The above region consisting of only two departments is often referred to as the gateway to France. The region was once part of the Southern Netherlands, and did not became a part of France until 1713. The historical provinces now included in Nord-Pas de Calais are Artois and Flanders terms which are still frequently used by many of the local inhabitants.
Being located just over the border from Belgium and a short trip across the Channel from England,this densely populated region of the country has been a gateway for invaders both welcome and not so welcome. Historically, because of it’s strategic position next to the Belgium border, it’s has seen armies travelling to battles given rise to the nickname,’The fatal avenue”. Nowadays the only invaders tend to be brits who, arrive in their thousands from the ferries in search of a quick slice of French culture and a visit to the hypermarkets. Nord /Pas de Caliais is usually the first stop for the majority of them and this region has somewhat unfairly gained a reputation for somewhere just to visit for a shopping trip. True there is a massive hypermarket to greet you when leaving the ferry but this area has so much more to offer than just shopping,.
As much as 7 % of the total French population live in this area and there are also a large number of holiday homes. Surprisingly despite the easy of which you can arrive in this area, property prices have not escalated that much. It is thought that holiday home purchasers have become a little more adventurous and with the advent of budget flights, many prefer to look for property further south. Prices are below the French national average and you can still pick up many bargains. This is a superb location particularly if you like getting away for a week end and there is so much to do and see. There are many similarities between here and England, for one thing the locals prefer beer to wine, there are many local breweries producing quality and well known brews and you will have many tasting opportunities, also, the climate is very much like our own, you could describe it as bracing or fresh, the winters can be cold and the summers are fairly typical of those experienced in southern England. You can expect a lot of rain so all in all,. this is an ideal part of France in which to buy your holiday home if you want to feel ( climatically at least) that you are still in England.
The opal coast offers the visitor and holiday home owner a wonderful unspoilt coastline including dramatic cliffs, long, seemingly endless sandy beaches with sand dunes and a sprinkling of seaside resorts. The air is clear and many famous artists have been attracted by this area because of the clarity of the light. If you buy a holiday home or simply visit this area you will notice the contrasting landscape, the forests & woods and the peaceful rolling countryside dotted with windmills and some picturesque waterways perfect for river cruising These traditional resorts are very family orientated and us Brits have been visiting this area for over a hundred years, it’s seen as a little more upmarket that the Spanish costas, out door activities include, tennis, golf, horse riding, sailing&, yachting.The French and Belgium’s also favour this area and many own property by the coast used as weekend or holiday homes.
No trip to this part of France is complete without a visit to the Flanders region, immortalised by the brutality of two world wars, this area was heavily occupied and suffered catastrophic damage. Most towns bear the scars to this this day and everywhere you travel you will see monuments to the fallen men and women. The beaches at Dunkirk as especially popular with visitors wishing to see the scene of perhaps history greatest evacuation operation. It can be a bit sombre at times as many quite rightly see a trip to this area as a pilgrimage to visit sites where so much human life was lost .
This part of France is very proud of it’s heritage, there are many traditional fetes and fairs and festivals are so numerous, they are almost part of everyday life. Lille is the capital of the region and is easily the largest population centre with now over a million people. There is a strong student population and five universities. Lille is known as well to be the industrialised centre of the region and since the 19th century it has rivalled Alsace Lorriaine for it’s out put. Although certain of the heavier industries have been in decline in recent years, it still remains an important industrial area and now older style employment is being replaced by newer high tech industries such as computers and communications and many large companies have relocated or are considering relocating to this area. Other major towns in this area include s include Douai, Lens, Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne, Arres & Cambrai.
Travelling to this area is fairly easy although air transport is restricted to a small airport at le touquet. You can reach this airport from Lydd airport in Kent but no charter flights operate at the present moment. Travel by Ferry or Channel tunnel is quick and very cheap and this has recently been supplemented by a catamaran services as well.
Guide to Nord – Pas De Calais, France- Departments
Nord- Pas De Calais
62 Pas de Calais
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