A day or overnight trip to Calais is a real treat at Christmas time and it’s the perfect place to do a spot of festive shopping and take home some goodies with a touch of French flavour and flair…
I’ve been doing my Christmas shopping here for many years and love the warm welcome from the local people. When you read the British newspapers you might get the impression that the town is suffering but it’s simply not true. The sparkling lights are on, the shops are decorated for Christmas and there’s a festive family atmosphere.
Take a Break
Relax in one of the many delicious restaurants. Traditional Brasserie style, bistrot, gastronimique or café – there’s plenty of choice. In this area mussels and chips are a firm favourite and so are all the great classics from cassoulet to coq au vin.
Fun for the Family
Treat the kids to a turn on the ice rink (E1.50 at the renovated Place d’Armes) or a free session at Meccano Lab (52 Boulevard Jacquard). Meccano is made in Calais and the company funds the free lab for kids of all ages in a historic building that was once a bank. It’s a chance to try out the Meccano toys of the past, the present and the future (open weekends and school holidays). During the festive season there will be free workshops for kids to make Christmas decorations.
The Calais Lace Museum is a short walk from the centre of town and it well worth a visit with something to appeal to everyone. You’ll discover haut couture, demonstrations on antique looms, lingerie through the ages, lace samples and a whole lot more. The innovative displays are über cool and reveal a fascinating history of the area and the ties with the lace industry in the UK. There’s also a lovely shop, perfect for gifts that are just a little bit different.
Festive Fair and Flair
The Calaisians love Christmas and the town is lit up throughout December. There are Christmas markets, ice carving, fireworks, concerts, a Disney character parade, twinkling lights and seasonal goods stalls which create a cheerful and jolly atmosphere.
Take a Selfie
Take a selfie in front of the Rodin statue, right behind you’ll find an “enchanted garden” that’s free for all to enjoy, lights, trees, decorations and – some friendly sheep! While you’re there nip into the Belfry and climb to the top for a view over the town and the English Channel. There are some beautiful gold statues at the top, very Game of Thrones looking and you can’t help thinking what a fun job that must have been to lug them up to the top!
Shop until you drop
Treat yourself to some good wine, Champagne or a French liqueur like Calvados, pastis or crème de cassis – and don’t forget to pick up some bière de Noel. Specially brewed for Christmas this dark beer has a hint of Christmas pudding to it.
Foodies will love the chance to try and buy delicious French cheese – local, regional and from further afield – try Maison des Fromages (1 Rue André Gerschell) – they have the most mouth-watering cheeses going. There’s chocolate, cassoulet, delicious patés and rillettes, sweets, biscuits and cakes, or even some fresh fish sold on the quayside (take a cool box to carry it home in).
You’ll also find some great little boutiques where you may find that little black dress and shoes that are just perfect for a Christmas party and no one else will have them! Rue Royale is my favourite street for shopping in Calais with trendy shops and great restaurants; Boulevard Lafayette is also good.
Website: www.calais-cotedopale.com; Tourist Office: 12 Boulevard Georges Clemenceau – and you can enjoy free Wifi while you’re there!