When it comes to a day trip to France, wine isn’t the only thing that should be on your shopping list…
When you take a day trip to Calais, build in time to shop for great French produce. Right next door to the Eurotunnel station is Cité Europe. A huge shopping mall stuffed full of shops selling everything from the latest fashions, wines, beers, household goods and gifts, a huge hypermarket and lots more. Two minutes away is the Channel Outlet Store. It’s a great place to go for top quality French and International goods at discount prices.
However if something a bit different and unique is your bag, then try some of the independent and smaller outlets that you’ll find in towns throughout Pas de Calais.
Cheeses of northern France
There are cheese shops galore selling a vast range of fromages. If you’re not sure you’ll like something, ask for a taste, a degustation. For a local cheese, try Cremét du Cap Blanc-Nez. Created from cows that graze on the cliff tops of the Opal coast, bang smack opposite the White Cliffs of Dover, it’s a classic. One of the best cheese shops I know is Caseus, in Montreuil-sur-Mer, about an hour from Calais. Loved by locals, it’s a magnet for cheese lovers and offers a plethora of fabulous fromages.
Or buy direct from artisan cheese producers like Valerie Magniez whose secret ingredient is passion when she makes her delicious goats cheese in Hesmond in the Seven Valleys, again about an hour from Calais. Details: www.halte-autrefois.com/
Every town has a chocolate shop, often hand made by local artisans. One of the best known chocolate makers in the north is Beussent who have branches in several towns. They also have a chocolaterie that you can visit and watch the goods being made and even join in with a workshop! Details: https://www.choco-france.com
The Hauts de France may not be a major wine making area but you might be surprised to know that some wine is in fact produced in the far north. Of course you can buy it in supermarkets and also in caves where specialists are happy to advise you about what wine to buy. You can even buy direct from the producer at Offin, in the Seven Valleys area, about an hour from Calais. Here Hubert Delobel makes sparkling wine from raspberries, strawberries and red currants. It makes for a fabulous aperitif and is a firm favourite in this region (and his wife makes lovely pancakes you can enjoy in the garden at their shop). http://www.perledegroseille.com/
Not far from here in the town of Fressin you’ll find les Caves de Fressin (you can’t miss it, it’s a tiny town). They sell a wide selection of wines which range from ridiculously cheap (and really drinkable) to very fine including Ruinart Champagne, one of the favourite fizzes of the French.
Beer of northern France
This part of France is famous for its bière. St Omer is home to one of the largest producers in France, Brasserie de Saint Omer, they make more than thirty different types of beer and it’s served in restaurants everywhere. There are dozens of artisan and family–run beer makers you can visit, taste and buy from. The Brasserie Saint Germain in Aix-Noulette near Bethune is particularly good. They have a terrific tasting bar with a vintage van and hops hanging from the ceiling (the bar is only open at certain times, check the website for details). They offer a tour of their onsite brewery, and have a great shop where you can buy their artisan beers as well as local products. If you’re a beer fan, you’re in for a treat here so make room to stock up! www.page24.fr
Very French foods to buy at the supermarket
If you’re looking for goods you can’t easily get back at home, check out the deliciously creamy butter with salt crystals – perfect on your baguette. Or how about some fleur de sel, Belin crackers, Monin Sirop (there are hundreds to choose from), organic honey, charcuterie, jams and biscuits to take home.
Bread, croissants, cakes…
Every town has a boulangerie and nowhere does bread taste as good as it does when made by master artisans in France. One of the officially best bread makers in the whole of France is in the north of France, in Renty, around an hour from Calais. You’ll also find brilliant bread makers in Montreuil-sur-Mer at the boulangerie Gremont. They make a special country loaf called a Valjean, named after a character in Les Miserables. The town inspired Victor Hugo’s famous book so you’ll find quite a few references to Les Mis here!
Croissants and cakes of France are legendary and there are hundreds of amazing patisseries in the north. For a really great choice, Le Touquet Paris-Plage on the Opal Coast has several brilliant cake shops. Rue de Metz is teeming with them – and yes, that cake photo at the top comes from Le Touquet! And Saint Omer, around 30 minutes from Calais has three excellent cake shops in the town square alone.
French beauty products, fashion and more
There are loads of boutiques where you can find unique clothes and accessories, jewellery, hats and handbags. Wedding dresses tend to be far less costly in France than in the UK. Wearing a French creation will really add some zing to your special day.
Lingerie shops are located in most towns. You’ll find that designer and quality lingerie costs less in France – and there’s a huge choice.
Beauty products too are something to stock up on when you’re in France. With a great choice from beauty stores, pharmacies, herbal stores. Plus there are specialist shops staffed with experts who can give you advice. Look out for Nuxe oil, the No. 1 secret of French women.
Check out the art and book shops which have some wonderful things to buy. Or how about colouring in books for adults? The French love them and they’re becoming a huge trend elsewhere. It’s claimed they are great for calming you down, stress-busting and all round enjoyment. Try the fantastic Librarie bookstore at 21 rue Gambetta, Arras. Don’t miss the giant sleeping beauty statue (she read until late into the night and fell asleep at the book shelves).
What if you’d like something old to take home, a piece of unique vintage or pre-loved fabulous French bric-a-brac? Well this is a great place to rummage for a bargain. There are second hand shops, auction houses and antique shops. Top tip: Emmaus charity shops, they always have an amazing range of traditional French furniture in store. Of course there are also the famous brocantes, the flea markets. You’re bound to find something to re-love and treasure and enjoy a fun day out. How to find out what flea markets are taking place all over France.
One of the great things about shopping in and around Calais is the fact that you can combine a trip to the shops with a visit to a street market – every day of the week! Traditional, colourful, authentic and lively markets are held throughout the region, they are a daily way of life here. Buy some artisan cheese, dairy products, wonderful organic ham, honey, jams, sweets, cakes, biscuits and seasonal and locally grown vegetables. If the weather is nice pick up a spit roasted chicken and a baguette and enjoy an impromptu picnic in the country, in a park or on the coast.
Top towns to visit in the north of France, just across the English Channel
Montreuil-sur-Mer – ideal for a weekend break in France
Le Touquet – the Monaco of the north
Saint Omer – quintessential French market town
Hardelot and more lovely seaside towns on the Opal Coast
Boulogne-sur-Mer – historic and delicious
Arras – Great for shopping and much more