View from the quay at Etaples
Yesterday was my birthday, and in keeping with a family tradition that now stretches back 12 months, we took part of the day off to put ourselves in the place of our Sandboys holiday clients, and go and do something “touristy” in the region. This time we drove a few miles along the coast to have a look at Etaples and, in particular, the Museum of the Fishing Industry, « Maréis », which we had heard was well-presented and very interesting.
Etaples used to be one of France’s biggest fishing ports in terms of the tonnage of fish landed, but over the last 50 years, the estuary of the River Canche has silted up to the point where today’s larger fishing vessels are unable to use the harbour. The fishermen of Etaples, however, unwilling to lose the town’s major industry, have simply moved their boats a few miles up the coast to the port of Boulogne.
Stroking friendly Rays
The fishermens’ cooperative of Etaples numbers some 50 boats in its fleet. Most of them sail at the beginning of each week and remain at sea until Thursday or Friday when they return with their catch, a proportion of which is retained by the cooperative for sale in their own fresh fish shops and restaurants in Boulogne and Etaples. Some of the boats keep back a little of the catch to be sold direct to the public from the stalls on the fishmarket quay at Etaples. Each stall is decorated with paintings and the colours of the boat to which it belongs. Altogether, in supplying, manning, and maintaining the fleet, marketing, processing, transporting, selling, cooking and serving the fish, the cooperative provides work for thousands of people in Etaples and Boulogne.
MAREIS sea life centre in the old rope works at Etaples
At Maréis you can see how the different types of fishing nets work and the variety of fish that are caught in the Channel waters between France and the south coast of England. There are aquaria where you can see the fish up very close, and rock pools where crabs crawl among mussels, starfish, oysters, scallops, shrimps and other seashore creatures. You can stand on the bridge of a modern fishing boat with its radar screens and depth sounders demonstrating the complicated world of the fishing boat skipper. There are guided tours and demonstrations, and films showing life on the boats are screened. Finally there’s a tank where you can gently stroke rays, as they swim playfully around from one hand to the next.
We enjoyed our visit, and left via the shop where we found some nice books, games and souvenirs including a soft toy in the shape of a ray.
As a special birthday treat in the evening we had dinner at a restaurant in Montreuil which has been getting exceptionally good reviews recently. As a
Magret de Canard, cocoa bean and hot pepper sauce
result of one of the best meals we’ve eaten in France for many years, we can thoroughly recommend L’Atelier 26, in rue d’Hérambaut. It looks like an ordinary bar or cafe from the outside. Inside it is furnished sparsely and simply, but it is warm and there is a friendly welcome, and above all, the food is top quality at reasonable prices. After a delightful complimentary appetiser and excellent seafood starters, our main courses were Haddock with a Smoked Herring sauce, and Roast Breast of Duck with a Cocoa Bean and Hot Pepper sauce. Both were superbly cooked, beautifully balanced for flavour, and nicely presented. The “moelleux au chocolat chaud coeur coulant caramel”, Chocolate “Moelleux” dessert with a fondant centre, was superior to anything we’ve had in top London and Paris restaurants. Normally a 3 course meal of this quality would cost almost double the 65 euros we paid for two, including wine and aperitifs.
L'Atelier 26 in Montreuil Sur Mer
We’ll certainly go again to L’Atelier 26 soon and report more details. It seems it is open at lunchtime Monday to Saturday, and evenings on Friday and Saturday only. They will serve a simple omelette and chips, or a full three course meal. On the evidence of our one visit, value-for-money is outstanding.
This photo of L’Atelier 26 is courtesy of TripAdvisor
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