Sunday, 30 April 2017

Plage du Cap Blanc Nez

Plage du Cap Blanc Nez - this is the best beach in France according to Paris Match magazine.  I think their reviewer might have wanted to get away from the crowds of Paris that day.

If what you want is beach and lots of it, then it's hard to beat.  The beach here runs from Normandy to Belgium.  Over there is England and the White Cliffs of Dover.   Just behind you is Cap Blanc Nez itself.  Gris Nez is down the coast a little.  The Aire des Deux Caps national park keeps the place rural. 

If your idea of a beach involves palm trees and pieds dans l'eau restaurants then perhaps you need to look further south.  Did I mention  rhat England is about 30 miles away?  Today it's blowing from the north and if you put your pieds in the water you will be snatching them out pretty quick.   The French kids who have been playing in the surf are distinctly blue. 

You park at the top of the cliffs and walk down to the beach.  Take everything with you that you will need - there is nothing down there except for the beach and the sea.  An ice cream van might turn up in the car park come summer. 

It's a broad expanse of sand, though there will be much much less of it at high tide.   At the foot of the cliffs is a 10m wide strip of stones,  fallen from the cliffs and ground smooth twice a day by the high tides. 

Turn left for Normandy, right for Belgium.   There's a WWII bunker at the foot of the cliffs, guarding the pathway up to the top.  Walk away from the bunker and you have the beach pretty much to yourself, although perhaps in high season you may have to walk a bit further. 

Lots of footpaths at the top if walking along the beach hasn't worn you out.  Try the climb up to the top of Cap Blanc Nez and gaze out at England, as famously, Adolf Hitler did before you.  I doubt that the Führer went for a paddle though.  

The village of Escalles is the place to go for things like cafés and restaurants.   You might as well leave your car in the car park and walk back to the village.  In high season I think you might struggle to find a space.  In low season you may struggle to find somewhere open. 

Remember high tide.  If you decide to go for lunch in the village, it might be wise to take your towel with you. 

Parc du Bois de Moutiers

Varengeville sur mer looks pretty posh.  And poshest place in town is the Parc du Bois de Moutiers. Even the car park is smart.   It's a historic monument rather than a private residence these days.  
The house itself was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who went on to design much of the Raj and of course the Cenotaph and associated Remembrance monuments, which must make him the most built architect in the British Empire.  It isn't open to the public,  at least it wasn't today, but I think in high season they take guided tours round. 

We guided ourselves around the posh garden, designed by the famous landscape gardener Gertrude  Jekyll.  No, neither have I.   But it is a pretty good garden, with something for everyone  - walled gardens with flowers in flowerbeds at the top of the hill and around the house, a lawn running down the slope towards the sea (must be a beggar to mow), then a hillside covered in rhododendrons stolen from the Himalayas.  Plus the swamps - it must be challenging to build a swamp on the side of a hill.    We probably spent a couple of hours following the recommended route around. 

Ambience by P G Wodehouse.  One finds it easy to imagine Bertie Wooster sorting out the tangled love life of Gussie Fink-Nottle and Amber Rudd in this setting.  Lots of benches for clasping of hands and declarations of undying love.  No shagging in the bushes mind you.  Not PG's style. 

Money by Guillaume Mallet.  I've no idea who he was, and there is no information about him in the bumf we got from the ticket office.  But he's the chap who paid for it all.  Not unlike Bertie's Uncle Tom (Aunt Dahlia's husband).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Election Time

The posters are up outside every mairie.   All the candidates for the president of France.  Unusually the incumbent isn't running - perhaps M Hollande feels he has little chance and he is probably right. 

Round the Pas de Calais, Marine le Pen has posters everywhere.   It probably helps to be the only woman in the race and therefore instantly recognisable.  It probably doesn't help that two strokes of a black marker pen give her a Hitler moustache.   So her supporters have been tearing off her upper lip.   FN posters must have been either defaced or mutilated all over France. 

Le Pen has done well in softening the image of the Front Nationale.   Under her father Jean-Marie it was unashamedly racist and fascist.  She has worked hard to lock the nasty old Nazi up in a box.  Is she now electable?  Much more so than before.  She has skilfully applied make up to the pig so you can hardly tell it isn't kosher. 

The socialist candidate (what IS his name?)  is pretty much dead in the water, suffering from the unpopularity of the current government and having his support on the left eaten away by M Melenchon, the Corbyn of France.   Not to mention M Poutou, a gift to francophone political satirists. 

The right wing candidate has been caught with his fingers in the till, allegedly employing his wife and kids at public expense to do nothing whatsoever.   M Fillon was the front runner until the judge took an interest.  Now he is languishing way behind.   Too late to quit and let another man of the right have a go.  Not that he wants to.  

Which leaves Emmanuel Macron, something of an unknown quantity.  As is traditional, he has set up his own political party  En Marche!  It's broadly centrist.  And collecting support from both left and right. Hope so.  Can he beat Le Pen?

The way it works is that anyone can stand for the presidency if they can get enough mayors to nominate them.  I think 500 mayors have to sign the paperwork, which sounds like a lot but every commune in France has a mayor; that IS a lot. 

So there are something like 16 candidates standing from across the political spectrum.  On Sunday the people of France vote in the first round, and if one of them gets a majority, he or she becomes President of France.   Nobody expects this to happen. 

The expectation is that Marine Le Pen will win the first round but not an overall majority.  She and the man who has the second largest vote - and that currently looks like Emmanuel Macron  - go through to the second round in a couple of weeks time, and all the others are eliminated. 

In the next vote,  everyone shudders at the thought of President Le Pen and votes for Macron.  He wins and the Republic stays on an even keel.  But after Brexit and Trump, nobody is quite certain.