France, Housesitting in France, Travel

Montreuil-sur-Mer – Pas de Calais

UPDATED

White and black houses_edited

Our visit to this fortress village occurred during the winter of 2015/2016 when we had a three month housesit in Fruges, Northern France. For most people who nip across the English Channel, the northern French department of Pas de Calais is little more than a sprawling ugly port, a motorway and collection of hypermarkets.

There is so much more to this region than you may think.

Just 45 minutes’ drive south of Calais is the stunning medieval town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, the setting for part of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. Hugo himself spent many holidays in the village and fell in love with its charming character which dates back to the 9th century.

Les and I 2_edited those glasses and stylish beanies!
Us with our stylish beanies that were well used during our first winter in France

Much of this fortified town remains unchanged from the time of Hugo’s Jean Valjean. Montreuil-sur-Mer is built mostly inside grand ramparts which have for centuries been the scene of many wars and tragedies. Every year at the end of July, and the beginning of August, visitors get the unique opportunity to watch Les Misérables performed in an outdoor sound and light show.

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Colourful houses Montreuil-sur-Mer (2)_edited

The picture-perfect cobbled streets, lined by 17th century buildings make this town one of the most beautiful in Northern France. Though we explored in winter when patrons weren’t spilling out onto the cobblestones from fine restaurants and cafes, we could imagine it’s popularity during the warmer months.

To walk off those long lunches, there are grand churches, a 13th-century castle, views from the ramparts, two museums and interesting shops to explore. Another energy boost can be achieved by choosing some scrumptious and mouth-watering treats from the patisseries and chocolatier for your “le thé de l’après-midi”. We can recommend it, as we indulged in more than one or two chocolates. It would have been rude not too.

Chocolate Shop

How could you not love a village that has a chocolatier on a prominent corner for all to see.

To stay longer than we did the village has a good range of hotels and even 300-year-old townhouses to rent.

Inside the walls are two pretty squares, one of which hosts a market on Saturday mornings with produce from the rural area. The market alone is well worth a trip over the ditch.

Despite the name, Montreuil-sur-Mer is no longer by the sea. It’s built on an estuary which has long since silted up. It is, however, only 20 minutes drive from the elegant seaside resort town of Le Touquet, which we visited on a few occasions. Which means both are doable for a day trip for an overdue potpourri of culture, intriguing history and finishing with a relaxing beach walk.

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage4_edited
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage – Northern France

41 thoughts on “Montreuil-sur-Mer – Pas de Calais”

  1. Any chocolate shop on any corner in any village, would make me a happy little Vegemite Suz! Such a gorgeous looking place and lots of history to explore by the looks of things. Thanks for the tour 🙂

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  2. What a fascinating place – thanks for the tour! One of the pictures (the one between the church and the chocolatier) reminds me of Haworth, where the Brontes lived. It strikes me as a visual translation, if such a concept existed, of a place.

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    1. Thanks and apologies I thought I had replied. Always good to dream I think that’s what keeps us all going. Whether it be for travel or whatever tickles your fancy.

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  3. Earlier in the week I was reading about Geoffrey Chaucer negotiating a marriage for Richard II in Montreuil. Thank you for providing some images to go with the story, although the village would not have looked like that when he was there.

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    1. It is a lovely village and I can still remember our time there quite vividly. Good idea Janis. regarding the cars, wouldn’t be grand to walk around most European villages without them. My usual annoyance was white vans that parked in my line of sight when trying to take photos!

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    1. There are so many French villages and towns that are worth visiting and that aren’t on the usual tourist trail. Thankfully I have new prescription glasses and no need for the beanie at the moment.

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  4. That’s interesting that it used to be seaside and now it’s 10 miles inland. Usually, you find the sea encroaching and making a village closer to the water. Loved all the pictures. That village is so cute I may have to add it to my bucket list.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. Many years ago it was. Montreuil-sur-Mer is a hidden gem in Northern France. Actually there is many spots in Northern France that are worth exploring. Not as glamorous in parts or as much as the south, still worth a visit!

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    1. Aren’t they lovely. Yes, we could do with a few days of blue skies. At least I am catching up on computer work! Have a good day Emma, and thanks for commenting 🙂

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