During the night I was aware of the distinctive buzz of a mosquito so I pulled the sheets over my head and tried to ignore it. I was too late of course and having forgotten to apply insect repellent I woke in the morning with two huge bites on my forehead and an irritating itchy one right on my eyelid. And there was more bad news because overnight bad weather had moved in from the west and there was grey cloud and a fine drizzle in the air. I was the first up but eventually Richard joined me and while we sat and had a cup of tea I thought how good it was to be on holiday again with the world early morning farting champion.
Before the girls woke up we took an early morning walk around the small village of Maninghen-Henne which was just stirring into life. Not a lot of life it has to be said because there was no shop or cafés and just a few local people carrying out early morning rural chores. When we returned the girls were up and preparing breakfast of French bread, cheese and ham, fruit and croissants and we took our time over this because there was no need to rush on account of the disappointing weather. About mid morning Richard hit his boredom threshold so we loaded Molly into the pushchair and went for another walk around the village in case we had missed anything the first time.
It was a pretty place with nice spacious houses, smallholdings and a couple of old farms with picture book farmyards full of livestock and birds. We walked into the countryside through green fields and freshly mown hay, grazing jersey cattle and long raking view towards the coast at Wimereux. It was warm but remained stubbornly overcast and prospects for visiting the beach as planned didn’t look great. As we walked Molly fell into her mid morning sleep but was rudely woken again by a rather large dog that seemed to object to us walking past its front gate but she quickly dropped off again and was well away again by the time we returned to the gîte.
While she slept the sky began to change and the clouds began to slip away and let the sun through and suddenly it was warm enough to sit in the garden and enjoy a lunchtime beer and after Molly rejoined us we packed the car and taking advantage of the better weather set off for the seaside.
It was only a short distance away and we were soon at our destination and added the car to a ribbon of vehicles parked along the side of the road and next to the sand dunes that neatly separated the beach from the road. It was a short walk along a rough path to the sand and when we reached the beach the tide was fully out and there was a wide expanse of sand that stretched for two kilometres all the way to the little town of Ambleteuse to the north.
This was Molly’s first visit to a beach like this and she seemed to take to it straight away. She liked the hard wet sand so we put her in her baby swimming costume and found a shallow pool of sea water for her to play in. The weather was perfect now with a blue sky and big white clouds floating overhead like proud sailing ships being driven onto shore by a brisk wind. After Molly had dried off we set off on a walk to Ambleteuse and wished we hadn’t brought the pushchair which became a chore to push over the clogging sand that was now drying out quickly.
Ambleteuse is a picturesque village that used to be a harbour and has a lot of association with England just across the Channel. The reason it is here relates to the temporary needs of various invaders for conquering people from either side of the English Channel. It is said that Julius Caesar used this convenient place to set out from for his invasion of Britain in 54 BC. Henry VIII of England had two forts built here to maintain a show of power towards the French kings. James II fleeing England after his abdication arrived here in 1689 and Fort Mahon, built to protect the harbour in the seventeenth century, was used by Napoleon to moor part of his England invasion fleet in 1805.
Nowadays Ambleteuse is a very quiet sophisticated seaside resort where fishermen’s houses line the seafront next to once grand nineteenth century villas which go back to a time when this was a popular place for holidays for people from Lille and Paris and it became a middle class holiday resort for those who enjoyed sea-bathing and hunting, shooting and fishing, playing golf, good living and fine dining.
This was a charming place full of families on the beach and I was struck by the fact that if the French continue to take their children to cultured and sophisticated places to enjoy simple natural pleasures such as this lovely unspoilt place this tradition is passed on down through families and will forever be this way, passed down through the generations. Contrast this with an English family that take their children to Skegness for ‘Games Zone’, fish and chips, candyfloss and football shirts, which simply perpetuate all the disagreeable things about the English seaside. We stopped for an ice cream and when we had finished them we walked all the way back along the excellent (but not a blue-flag) beach and back to the car.
We planned to buy some food but had quite forgotten that it was Sunday so the supermarkets and the shops in Wimereux and Boulogne were now well past closing time so after we had driven through them both in a hopeless search we set off back to the gîte. Sally was determined not to give up however and insisted on a short detour where she sensed a shop. We were not convinced but she was so sure she offered €50 forfeit if she was wrong. Richard and I were planning how to spend the money when suddenly she was proved right and we spotted a bakery that was doing last minute business where we stopped and purchased bread and tempting pastries for evening meal.
It was windy in the garden but the sun was out and we sat and socialised, drank good cheap wine, shared the garden with two cats and took it in turns to keep Molly amused. We didn’t have all the food we needed to prepare a banquet so we had to improvise a little and Rachel did a good job of stretching it out and making it all go round and later we enjoyed an evening meal that was strangely reminiscent of the breakfast that we had had eight hours earlier.