Calais to Wissant – 20.6km
We looked out on a misty English Channel (La Manche from the French side) from a mostly empty lounge on the P&O ferry to Calais, as we dined on yesterday’s sourdough baguette (surprisingly still ok!) and cheddar cheese. Arriving on time, we didn’t disembark for another 1 1/2 hrs, due to a docking issue. It was windy and pouring with rain and we shared a taxi into the city with another couple.
Awaking to leaden skies and a cool 5C, we headed downstairs for a reliable Hotel Ibis breakfast before walking to the town centre to view the Flemish Renaissance style town hall and UNESCO heritage early 20thC bell tower and “Les Bourgeois de Calais” ,one of 12 casts of Rodin’s beautiful sombre sculpture. We had seen another cast of this sculpture in the Musée de Rodin in Paris and were keen to see it again.
Back to collect our packs, we set off towards Wissant, immediately encountering a diversion on the route, which meant that we missed Bleriot Beach, the departure site of the first airplane crossing of the English Channel in 1909. We had seen an original of one of Louis Bleriot’s planes in the ferry terminal in Calais last night.
By the time we rejoined the route along the sea shore, the rain was pelting down. The dilapidated German WWII embattlements along the way were reminders of the brutal past of this region of France. Leaving the beach, we followed a long sandy trail behind the sand dunes, the wind driving the cold rain into our faces. As Lois’ hiking pants became increasingly soaked, she regretted not having put on her rain pants! By the time we approached Sangatte, we were in need of warmth, despite the now clearing skies. We walked almost the entire length of the town (a war memorial included a Canadian flag), before finding a restaurant, Le Blanc Nez, with an impressive menu of local seafood. We enjoyed delicious soupe de poisson, salade de chèvre chaud and coffees, while our gloves and tube scarves dried on a nearby radiator.
Feeling well refreshed, we started the climb towards Le Cap Blanc Nez. It became stormier, now with a headwind of over 60km/h, which continued to batter us all the way to Wissant. At one point, Paul had to chase his hat over a fence and across a field. Just as he climbed back over the fence, Lois’ backpack rain-cover went flying. Luckily, it was quickly retrieved by a passerby, who Paul then helped back over the fence. Near the Dover Patrol Monument we were very nearly blown over! Stopping for a quick look at the Lindemann Batterie Lourde, a German gun battery which could fire across the Channel, we quickly made our way back down the hill, hoping in vain for some respite from the headwind. By the time we were trudging along the final stretch of beach, heads bent against the wind and blowing sand, we were exhausted and sadly not able to fully appreciate the stunning vistas for which this area is known. We finally stumbled into our hotel around 6 pm. As our room was up 3 flights of stairs, which Lois was reluctant to descend in order to find a meal, Paul gallantly went off in search of pizza pour emporter and a glass of wine for Lois.
Fauna notes: numerous Cuttlefish on the beach