Another mattress upgrade!

Bedroom at The Pines luxury holiday apartment

The Master Bedroom has its own en suite bathroom

We’ve had so many compliments on the comfort of the mattress we installed in The West Wing apartment last year – and we were so impressed, ourselves, when we slept in the apartment for a few nights in the winter – that we’ve ordered another identical mattress for the master bedroom in The Pines.

It should arrive this week.

Looks like there’ll be lots of good nights’ sleep for our guests this year!





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Spiffing News! – More Comfort At Sandboys Dune

new sofaGood news!  In response to suggestions that the futon sofa at Dune wasn’t comfortable enough for a long stay, we changed it over today for a very comfortably sprung and softly upholstered 2 seater sofa.

We think it has a rather spiffing hot climate look to it.  Must be those elephants.  It definitely is very much more comfortable, though.

In the photo, you can also see one of the two relaxing, leather covered Ikea armchairs, so all the family can now lounge comfortably!

Any bad news?  Of course not!!  Things only get better at Dune!




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Holiday Bargains and Late Availability Deals

doisneau_kissWe’ve just added some deals to fill gaps in our booking schedule, so if you’re looking for a bargain, take a look at what’s available on our latest offers page 

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Yesterday’s tide at Fort Mahon was a big one.  The tidal range – vertical height difference between Low Water and High Water – was 9.97 metres (32 ft).

To put this in perspective, imagine yourself standing in the garden of a two storey house, with a pitched roof, that someone has foolishly built exactly on the low tide mark.  At low tide the ground under your feet would be just damp.

Six hours later, at high tide, the house will have disappeared from view and you will be floating so high above it you won’t be able to touch its highest point with your feet.

Fortunately tides are easily predictable and the range rarely varies from forecast heights.  Fort Mahon takes advantage of these large ranges by making use of the vast expanse of fine sand that they expose for recreation.

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French Seaside Weather ~ bad and good

The seals on the Authie Bay at Fort Mahon don't mind if the weather turns wet!

The seals on the Authie Bay at Fort Mahon don't mind if the weather turns wet!

It seems my repair to the patio table at Sandboys Dune cast a bad spell on the weather – it rained for some part of almost every day last week, and the table was almost certainly not used at all by the Hawkins family.  They did leave a nice note in our guest book, though.  It seems they found plenty to do in spite of the weather, including a fun day at Fort Mahon’s AquaClub, a tropical pool with waves, waterfalls and water chutes.

This week the weather seems to have returned to something a bit more like normal, so perhaps the spell is wearing off.  It was bright enough this morning to tempt me to put my little boat on the river and go for a sail.  There weren’t many other people about, as here in France nearly all the holiday makers have gone home.  It’s called the rentrée – the end of the French holiday season for schools, factory and office workers.

The "Marianne Toute Seule" under sail on the Authie estuary

My afternoon sail was made even more interesting and enjoyable by coming across the “Marianne Toute Seule”, a restored antique local fishing boat of a type known as a “flobart”.  She was sailing up the river taking some of the last tourists of the school holiday season out for a demonstration trip.

My photo is not very good, I’m afraid.  I had my hands full controlling the boat at the time, trying to avoid an embarrassing capsize while sailing with one hand and holding my phone with the other.

Visitors to Sandboys gites and our Garden apartment at the White House could take a trip on the old fishing boat, for a day out with a difference.


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A Good Place To Eat At The French Seaside

Families staying at the Sandboys seaside gites or at our Garden Studio apartment will never lack for choice when it comes to places to eat.  Fort Mahon and its surrounding countryside, towns and villages are packed with good restaurants, brasseries and cafes.

Exterior view of Les Pieds dans l'Eau restaurant

A good seaside place to eat - Les Pieds dans l'Eau at Berck

The other night we were planning to eat out before going to the cinema in Montreuil.  The film (The Company Men, with Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones, in English with French sub-titles) was not scheduled to start until 9pm, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely meal beforehand.  We had a place in mind, too – somewhere we hadn’t been before – the Brasserie “Les Pieds dans l’Eau”, aptly named as it is on the beach at the seaside resort of Berck (about 12 miles drive from Fort Mahon).   This is the restaurant at Berck’s Agora Leisure Centre which I had noticed while attending swimming club training sessions in the excellent pool there.

Brasserie Les Pieds dans l’Eau, Agora, Berck-sur-Mer, Tel. 03 21 89 87 10

The restaurant is very comfortably furnished and nicely decorated in a modern style.  It is accessed either through the basement level of the Leisure Centre (the restaurant is actually underneath the seaside promenade) or by steps down to the beach from the promenade.

Appropriate seafood specialities for a seaside restaurant

Seafood specialities and wines by the glass.

Appropriately for a seaside restaurant, the kitchen at Les Pieds dans l’Eau leans towards seafood, though salad and meat eaters are certainly not forgotten and will find plenty of choices on the extensive menu.  There are some spectacular-sounding specialities as well as a sensible children’s menu.  You’ll find almost all seaside restaurants in France are well prepared for families with small children – we noticed that Les Pieds dans l’Eau had a good supply of high-chairs available to cope with the summertime family seaside holiday rush.

Comfort and fresh decor at this seaside reastaurant

The comfortable interior of Les Pieds dans l'Eau

We chose to eat inside, although it was a lovely sunny evening, and there was plenty of room at the open-air beachside tables.  We both chose the same cold starter, Tartare de tomates fraîches et confites, copeaux de Parmesan, a delightfully fresh and zingy dish.  Sue had Moules Frites for her main course – it’s virtually this seaside region’s signature dish – while I tested the kitchen with a more demanding Turbot rôti, sauce vierge, escalivade de légumes.  I was very happy with my excellent fish, though I personally found the dressing on the vegetables a little too oily for my taste (most people will probably disagree with me)

There is an excellent choice of wines, including a range of wines you can order by the glass.  Unusually you don’t pay any extra for the “by the glass” option.  A 12.5 centilitre glass is priced at one-sixth of the bottle price.  We chose a very acceptable French Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc, and since we had 3 glasses between us (only one for me, the driver), we paid for exactly half a bottle.

We had to leave it there without trying any of the interesting range of desserts so that we could make it to the cinema in time, but we’ll be back on another occasion to see what they’re like.

All in all, Les Pieds dans l’Eau gets our Sandboys stamp of approval as a very decent, comfortable and superbly positioned French seaside restaurant.

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Motor Caravans : can this really be fun?

This morning’s training session at Berck Natation (Berck Swimming Club) was cancelled.

I didn’t know this until I arrived at the Agora Leisure Centre on the seafront at Berck, where I met another of the early-morning regulars who told me he had just found out about the cancellation by looking at the club’s internet page. Well, at least I know where to look, in future.

Camper vans at the Bay of the Authie

Camper vans swarm at the Bay of the Authie

It was a beautiful morning, so instead of swimming I took a walk along the seafront as far as the mouth of the Authie river. Here, tucked away almost out of sight in a car park among the dunes, I was surprised to find hundreds of motor caravans, camping cars I think they call them here, all drawn up in the seaside carpark like a pod of beached whales, with no more than a couple of feet between them. It was just after 7 in the morning, so there were few signs of life, but I wondered what the scene would be like when everyone decided to get up. Assuming 2-3, possibly more occupants per van, there would be barely enough space left in the car park for them all to stand, let alone get the deck chairs out and lounge about.


Rows of camper vans at Berck. What are they here for?

What brought them all here, I wondered? I know it’s half-term, but why would they all suddenly descend on Berck? Either they all know something I don’t, or, as I prefer to imagine, motor caravans, like bees, just swarm from time to time when a mysterious instinct takes hold of them. Perhaps there’s such a thing as a Queen Van at the centre of the hive.

I really didn’t want to stay to find out how an angry hive might behave on waking to find an intruder among them so I left Berck without disturbing them.

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Good Boulangerie News

A couple of months ago there was a fire at one of the boulangeries in Fort Mahon.

 “C’est normale”, as they say here – naturally, every now and then a bakery will catch fire.

Fortunately, in this fire, no-one was hurt.  Unfortunately it was at the best bakery in Fort Mahon – in fact, the best bakery in the whole region.  Many times our guests have told us how much they love the bread from the Banette bakery opposite the Post Office in the Avenue de la Plage.  We already knew about it, of course.  We travel out of our way to Fort Mahon to buy our own bread there.  My personal preference is for the “Baguette Tradition”, also known as the “Tradi”, (this is not the standard baguette, you have to specify “tradition”) but there are many other types of loaf to try, all of them delicious.  Even their standard baguette is better than any other baker’s hereabouts.

After the fire the bakery closed, but after a few weeks the owners managed to find and rent an empty shop in the next village down the coast, Quend, and opened up to their Fort Mahon regulars.  Business, however, was not too good, as they obviously lost all the passing trade they had before, and many of their local customers simply could not travel to the new shop.

The good news this week is that they have partially re-opened the fire-damaged premises and are selling their wonderful bread in Fort Mahon again.  Refurbishment of the rest of the old shop should be completed soon so that they can show off all their delicious cakes, tarts and pastries, as well as the bread, in a fittingly high-class boulangerie setting.

By the way, Banette is a chain of franchised bakeries, all using flours and other ingredients from a common supplier, so you would naturally expect that they would all be able to produce exactly the same bread.  It doesn’t work like that in France – somehow these bakers all manage to produce a totally individual product.

It makes buying the bread more fun when you can try loaves from dozens of local bakers and make up your mind which you prefer.  If you’re only staying at a Sandboys gite in Fort Mahon for a week’s holiday, though, take it from us, the Banette shop opposite the Post Office is Number One!

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