The region Hauts-de-France, which includes the former Nord-Pas de Calais and Picardy, we learned on our two visits as a hospitable and brittle region with a population whose brittle charm at the beginning hides the cordiality. We have found a mixture of nature, culture and traditions that offers a wide choice of how to spend a holiday, long or short.
Story, Camera, Edit : Bert Schwarz
© travel-magazine TV 2016
France's refreshing Nord-Pas-de-Calais was, we find, overlooked by travellers for too long. The region has become the jokes about cold weather and yokel natives to their own. And then it secretly turned into a world-class destination with a bold art scene, a lot of historical places and irresistible, rough charm.
The new Louvre in Lens had an exciting start. First, there were a lot of skeptics among art lovers discussing whether it makes sense for France's most famous gallery to open an outpost in Lens, a then run-down former miner's town. Then there were controversies after damage by vandals and then there were fears that Lens would never prevail against the other top-class European museums.
This is the central location, which is exactly the right choice if you want to get to the sea quickly - or if you want to see the art treasures, e.g. in Roubaix. And even if you don't feel like day trips, there are many possibilities to explore interesting things on foot or by bike.
France is not only a land of wine and champagne, but also of beer. Saint-Omer is home to one of the largest breweries in northern France, the Brasserie Saint-Omer, which we visited on the occasion of the Fête de la bière and where we got an interesting guided tour, as from the solid ingredients at the end of the tour. liquid and really good tasting beer comes.
Then there's Boulogne, the most interesting of the French canal ports and a good reason to take a break here, especially if you want to make a side trip to the north Opal Coast. The biggest attraction is Nausicaá, one of the leading aquariums in Europe.
Just less thab an hour from Calais is Béthune, an attractive, lively little town between Arras and Saint-Omer.
Bergues is the epicentre of the region, at the latest after 2008 when the film "Bienvenue chez les ch'tis" ("Welcome to the Sch'tis") was hype about this region in northern France. "Sch'ti" or in the original "Ch'ti" is the name for someone from northern France and the dialect spoken there, which comes from Picardy, a little more to the south.
How You travel is a matter of taste. Very individual. Not really negotiable. And then it's the same every year: «Where we go?»
I won't go into the infinite possibilities here, you know them well enough yourself - at the latest when the offspring screams from behind from the corner (following an old commercial): «I want cows! »
To make a long story short: culture, movement, nature, ... Not to forget culinary delights become - already important, but nevertheless - accessories. The essential aspect is to get to know the country and its people. The easiest way to do this is with a caravan, because here I take care of myself, experience my own adventure unfiltered, directly and self-experienced.
At the end of a journey I can rightly say: «I know this area.» , and the people there.
I have also found in this region that which cannot be captured and framed either on screen or in photo and film files and can say: this part of France and its people I know.