Opal Coast and poppy fields

Written by on July 10, 2013 in My French Life

Poppy field France

I just came back from a press trip to Roubaix and Lille and decided to take the slow route home from Calais where I said goodbye to my fellow travellers who were going back to the UK via P&O Ferries. I was briefly envious since I love riding the ferry back and forth between Dover and Calais and I knew they’d be enjoying a cream tea and champagne in the Club lounge. I consoled myself with the thought that a drive home via the Opal Coast road (D940) from Calais to Boulogne would be a beautiful journey …

I wasn’t wrong.

The fields of vegetables and wild flowers were a stunning sight and the poppies have never looked so gorgeous. Poppy fields lined the side of the roads and with a Wedgewood blue sky and deep blue sea as a backdrop it was a magnificent sight.

I’ve done this route before but it is a constantly changing landscape and it’s impossible to get bored with it.

poppy field

Some days the sky is grey and the sea is frothy as the wind whips up the waves into a frenzy – they crash into the Vauban fort at Ambleteuse and smack into the side of the cliffs at Cap Gris Nez (cliff top).

Some days are freezing cold with a clear bright sun and the light is simply stunning – so clear and so unique and you know exactly why artist Edouard Lévaque named this stretch of coast the “Cote d’Opale” saying “Is there something in nature that has the diversity of colour constantly changing? Yes, there is – the opal, this precious stone with its milky tones, which in turn throws a series of flashes – green and red. To the French Riviera, the Emerald Coast and Silver Coast add the Opal Coast”…

Some days like this week, we have Mediterranean levels of sunshine and heat – the light is fantastic, the sea is so blue, the fields a vibrant and lush green, yellow, red and blue.

All along this stretch of water there are little villages, monuments, museums, a Vauban fort, beautiful houses, luscious countryside, golden sandy beaches…

There are fishing huts, beach huts and abandoned bunkers as well as bunkers that are now reused. Little cafés and fish restaurants which serve the freshest fish ever; auberges and bars, smart hotels, authentic inns and tiny B&Bs. This place is much loved by Brits who want a taste of real France at its best and just 20 minutes from Calais port – it is incredible. Wissant (which means white sand) is a picturesque fishing village with boats parked in gardens and the fishermen sell the day’s catch from their cottages.

poppy field

It’s impossible to drive this hilly, windy route without stopping to have a look at something along the way and the views between the two Caps (the two cliffs) which face the White Cliffs of Dover just a  few miles away are always dramatic – today I had to stop and look at the poppy fields.

Eventually you come into Wimereux, the last town on the route before you hit Boulogne. It is a very popular place with visitors and locals with its turn of the century pastel coloured villas and great shops, bars and restaurants.

If you drive straight through from Sangatte to Boulogne it doesn’t take much more than half an hour but I can pretty much guarantee it will take you longer as it does me because it’s such a beautiful route with so much to see…

The coastal route runs through lovely Boulogne and out the other side and that is a charming route too – more on that later…

A bientôt

Opal Coast in pictures on new year’s day

Opal Coast Route Part I

Opal Coast Route Part II


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