Un jour en France (Dunkerque, St. Omer, Clairmarais, Wimereux, Cap Gris Nez)

June 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

After a day devoted to the Belgian soccer game and celebrating with the entire city:

BelgianSoccerGame3

it was time to go back to taking advantage of the fact that Belgium is a small place with many adjacent countries.  In other words, it was time to hop over to France.

Within a few minutes, Mr. Italian and I crossed the border [thank goodness, because Belgium has the worst radio stations in the world, so driving for excessive amounts of time there either turns into a begrudging house (car?) party, or mournful post-news silence].  First stop in the new country was Dunkirk, a place that I have been fantasizing and wanting to visit ever since I saw Atonement for the first time.  Favorite scene of my favorite movie, so it definitely had much romanticizing to live up to:

DunkirkWarMonument

I’m not sure that it did, as it did not match the gloomy atmosphere I had anticipated.  But, there was something about the vastness and industrialized horizon that matched the cold, rocky views that I had in my mind.  I’m sure that without the sun, it would have been more depressing (and, thus, accurate).

DunkirkBeachwalk

Instead, it was more like the final scene from Atonement (which is bittersweet, so it’s okay), rather than all of the depressing war stuff.  We used it as a backdrop for a photo session, then strolled through a modern art park back to our car, and zoomed off to our next stop: St. Omer.

StOmerFlowersTrainTracks

I honestly have no idea how to describe this city.  It was cute, but seemed deserted (in a creepy way), except for sad teenagers walking around.

StOmerNighttime

There was a really impressive park and some really astounding architecture though, so I can’t cross it off my list.  And, we did find a Carrefour open past 21, so we stocked up on cheeses and pâté‘s and wines and baguettes and chocolates and had a makeshift, illegal picnic at a royal garden.

StOmerSunsetChurch

And then, we found this gem of a ruin:

The remains of this alley of the St. Bertin church is probably my favorite monument that I have seen- I’ll place it on the same slot as Ephesus, even if on a much smaller scale.  But, it took my breath away.  It blew my mind, how fire can destroy a building of such proportions and weight.  It seemed as if someone just took an eraser and erased parts of the church, and left the rest of it there.  On the park grounds, you could see an outline of the rest of the abbey, so that you could imagine the rest of its size and grandeur.  Truly unexpected and awe-inspiring:

StOmerRuins3

However, most of our time in St.Omer we spent admiring all of the details at our timewarp bed-and-breakfast… which featured long windows, heavy wooden furniture, makeshift bathrooms separated by curtains, and tacky wallpapers:

StOmerHotelColors

I loved it; I felt like some sort of 18th-century countess.  Especially at breakfast, which consisted of a basket of fresh croissants and baguettes and breads and an assembly of home-made jams:

StOmerHotelBreakfast

All while being surrounded by this country atmosphere:

After a lazy morning, it was time to bid adieu to our chipper hostess, and drive to the next town over: Clairmarais.

ClairmaraisBaots

There we rented a boat for an hour and navigated through the hundreds of canals that make up the Flanders region (or, more accurately, the Regional Park of Caps et Marais d’Opale).  Kind of like a cross between Louisiana and Venice :]

After the boating excursion, it was time to stroll along picturesque Wimereux, a colorful seaside town with delicious mussels and unique designs:

And personalized beach cabins:

WimereuxHarmonies

And (finally!) cliffs:

WimereuxCliff

Tummies full, we tied up our little adventure in France at the cap griz nez calais, the point of France closest to England.  We found sheep:

CapdeNezSheep

And lighthouses:

CapdeNezLighthouse

And a lot of wind, so we hopped back into the car and started the drive back home to Brugges.  Except that we didn’t want to miss the Italy-Uruguay soccer game, so we stopped at a little bar in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the French-Belgium border (it was surprisingly hard to find a bar with a television…), ordered ice cream and wine, and watched with disappointment as Italy bid farewell to future 2014 FIFA games.  Bur, seriously… I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the World Cup is being hosted in Brazil, and it’s all of the South American countries that are winning?!

Anyways… after that, back to Belgium for one final night of toddlers, speculoos, and strawberry milk.  And then, back to Italy, who welcomed us back with all of its hailstorm and spicy curry glory.

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