This past weekend I hopped on a ferry to France from the south coast of England (Dover) to the Northern French town of Calais. Here is what I saw in this quiet town:
After a short walk from the ferry port I came across the Lighthouse which stands tall in a quiet part of town. Still in great condition, there are 271 steps to climb for a view across the Channel and town, after a €2.50 entrance fee. With my fear of heights I passed up on this opportunity.
A short walk down the road from the Lighthouse, and across the coastline is Fort Risban. Or what is left of the fort, which isn’t much, more than 500 years after it came under siege from England. Still, it’s a landmark in this town and two statues worth checking out stand close by.
In the northern-most part of town it was very quiet and generally looked very poor. The buildings looked outdated and the restaurants didn’t look attractive. But a 5-10 minute walk into town, heading towards the train station and things looked much brighter in Calais.
The most attractive park I passed in Calais was Parc Richelieu. Located a couple of steps away from the train station, this park was perfect on the hot summer’s day to take a rest. On the entrance stands the Calais War Memorial whilst inside is well-maintained and even has a small water fountain.
Fine Arts and Lace Museum
Adjacent to Parc Richelieu is the Fine Arts and Lace Museum. For a €3 entrance fee, inside you can see work from Rodin, Pablo Picasso, and Dubuffet amongst others.
Calais Town Hall
You can catch a sight of the elegant watch tower from outside of Parc Richelieu, and once you cross the Jacquard Bridge and reach the Town Hall you can appreciate the fantastic architecture of the building. Without doubt the most impressive building in town. The front garden, which plays host to Rodin’s famous Six Burgher’s of Calais monument, also hosts art work throughout the year. During my visit, I saw work from Laurence Jenkell, as shown in the photos below:
Opposite the Calais Town hall is the Parc Saint Pierre. Inside the park you can find the war museum. Entrance is €6 and offers insight into World War II, including photographs and objects that depict the war.
As well as these visiting these sights, Calais has a number of statues and monuments around town to view. On top of the previously-mentioned War Memorial and Six Burgher’s of Calais, there is a monument dedicated to the Pluviose disaster, a Remembrance Monument opposite the Town Hall and even one of a former deputy mayor as well as many more.
I didn’t sleep over in Calais as I had viewed all of the attractions in less than a day. So I caught the train to Lille, the fourth largest city in France and close to the border of Belgium.
I spent a day and a half in Lille which did not give me enough time to view everything or take photos of every statue in the city. However, here is what I did find of interest:
Lille Grand Place
The Grand Place in Lille was certainly the busiest part of this city when I visited. And that wasn’t a great surprise. This is the main part of the city, where there is history and shopping opportunities aplenty. The Grand Place hosts several impressive architectural buildings and sights to visit. Whever you stand in this area you will find something beautiful to see.
The Old Stock Exchange, or the Vieille Bourse as it is called is one of the most prestigious buildings in Lille. It is located between the Grand Place and Theatre Squad, opposite Europe’s largest book store. A sight to see, on the front courtyard I was greeted by book sellers and florists. A very popular sight amongst tourists and locals alike.
The huge pentagon-shaped Citadel of Lille is located north of the city, which is either a long walk from the centre of a short, €1.40 bus journey. This Citadel remains the largest in France and dates back to the 17th century when it was constructed by over 2,000 men, before being besieged during the 1708 Siege of Lille. These days, the Citadel remains in tip-top condition and tour guides are available for €7 during the summer.
Lille’s zoo can be found next door to the Citadel. Entrance is free and the zoo plays host to more than 70 different species of animal from all five continents. Animals on display here include Birds, Gibbons, Rhinos and Zebras.
As with Calais, Lille also has a large number of statues and monuments. There were many that I did not find, but those that I saw included The Goddess, General Faidherbe and the Pigeon Voyageur as shown below:
After visiting the sites in Lille, I ended the evening with one of the local specialities: a saucepan of mussels! Of all the restaurant menus I glanced at when walking past, these were on most of them. So if you come to Lille there’s no excuse for not tasting them!