French Connections

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  • A 'Lille' Christmas Poem

    A nice christmas poem to get you in the festive spirit.....

  • Can you resist a Christmas market?

    It’s the magical Christmas market season! All over France cities stage these fabulous mixtures of shopping, community and carnival to capture the traditional magic of Christmas as a season of light, good food and family feeling.  The markets are really worth a visit for both their atmosphere and the great shopping  - no wonder so many Francophiles and lovers of traditional Christmas spirit go every year for a market mini-break.  So where are this year’s Christmas market hotspots?

    Strasbourg market is really the daddy of them all. Dating back to 1570, it’s the oldest Christmas market in France and one of the largest. As if that weren’t enough, the setting in front of Strasbourg Cathedral is quite breathtaking. A must-see on a visit to Strasbourg market is La Petite France, a cosy neighborhood of timbered fairy-tale buildings with Christmas shops and a gingerbread bakery.

  • Christmas shopping breaks in Nord Pas de Calais

    Just a hop across the Channel from south east England lies the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. When visiting France, we often get on the autoroute and drive quickly through, but this is an area that deserves exploration – and it’s our region of the month for November.

    Christmas shopping is a great excuse for a long weekend or midweek short break before the flurry of the festive season sets in and in Nord-Pas-de-Calais you’ll find everything from speciality wine cellars and France’s most famous cheese boutique to big names in European retail at the modern shopping city of Cite Europe near Calais.

    The region is proud of its gastronomy and local beers, along with traditions where fairs, fêtes and festivals are so much a part of daily life – and it’s full of enchanting Christmas markets.

    Big Christmas markets are held at Amiens, Arras, Lille, Bethune,  Calais and Boulogne. Follow the link below to our complete guide with all the details. At Licques the market is accompanied by a famous turkey parade with hundreds of turkeys rampaging through the town’s streets. Spectators are given a glass of the local liqueur, Licquoise, and then have the chance to buy a turkey. Beats the local supermarket!

    The region also offers varied landscapes of forests, meadows and marshlands, an unspoilt coastline that stretches for miles, Regional Natural Parks, a network of waterways and lots of historic sites. For great places to stay and visit in the region, check out our accommodation and guide to the Nord-Pas-de-Calais

  • Discover the Nord-Pas-de-Calais

    There's a tendency to think of the Nord-Pas de Calais as an area of France that we rush through when heading further south - which is a pity. Every time I explore the region, I'm impressed by the clear impression that I have most definitely entered France with all that means in terms of ambience, way of life - and most especially way of eating.

    Particular favourite places? Well, let's start with Ardres, a small town close to a lake with beautifully planted public areas, a delightful square with one of those art-form patisseries and an excellent British-owned wine merchant and enough good restaurants to keep anyone happy from Monday to Friday and the weekend as well.

    If Ardres is a good example of small-town France, then Le Touquet is the epitome of Parisian chic and sophistication transported to the seaside. The Christmas shops and lights are wonderfully tasteful, the cultural events are impressive, the seafood is exceptional, the super-luxury houses set in woodland are well worth a drive-by and the people watching is superb. Oh, and for outdoor lovers there's a huge beach to stroll and some famous golf courses to play.

    Less well known but delightful in a different way is the seaside town of Wimereux, which has quite an Anglo-Norman feel with its beach huts and painted seafront houses. Equally charming is the historic town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, which is actually quite a way inland, but has some lovely medeival architecture and a very French feel.

    If I want to blow away the cobwebs of a good lunch and stretch my legs, then I climb the slopes of Cap Blanc Nez or Cap Gris Nez, take in the fabulous coastal views, reflect on the history and look back at Kent, feeling how cool it is to be so close and yet 'abroad'.

    Browse accommodation in the Nord -Pas-de-Calais region

  • French Christmas Shopping

    French stockings wrapped up.....At last I have finished my Christmas shopping! I started way back in November by compiling a list and making a note of suitable options for various family members and friends. This pre-planning did not stop me however, from frantically searching the High Street over the past couple of weeks along with thousands of others plus ordering stuff on-line (providing it was still in stock) and feeling somewhat frazzled at the end of it. Buying on-line or from the shops is not always the fun, happy, carefree experience the glitzy advertisements at this time of the year would have us believe. It is such a different experience in France. There, the emphasis is on ‘less-is-more’ and quality rather than quantity so not only do the French seem less stressed out by the shopping experience, they do not spend so much per head on gifts at Christmas either - ‘maxing the plastic’ does not seem to feature in their culture. Go down any Boulevard in France at this time of the year and you will see prettily dressed trees standing outside shops adorned with little red ribbons and bows. Their tastefully dressed shop windows, with enough glitz to spell out Christmas is around the corner without being gaudy, entice you in to choose a gift for a loved one with care. Having chosen your selected gift, the shop assistant then proceeds to wrap the gift and tie it up expertly with attractive ribbon and bows. The only concession to marketing can be found by the little sticker on the finished gift, bearing the shop’s name. Et Voilà! Christmas present buying is done.
  • I'd rather be in Paris...

    When a young lady of my acquaintance recently turned 18, her dad asked where she would like to go for a celebratory trip. Her immediate answer was Paris. When friends wanted a romantic weekend for their 30th wedding anniversary, their choice too was – Paris. The city of light is irresistible to all ages and outlooks. Everyone can find beauty, entertainment, adventure, history and unforgettable food to satisfy their longing for the romance and fun of this great city.

    In the run up to Christmas, the city basks in even more light than usual, with street decorations and illuminations, shops stuffed with goodies, an air of anticipation and several enticing Paris Christmas markets. Don't you want to be there right now?

  • P&O Ferries Offer Off Peak Discount Ferry Fares

    P&O are offering a £29 return fare from Dover to Calais for off peak sailings.