We were pretty shattered after ANZAC day and none of us were at our best (ie. bit grumpy) but the remainder of our holiday was very much make-it-up-as-you-go. We had booked a hotel for Friday and Saturday night out on the coast so on Friday we meandered our way there, seeing a few sights in Saint Quentin (though not the butterfly house as it wouldn’t open till 2pm) and visiting Arras on our way through.

Mairie facing the square in Saint Quentin

Louis didn’t particularly feel like walking through Saint Quentin, perhaps because he hadn’t slept in the car like his sister… wise girl. Behind me is the Mairie (town hall).

Basilica at Saint Quentin, France

The Basilica at Saint Quentin was open to the public, despite major (and ongoing for quite some time I imagine) renovations – touching up all the stonework. Still, it’s suffered a lot worse. This is how it looked at the end of World War One:

St Quentin Cathedral in Ruins

The picture’s not mine – click on it to go to the wikipedia article about St Quentin.

Louis leaping, in Saint Quentin Basilica

We walked through quite a number of churches on this long weekend. This one was probably the highlight because not only could we see the stone-refurbishment in process, but the pipe-organist was having a little practise session!

Louis responded appropriately, I think.

We grabbed a coffee and Louis went for a ride on this very cool Jules Verne (who spent much of his life in Amiens, nearby) carousel. After his usual first choice of a spin in a sports car, he had a turn (or several) around (not quite the world) in the balloon. Good choice, Louis!

Jules Verne Carousel, Saint Quentin

Next stop, Arras. The temperature had dropped and Louis too (off to sleep, at last) so we did a quick march around the city. It has a couple of world heritage sights, the golden lion on top of the Mairie and this Cathedral…

Cathedral at Arras

It was under construction, but we could have gone in. We were all a bit wiped-out though, and freezing cold. We went inside a smaller church (magnificent by normal standards but ours are getting to be a bit warped with all these cathedrals and basilicas) and then made our way.

NZ memorial at ArrasEn route out of town we stopped by another NZ memorial, a strange patch of land on the corner of a busy intersection, sporting not only a NZ flag, but also Canadian, French and British flags. Only NZ got a map though. The town of Arras was unfortunate enough to lie on the front line during the first world war. It is built on chalk and underground caverns were a major part of its defence. The NZ tunnelling division were a big help here, hence the special memorial.

We drove on to the coast, with sleeping kids, and arrived too early. Restaurants here rarely serve an evening meal before 7pm so we had to find something to do with the kids, to keep them going till dinner time. We didn’t want to feed them, to placate them, because they’d soon need to sit in a restaurant for an hour (at least). It’s really best if they eat when we do, even more so when travelling.

playing in the sand at Le Touquet

Louis played in the sand with Luuk while Elena and I went for a walk, just to check the temperature of the channel

dipped my feet in the channelSurprise surprise, it’s cold. But a nice walk on the beach. It’s been too long.

hotels on the beach at Le Touquet

Our hotel was right on the beach, a gorgeous spot. Our room was facing the other way, but the view from the restaurant was fantastic. They were offering a seafood buffet for dinner, but the rate was a little steep so we went for one of the many local ‘friteries’ (fry-shops) serving up mussels and chips. And other things too, though it’s hard to tell from the marketing. I had king prawns to kick off a weekend of fabulous seafood.

On the boardwalk at Le Touquet

The next morning we walked down to the town and happily discovered a market, and eventually found a shop selling the required ‘bonnets’ (swimming caps) compulsory in the hotel pool. I also got a new bikini – hurrah! Summer’s coming. The bikini-body too, or that’s the plan. My legs are looking a little blindingly-white though.

walking back from the market at Le Touquet

Louis slept on the walk back, but Elena wanted to walk. It was gorgeous but the wind was cold, and we had bought a hot roast chicken and some fresh bread, with the intent of making lunch in our hotel room… so we were a bit eager to get back.

Elena turns on the classElena was happy to have lunch, and feet, as it happens. Really classy sitting position, possibly not an ad for the sit’n’sling, this one…

The hotel is attached to a health spa so I took advantage, booked myself a massage, and afterward we all had a swim, be-capped, in the hotel pool. Louis wasn’t keen but Elena loved it. Despite her birthplace and passport, I’m thinking she’s a kiwi kid at heart.

sun, sand and spaThe next day was our last and we took turns resting in the room and wandering on the beach while Elena had her morning nap. Then we hit the road (leaving behind our chiller bag, which will be a nasty surprise months from now when someone clears out the lost property at Novotel Le Touquet – oops!)

Next stop Le Crotoy, a little town at the mouth of the Somme river, hosting it’s annual festival of steam. First things first, however: lunc

Now that's an entree.Luuk ordered this marvel of a starter. Yep, that’s just the entrée!

Where's mine?

Elena looked keen, but still lacks teeth and had to satisfy herself on some bread and tomato segments.

Parents behaving badly...Louis was fast asleep and wouldn’t wake up, even for a lunch of chips and sausages. Not even for a crab pincer to the nose… ahem, parents behaving badly.

Moules au Roquefort

For mains Luuk and I both ordered Moules au Roquefort: mussels cooked in cream and blue cheese. Fantastic.

Louis did wake up, and pretty shortly spotted the carousel on the corner. He and I went for a walk. He took a spin in a shiny low-slung convertible and then, inevitably, drove the bus.

Louis driving (another) busNext stop was the steam festival. There were a few market stalls offering tastes of wine and cheese, as well as selling the same. I wandered with a sleep-ready Elena in the buggy while Luuk and Louis inspected a raft of steam powered machinery.

Steam powered tractor

Including a tractor, which occasionally got driven around the place, as well as farm machinery (for cutting wood, etc.) and trains…

Festival of Steam, Le Crotoy, 2013We didn’t go on a ride (perhaps we are just spoilt for train rides) but enjoyed the spectacle and the clouds of steam billowing into the air as it puffed off into the countryside.

We grabbed ice cream cones rather than coffee, it was just that kind of day, and enjoyed a few more sights of this gorgeous fishing town.

fishing boat at Le Crotoy

This boat came in while Louis was driving the convertible and was selling oysters, among other things, on the wharf until just before we left. Doesn’t get much more fishing-village than that.

strawberry vanilla soft serveStrawberry vanilla soft-serve: yeah, that’s childhood in a cone.

And that was our last stop before heading back to Paris. The kiddies both slept most of the way home and I had a kip too. Luuk managed to keep awake, with a little help from the peanut MnMs, and we got back in time for dinner – and to appreciate the lengthening days: it was worth opening the shutters even at half past seven. Hurrah! Summer’s coming.