Hotel de Ville, Calais

The colorful town hall of Calais was built in 1885.

On the Coast, Cutting it Close to Britain

Great Britain and the rest of Continental Europe are closer than the United States and Russia (really, we're 59 miles.) From the white cliffs of Dover to Calais it is just 21 miles, and a popular route for those who attempt to swim the channel. This was also the last part of France to be in English hands during medieval times. It wasn't until 1547 that France recaptured the town after centuries of English rule. And why wouldn't they want it back? It's a beachside beauty.

In the words of Shakespeare in Henry V, let us now “march on to Calais without impeachment.”

There are two main ways to get to or from Calais. From Ville station in the city center there are frequent shuttle buses to either the Channel port or to Calais Frethun Eurostar terminal. SNCF France has frequent trains operating to Lille or Boulogne, and occasional schedules directly into Paris. The new Eurostar station at Calais Frethun outside the inner city serves the “chunnel” connections into Britain.

Most consider Calais just a commuter city. But there's plenty to see beyond stretching your legs. Less than 15 minutes from the train station, visit the famous Rodin sculpture Les Bourgeois de Calais. The statue serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years' War, when the city was under siege by the British of over a year. The statue is found just in front of the distinctive Flemish Renaissance style City Hall – one of many buildings using this distinctive architectural approach.

Like long walks along the beach, lighthouses and horses? Calais is your very own personal ad. This seaside town offers you the opportunity to horseback on the sand and a charming little pier where you can hold hands with your paramour. Who needs Paris ?

Should you be heading to The City of Light, the TGV will take you there in 90 minutes. Closer to Calais, visit Dunkirk – just six miles from the Belgian border. One hour or so east by train, the city has the third largest port in France, behind Le Havre and Marseille and is famous for its boisterous Carnival. Thanks to Eurostar service, be in London's St. Pancras station in a bit over 60 minutes.

Just west, find a coast not known to most outside Europe. The Côte d'Opale runs from Calais to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Just as you can see France from the Cliffs of Dover on a clear day, you can see England from this vantage point. It too has beautiful cliffs such as Cape Blanc Nez and Cape Gris Nez. The coastal landscape has inspired artists and writers – including Victor Hugo.

Come to Calais and travel around with your France Rail Pass – you won't be le miserable.

To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident

Contributed by: Eric, Specialty Desk Agent, loves to frequent European events on visits with family in wonderful Kassel and Dortmund.

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