When Miriam said she couldn’t make coffee in Richmond as we’d arranged but would I like to have lunch in France instead … Well, what an offer! And, of course, I said yes. I left home around 7.30 am yesterday morning to head to her house and soon after 10 we were queuing to get on to the Eurotunnel shuttle. Although we were early for our booked time and expected to get on to an earlier shuttle, it was surprisingly busy, so we had to wait. Anyone who has sat in that queue will know that coffee options are pretty dire. The last time I did it, out of desperation I got a coffee from a machine. Bad idea. Should have known better. But the optimist in me sent me looking anyway yesterday morning; I’d seen a kiosk as well as the machines as we drove through … and, there it was: a proper espresso machine and soon I was carrying a decent cappuccino back to the car.
Once through the tunnel it was only a short 20-minute journey to Miriam and Stephen’s flat, situated right by the beach with a glorious view – even on a dull, wintry day – across the Channel. On a clear day, Miriam told me, you can see the White Cliffs of Dover – and later on, after lunch, we could just make them out.
In the main street, rue Carnot, we headed for Hotel du Centre where we had a table booked for lunch – and where one priority was remembering to book a table for Rob when he arrives on the 17th! That done, a glass of wine was in order (a Beaujolais, served frais as the French often do) and I ordered Skate with black butter and capers while Miriam had her favourite omelette and salad. I was surprised by how busy it was for a midweek lunch on a cold and blustery December day, but it was nice to have a low buzz of conversation in the background. The dining room itself was in a typical French bistro style, attractive art nouveau and starched white table linen. My skate when it came was very good, served simply with steamed potatoes, and a delicious dark buttery caper sauce. This is the kind of simple cooking, with good ingredients, that the French do so well. We just had coffee after as Miriam said there was a dessert option for later on.
Now it was time to do a little shopping. We bought pain de campagne in the boulangerie (P. Bucamp) and some chocolates in a wonderful shop, Chocolats de Beaussent-Lachelle, where you can choose a selection from an enticing array – and get an extra one to try immediately at the end! Miriam’s favourite greengrocer was shut so we settled on a few things from the local supermarket, including some Ratte du Touquet – little knobbly speciality potatoes from nearby Le Touquet that Miriam said are delicious steamed and served simply with butter.
One last stop before heading back to Eurotunnel. We cut through the pretty streets down to the beach and walked along the promenade to Hotel L’Atlantic for coffee and cake. It was still light enough to enjoy the view from this smart but comfy bar as I indulged in a tarte aux pommes and grande cafe. There’s also an excellent restaurant on the first floor with a magnificent view across the sea.
Then it was back home: a quick trip to the Eurotunnel terminal, up the M20/M25 and home before 8 pm. Just about 12 hours away – but what a difference a twenty-odd mile stretch of Channel makes. I’d had such a relaxing day; Wimereux is so essentially French in architecture and the simple but good lunch, that I felt as if I’d been away for a little holiday … and I have some chocolates, bread … and those exciting Ratte du Touquet to try out and keep a little of France alive for a few days.