If the mountain will not come to us,….

family ski holiday, apartment to let, Samoens

Ideal for families – apartment to let at Samoens

The Sandboys team rarely get to take any holiday in the Summer because that’s our busy season, and anyway, there’s no better place to be than here, by the seaside in France, on the Cote d’Opale.

We’re really looking forward, though to spending some time in early autumn, winter, or late spring in a part of France that we haven’t visited before – the Alpine ski area of the Grand Massif in the Haute Savoie region.  Not that we’re great skiers, of course, but it’s never too late to learn, and anyway we fancy going there outside of the ski-season, too, when there’s lots of beautiful walking and biking country, not to mention the white water rafting, paragliding and mountaineering (OK! we probably won’t be doing those last 3 things)

There’s a new property we can’t wait to go to stay in, and it will shortly become part of the Sandboys family holiday collection, available for ski-season bookings.

Have a look here at the details: Apartment in Samoens, Haute Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France



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An unusual tourist hits the beach

wild boar on beachVisitors to Sandboys holiday houses at Fort Mahon may be lucky enough to see some of the wild deer that live in the woods and dunes surrounding the town, but the families of wild boar who also live there usually come out only at night and are rarely seen in daylight hours.

Still, our visitors have reported the occasional sighting – one cyclist enjoyed the rare sight of a whole family of boar crossing the road and paddling in the waters of the Authie river.  Another sighting took place at dusk in fields on the edge of town.  Golfers searching for errant balls on the famous Belle-Dune golf course occasionally spot a few of these shy animals resting in the shade of trees and bushes at a safe distance from even the worst mis-hit drive, but it’s very rare indeed to see wild boar on the beach.

This early morning visitor may have just been trying out the temperature of the water!



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New Sports Event in the Pas De Calais

The Pas de Calais region of France is determined not to be put in the shade by the forthcoming Olympic Games just across the Channel in London, and has come up with a new Non-Olympic Games event of its own.

By the look of it the Pas De Calais event will be far more spectacular and entertaining than the London one which mostly involves running round in circles.

Here is a team training for the Anti-Gravity Marathon.  (photos: Pas De Calais Tourisme)

And some competitors training for the difficult Extreme Skydiving (Freestyle) which is like Skydiving but without parachutes.


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Tourism Day Off ~ and an excellent restaurant


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.

Photos of L'Atelier 26, Montreuil-sur-Mer

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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Eating out – in Le Touquet and Fort Mahon

Restaurant Le Paris (red awning) in Rue de Metz

It was my mother’s 93rd birthday last Monday so we went out for dinner in Le Touquet. She had been using her i-Pad to search for a recommended restaurant and came up with Le Paris, a comfortable, well appointed place in the Rue de Metz, one of Le Touquet’s main shopping streets.

All three of us went for seafood and and were all very pleased with our choices. We ate, three courses each, from the menu at €29.90 and the bill, including a bottle of St Veran and 3 glasses of champagne came to €145. 50. The only problem was parking, because Le Touquet now has some fancy new system that I didn’t immediately understand. On arrival, it appeared that parking in rue de Metz was limited to one hour, but it turned out that I could have parked right outside the restaurant free from 8.00 in the evening until 9.00 the following morning. Unfortunately by the time I found that out, I had parked in a side street some distance away.

restaurant Le Paris, Le Touquet

The interior of "Le Paris"

I have to award a special mention to the dessert chosen by me and my mother.  It was a three-tier Poire Belle Hélène that was totally scrumptious and spectacular as well as generous with the rich chocolate sauce.

Today, Sue and I went for a walk of about 5.5km, from Fort Mahon through the dunes to Quend and back via the bar at the golf club. (You don’t have to be a member to go there). On the way back through the Belle-Dune holiday village we noticed a useful grocery/general store that was open (unusual on a Sunday) and also had a look at the menu posted outside the village restaurant. There is a 3 course menu of the day at €22 euros which looked interesting.

The Belle Dune restaurant is also making an offer which might appeal to Sandboys holiday tenants who don’t want to cook every night of their stay.  The restaurant will do a deal on 3 course meals chosen from its extensive à la carte. Go three times during your stay, or the whole 7 days, if you like, (lunch or dinner time, your choice) and you have a choice of any starter, main course and dessert for 21 euros a head for adults. (I forgot to notice what the children ‘s meal price was.)

The holiday village facilities, including bike hire and occasional evening live music shows, are open to non-residents. Very handy if you’re holidaying at Sandboys Dune and want a change from the restaurants and brasseries in the town, as it’s only a short walk.  Its also walkable from Sandboys Pearl, though it is a little farther.  However, if you take the car, parking is easy and free.

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Sandboys Christmas

It’s been a quiet time for us this last week before Christmas.  Since we only buy presents for family who live in Guernsey or the UK, nearly all our Christmas shopping is done online several weeks in advance.  This year we sent gifts from the Loch Fyne, Bucktrout’s and Rock the Boat online shops.  We also bought some craft items at the Montreuil Christmas Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we’re celebrating with a Christmas dinner at La Verrière in Berck, where we’re sure of excellent food and friendly service in comfortable surroundings.

After Christmas we look forward to the arrival of Mr and Mrs Macpherson at our Garden Studio apartment on Tuesday, and the Robson family at Sandboys Pearl on Friday.

Happy Christmas and Cheers!

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Weekend In France

My favourite bakery is in Fort Mahon which is just a 10 minute drive from our home in Conchil. The bread is so delicious, easily the best in Picardy so it’s well worth the effort of turning out on a lazy Sunday morning.  This I did last weekend and not only was I rewarded with a delicious sandwich at lunchtime but I was impressed with the lively atmosphere that greeted me.

Dune was our first holiday cottage in Fort Mahon and it seems only yesterday that we greeted our first guests there, but that was in spring of 2004, amazingly almost 9 years ago. During the 8 intervening seasons this attractive seaside resort has changed quite a lot and seems to have evolved into an all-year-round destination.

During the season it’s very much a family resort, mainly because of the abundance of reasonably priced restaurants that serve good French food and the glorious beach which seems to stretch for miles. Now in late autumn the weekends are populated by smart folk promenading, buying their patisserie and browsing the eye-catching boutiques and gift shops before stopping for a morning refresher in one of the many cafes.

The main road through the town runs right up to the beach where one of my favourite restaurants overlooks the sea. I wanted to know if they were doing a special menu for Christmas Day so I parked the car, made my enquiries and then took a walk up to the boulangerie. I passed quite a few interesting shops and felt at home in the throng of happy smiling people enjoying their constitutional.

I bought my bread for the week (not only is it delicious but it also freezes well), a couple of tarts that shouted “buy me” and set off back to the car. I had only gone a few yards when I noticed a fabulous handbag in the window of a shop called Savannah. My conscience was telling me that I really did not need yet another bag but none the less I crossed the threshold knowing that any good intentions of not splashing out were soon to be thwarted.

I spent an interesting half an hour perusing the impressive collection of casual clothes and honestly I tried to avoid the bag but my girly side got the better of me and I succumbed. Do you want to know  the good news though –  It only cost 25 Euros so no real harm done.

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