide-greniers” to select a region (Nord/Pas de Calais, or Picardy), or a departement (Pas de Calais, Nord or Somme).


The Belfries of the north
Here is a list of all the belfries – many of them now UNESCO-listed - that play regular tunes. The list shows which carillons are played “live” and which electronically. If you spool down to the bottom of a town’s page, you can see the names of the airs (ritournelles) that are played on the hour, the half-hour etc.


Fortified towns and fortifications
The areas of Kent, Northern France, and Belgian Flanders have combined to produce The Historic Fortifications Network, a website giving detailed information about military fortresses of all periods: pre-1500, 1500-1800 and 1800-1945. If you click on a particular town, you find a detailed historical description plus a commentated walking route to print out.


War-related sites and other places to visit
Norfolk Lines ferries (Dover-Dunkerque) have produced a series of interesting booklets on places to visit within easy driving distance of Dunkerque. You can view them here, then either order a free copy to be posted to you or download them direct from the site.


Links by area (area numbers and headings
relate to the section divisions in Angela Bird’s Northern France guidebook




The collections of the Musée Benoit de Puydt can be viewed on this website. (Page 40 of book)



The tourist-office site introduces you to this charming little walled town, that shot to prominence in 2008 after the stupefying success of Dany Boon’s enchanting film comedy “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis





Tourist office




This charming hilltop town has a rather confusing website.  There is plenty of information if you dig for it, but you have to be patient... (Page 42 of book)





Tourist office  (Page 44 of book)

Dunkerque’s excellent Musée Portuaire has a rather fancy website telling you about its old ships. (Page 46 of book)

The fascinating story of the Dunkirk Evacuation of May 1940 is unfolded in the Mémorial du Souvenir. (Page 47 of book)


Here’s a site that gives a flavour of Dunkerque’s amazing museum of modern art – the LAAC - and its sculpture park. (Page 45 of book)


More culture in the town’s fine-arts museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts. (Page 47 of book)


The site for Dunkerque’s 18-hole golf course, that weaves in and out of Vauban’s fortifications.


A useful website describing the attractions of Dunkerque is the still slightly-embryonic Dunkirk Guide.





A good website for this attractive village south of Dunkerque, which has since 2007 declared itself to be a “village du livre”, or a centre for second-hand books. (p50 of book)




Ecomusée: Ferme de Bommelaers Wall.  The website for this enjoyable museum of Flemish farm life plays you some jolly rural music as you view. (p49 of book)




Les Gigottos Automates  A site where you can have a glimpse of Bruno Dehondt’s wonderful creations: life-sized animated figures made from recycled domestic machinery. (p53 of book).
Now open 1st and 3rd Wed of month.


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Gigottos: a marching band
© Angela Bird


The Pays des Géants website for this attractive Flemish town also has a good diary of coming events (Accueil-Agenda, and then pick a date on the calendar – and ask for a one-month view).

Steenmeulen.  The website for Joseph Markey’s splendid brick-built windmill and his fascinating rural life collection. (p52 of book)




Here is a website for the enjoyable Musée de la Vie /Rurale (open May-Oct). (p41 of book)




Here’s a link to a site for Llandudno – a town that is twinned with the Flemish town of Wormhout following a strong WWII connection.

This is based around the massacre by SS troops in May 1940 of 80 British soldiers who had been protecting the escape route to the beaches of Dunkirk. The site is marked by the Grange des Fusillés (p50 of book)




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Massacre site at Wormhout
© Angela Bird


Last Post ceremony. Here is a link to the Last Post Association, that keeps alive the nightly tradition by which the Ypres Fire Brigade’s buglers sound the Last Post each evening beneath the monumental Menin Gate at Ypres for those who fell in the Ypres Salient during WWI. (p53 of book)


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The Menin Gate at Ypres
© Angela Bird







near ST-OMER


La Coupole  
The extraordinary WWII bunker that is now a thoroughly modern museum about the development of the V2 rocket (the beginning of the “space race”), and also about the German occupation of Northern France






The collections of Boulogne’s magnificent Chateau-Musée can be viewed on line here.


A sister website to the brilliant Calais Guide (see below) is the almost-as-good Boulogne Guide.





Fantastic website on Calais, the Calais Guide gives every snippet of information you could be looking for, from where to eat and what to visit, to transport services and nightlife.




Sangatte: Here is a webcam link to the beach at Sangatte, paradise for kitesurfers.




Here is the website of an attractive little town north-west of St-Omer, a port where the river Aa meets one of the north’s main canals.



Here is a link to the website for this charming seaside resort.
And here’s a webcam view of Wimereux seafront



Wissant’s seafront webcam has been switched off for the winter, but will be live again at the end of March.











Here is a webcam for the large seaside resort of Berck







This is a webcam view of Hardelot-Plage




A link to the cultural life of Montreuil and surrounding area.








Tourist office




Maison Jules Verne is the house where the 19thC sci-fi writer lived for many years.




The magical Gardens of Valloires between Montreuil and Abbeville.








Musée Somme 1916 is in a series of tunnels beneath the town’s large basilica church, now converted into an atmospheric museum of WWI trench life.

Here are some rather wonderful photos of the basilica church of Albert, taken by French photographer Arnaud Fiocret

The modern Thiepval Visitor Centre explains British and French action on the Somme.

The Royal British Legion has a Somme branch that organises the annual 11 November ceremonies at the Ulster Tower and at Thiepval. Information on membership from their website.



Arras tourist office website (in French) has links to many tourism brochures that can be downloaded.

Here is a link to a webcam overlooking the Place des Héros in Arras. 

The collections of the Arras Musée des Beaux Arts can be viewed here.



The Historial de la Grande Guerre is a modern museum behind the medieval gatehouse of Péronne’s former castle. It gives a good overview of World War I.




The Musée Franco-Australien, at Villers-Bretonneux, describes the involvement of Australian forces in World War I.

This “Digger history” site has good pictures of the Australian National Memorial, outside the town of Villers-Bretonneux.








The volunteers of the Alexandre Villedieu museum in Loos have set up an interesting website to give information on the area where the Battle of Loos was fought during WWI..

To visit the museum, or to book a tour of the Double Crassier site, contact the museum by email
a.villedieu @
(close up spaces either side of the @ sign)









The Royal British Legion  are the people to contact in advance of your trip if you want to take a poppy wreath or cross with you to place at war sites.  Their UK address is: The Poppy Appeal, RBL Village, Aylesford, Kent, ME20 7NX (UK tel: 01622 717172).  It is best to arrange this before your trip. Although it is occasionally possible to buy the small poppy crosses at cafés or visitor centres in the Somme battlefields area, you cannot count on it.
Here is a link to the Somme branch of the Royal British Legion, which organises the annual 11 November ceremonies at the Ulster Tower and at Thiepval.

The Long Long Trail website has been created by Chris Baker to present the facts of the British Army during World War I. It also has a lively forum on which much fascinating information is exchanged on all topics relating to the Great War – not only in France but also in other theatres of the war. If you want to know how to research a particular soldier, there are plenty of hints here.

The Great War in a Different Light is a brilliant website full of contemporary illustrations, photographs and writings from magazines published at the time. Exhaustively indexed, so you can quickly reach any subject of particular interest, it has extracts from publications in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.

The Western Front Association is an organisation that supports research into the Great War, the renovation of memorials and other projects.

The Imperial War Museum, London, was founded in 1917 and first opened to the public in 1920. Since 1936 it has been in its current location, the former Bethlem Royal Hospital buildings in Southwark. The original purpose of the IWM was to record the story of the Great War and mark the contribution of the Empire to victory. As well as comprehensive displays of uniforms and models connected with World War I, there is the excellent “Trench Experience”. Open Daily 10am-6pm.


The National Army Museum, London, has a permanent gallery devoted to World War I that includes infantry and cavalry soldiers from 1914, a machine gun team, trench periscope and reconstructed dug-out from 1917. Open Daily 10am-5.30pm.

The Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne, France, gives an excellent overview of World War I from the perspective of both sides. Headsets give tours in English, French and German. Open Daily 10am-6pm, Closed mid-Dec to mid-Jan.

The National Library of Australia’s “Picture Australia” website has a brilliant archive of WWI images. From this page on Péronne, for example, you can type the name of any other town or village and see what pictures – usually old postcard views of wartime soldiers or general devastation - come up.


For some personal battlefield-visiting experiences, read the website of the North Manchester Battlefield Society. NMBS members Stuart, Steve, Kevin, Lance and Gerry -  the self-styled “Chippendales of battlefield-tour groups” – give lively reports on visiting, shopping, and the best places for a beer during their annual one-week trips to the Somme, Ypres, Verdun, and also to WW2 sites and to war-related destinations in the UK.


It is strictly forbidden by French law to use metal detectors in the département of the Somme.  This page (in French) explains the law in detail, but basically the reason is that so much dangerously unstable ordnance lies in the soil still (unexploded shells, gas shells, etc), which kill and maim many people every year.


Battle of the Somme  July-Nov 1916

The Battlefields of the Somme is a website set up by the Somme Tourist Board, with an excellent English version. It offers in-depth advice on research, museums, accommodation, tourist offices and other topics.

Battlefield guide Paul Reed has produced an excellent, fact-packed site about the Somme. Here is a link to the “Visiting the Somme” pages, with recommendations for accommodation and restaurants in the area.


Battle of Arras/Artois April/May 1917

The Battle of Arras is well explained on this page from the Long Long Trail.


An explanation, from an American website, of the Battle of Arras and the taking of Vimy Ridge.


The Great War Different site shows contemporary illustrations of the tunnels beneath Arras, that enabled the Allies to surprise the Germans and to take Vimy Ridge


A description of the newly-opened “Wellington Quarry”, the labyrinth of tunnels beneath Arras in which Allied troops were concealed for two weeks before launching their Easter attack.

Battle of the Lys  April 1918

J Rickard’s site has a good description of the events leading up to the Battle of the Lys, during the German spring offensive of 1918.





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