Northern France region

Until recently Pas de Calais was regarded as that part of France holidaymakers sped through on their way further south. Not surprisingly, this is no longer the case and in recent years more and more English visitors have come to appreciate the wonderful taste of French lifestyle and cuisine available on their doorstep.

The Pas de Calais area is one of rolling hills, woods and rivers, perfect for walking, fishing, cycling and picnicing. The spring and summer months tend to be slightly warmer than in the UK. Much of the food is produced locally and you can sample seafood landed that very morning or local specialities such as carbonade flamande (beef in beer) often washed down with more beer brewed on the premises.

The area offers an enormous number of attractions for a range of diverse interests and ages. Some examples are:

La Baie de La Somme - bordered on each side by the contrasting resorts of St . Valery and (our own favourite) Le Crotoy. The former has sheep that graze the salt marshes resulting in the famous 'salt' lamb, a mediaeval citadel with Jeanne d'Arc connections, expensive yachts and upmarket shops; and the latter, the only south facing beach in northern France, seafood stalls, boat rides to see the seals and glorious views across the bay, much loved by painters because of the clarity of the light. The steam train ride round the bay with the ritual greeting of passing trains at Noyelles is a 'must' for all ages. The three hour guided walk across the bay is for the more adventurous, involving a good deal of mud and requring a good sense of balance and an even better sense of humour.

Parc du Marquenterre (near Le Crotoy) - 200 acre bird sanctuary with over 200 species. You can walk the six kilometres of trails or enjoy a leisurely ride on a horse drawn carriage.

Agincourt and Crecy - The former has a fascinating museum (with commentary by the actor Robert Hardy, a longbow expert) and a coffee shop nearby. You can walk round the field of the famous battle in about 45 minutes. Crecy has less to commemorate it other than a tower with descriptive diagrams overlooking the site of the battle but is still worth a visit.

Arras - birthplace of Robespierre and renowned for its beautiful Flemish architecture. The town hall with its underground tunnels used most recently in the First World War as a hospital and resting places for injured allied soldiers makes for an interesting visit.

Amiens - Famous for its Gothic cathedral, claimed to be the biggest in Europe. There is Son et Lumiere here in the summer months. You can also visit les hortillages (floating gardens) by boat with a guide, on foot or by canoe/kayak. Here, a large festival in June includes a floating market. The waterfront area is particularly attractive with its large selection of bars and restaurants alongside the Somme.

Montreuil - A picturesque town where Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables, which is celebrated every July with a Son et Lumiere production.

War cemeteries at: Arras, Vimy Ridge, Thiepval, Albert etc etc . Also battlefields at Arras, in the Somme and Ypres.

Near Amiens also are Naours, a subterranean city dating from the Third century, and Samara, a pre-historic exhibition centre.

There are several botanical gardens in the area.

For children - seaside towns including Berck, Merlimont, and Le Touquet. The Sealife Centre at Boulogne, water park at Le Touquet and the maze at Buire-le-Sec.

Paris and Lille are both easily accessible by train from St Pol via Arras. There is free long term parking at St Pol station.

La Coupole - the German V2 rocket launch site.