Hauts de France

Nord-Pas de Calais: Bergues & Béthune.

by Bert Schwarz

Less than an hour away from Calais, Béthune is an attractive, lively small town between Arras and Saint-Omer.

Bergues and Béthune

Story, Camera, Editor : Bert Schwarz

© travel-magazine TV 2016

The Market Square

Béthune © Bert Schwarz

With Celtic origins, Béthune is thought to owe its name to “Bé” meaning “near” and “Thune” meaning hedge or bush. The Year One Thousand marked the beginning of the lineage of the Lords of Béthune. The existence of a castel, place Foch, was recorded in 970. At the same time, Saint Barthélémy church was built on the current site of the square called “place du 73ème”. With a church and a castle the conditions were favourable to attract people to come to Béthune looking for safety and a home, in particular merchants. The town went onto flourish thanks to the development of the clothing industry and trading.

The Belfry

Béthune © Bert Schwarz

Among the sights of Béthune, the most striking is the belfry, one of the most beautiful in northern France with its square ground plan. Originally a gift from the Crown for the loyalty of the population, the tower burnt down twice. Once in 1346 and then again in 1664 - and it has been rebuilt over and over again. And then the tower was literally decapitated during a bombing raid in 1918. Only the basic structure from the 16th century was still intact. Today it is the landmark of the city and its chimes can be heard on the hour.

Ch'ti Beer

Ch'ti-Bier © Bert Schwarz

This region is also known for the regional beer that is brewed here. The best known product beyond France's borders is the brewery in Bénifontaine. It is the Ch'ti beer developed in the late 20th century. By pure coincidence "Ch'ti" is the nickname of the inhabitants of northern France...

Bergues

When the 2008 movie "Bienvenue chez les ch'tis" ("Welcome to the Sticks") created a hype about this region in northern France. "Sticks" or in the original "Ch'ti" is the name for someone from northern France and the dialect spoken there, which comes from Picardy, which is a little more to the south.

In Bergues, where a great part of the film story takes place, there are guided tours to the places of the film action and the visitor is and remains amazed at the beauty of this small place and the peaceful plain of Flanders. "A stranger who comes to Nord pas de Calais howls twice," the film says. "The first time he arrives and again when he leaves." We think that when the time comes to leave these lovely little towns, with their long and great history, their hearty cuisine and their hospitable people, you will agree.