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The Nord Pas-de-Calais region of France

Regional Departments
Nord, Pas-de-Calais.

Main Towns
Lille, Calais, Boulogne, Dunkerque, Armentier, Arras, Douai, Lens, Cambrai, St-Omer, Le Touquet.

The Nord Pas-de-Calais lies between Normandy, Picardie and the Belgium border, in Northern France. This is the kingdom of Aeolus, god of the wind, who sculpts the dunes, swells the sails of sand yachts and sets kites spinning in a warm breeze, a place of enormous sandy beaches along the coast and wild chalk cliffs looking out over the Channel. Inland are lush open pastures, peaceful valleys, woods, rivers and canals, historic towns, Gothic church spires and beautiful villages with red and blue tinted roofs.

Dunkerque, Calais and Boulogne are the three major ports and popular with Channel hoppers for a day trip to shop or a few days holiday, to relax, lie on the beach, play golf, go walking or cycling and eat. Exploring Flanders in France takes time and is best combined with a trip over the border to see Flanders in Belgium, Bruges being the big attraction (and the beer).

Lille is the international gateway to France by rail, served by the Eurostar and the TGV with enviable high-speed links through France and across much of Western Europe. Only 2 hours from London and Amsterdam, 30 minutes from Brussels and an hour from Paris, Lille has established itself as a thriving modern city and an accessible fun weekend destination.

Sandwiched between the old and new stations is a shopper paradise, the Euralille Centre, a sprawling glass building with hundreds of high street shops and restaurants to suit all tastes. Les Brasseurs, opposite Lille-Flandres station, is a bar that serves a wide variety of Flemish brews and fruit beers.

The Grand' Place is a popular meeting place for locals with several cafés and streets leading away from the square lined with smart shops, good bistros and relaxed terraces. The Palais des Beaux-Arts Museum in the Place de la République is second only to the Louvre in Paris with a collection that includes masterpieces by Rubens, Van Dyke, Goya and drawing by Rubens.

Le Touquet on the coast has changed little over the years and is still favourite for few days of golf or a week by the sea. Montreuil-sur-Mer, a little inland from Le Touquet, is one of the most attractive places in the Nord Pas-de-Calais in which to spend a few days. St-Omer, near Agincourt, is a sizable town, quiet and good looking with many elegant 17th and 18th century town houses. Douai (thanks to Carot) has perhaps the best known Gothic spire in Northern France.

Arras is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and prosperous towns in the region, convenient to visit on the way to Paris and the south and a good base from which to visit the battlefields and monuments of the First World War. The splendid cobbled central squares, the Grand Place and Place des Héros are the most complete examples of Flemish architecture in France.


France is famous for its wonderful gastronomy and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais is no exception. Menus draw on dishes from all over France and traditional Flemish food. This is the home of carbonnade, a delicious beef stew cooked in beer and flamiche, a sweet or savoury tart. Anguilles au vert, are eels cooked with spinach and sorrel leaves in white wine, garnished with herbs and served hot or cold on fried bread. Potjevleesch (unpronounceable but very edible) is three white meats in aspic, normally served as a starter. In Arras try the local andouillettes, small sausages usually served with mustard, fried or pureed potatoes, red cabbage or lentils.

Tarte à Gros Bords is a sweet custard tart cooked in a wood fired oven. Cheeses include Vieux Holland, which owes its wonderful taste to a long period of maturing in the cellars of Roubaix and Vieux Lille, a soft, flavoursome cheese.


Take one of the ferries to Calais or Eurostar train to Lille and you are there. This is one of the smallest regions of France so you are not more than two hours away from anywhere in the region by car.

If you plan to travel on later, the area has excellent road connections with Paris and the rest of France via the A26 and A25 motorways.

Local airports include: Calais, Le Touquet, Merville, Lille.

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