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In the Telegraph this weekend we read that more than half of Britons who own holiday homes in France drive rather than fly. Most are going to Normandy and Brittany, not Dordogne and Provence as all the summer holiday chatter would lead us to expect. And at a 40th birthday party, a friend tells me she takes her children to Montreuil-sur-Mer every year.

I have never visited Montreuil-sur-Mer (note that it’s a bit inland from the sea despite its name). She is convincing about its merits. Just an hour from Calais, it is faster to get to than many of the UK seaside resorts. The food is wonderful. The town is surrounded by medieval ramparts. It is the setting for much of the early part of Les Misérables.

We have two favourite stops along the drive from Calais to Normandy. On the A16 just north of Abbeville is the Aire de la Baie de Somme. As a rule of thumb, autoroute rest stops get better in France the further south you go. The Aire de la Baie de Somme is an exception.

It’s a fairly new, airy structure, with a local produce shop, good coffee, and a playground. There is a pond with enormous, threatening fish, ducks paddling among the reeds, and a viewing tower. It’s a bright, windy place, with shifting light.

Read more about La Baie de Somme – France Today.

West of Montreuil-sur-Mer is Le Touquet – a lively, chic, yet still traditional seaside resort with a wide sandy beach and wonderful art deco architecture. We stop here if we have time for lunch in the busy town centre, a walk on the wide sandy beach, and a ride on the classical carousel.

Here are some more resources about Le Touqet.

Eurofile | The Paris Plage. The New York Times neatly deconstructs the social signals of Le Touquet and Deauville.

Perfect break: Le Touquet – Telegraph. Recalls swinging down to Le Touquet in the ’20s.

Le Touquet – YouTube. Selling holidays, but some nice imagery that gives an idea of the place.