France’s largest fishing port
By far the most entertaining Pas de Calais ferry port, Boulogne is also the largest fishing port in France. Not suprisingly, fish feature heavily on the itinerary, be it a weekend spent sampling the local fish restaurants, or a visit to Nausicaà, www.nausicaa.do.uk, the stunning national aquarium facing the port. It is a hearty, but worthwhile climb up to the attractive Ville Haute, its medieval ramparts and cobbled streets preserved like a film set. The main drag, rue de Lille, is jam-packed with cafés, restaurants, gift shops, and delicatessens.
Off rue de Lille, the 19thC Basilique Notre-Dame has been squeezed into a gap vacated first by a Roman temple and then a Romanesque cathedral destroyed during the Revolution. Traces of the earlier edifices can be seen in the labyrinthine subterranean crypt. A little further on, rue du Château leads to the Château-Musée displaying arts, crafts, ceramics and Napoleonic memorabilia, plus ethnographic objects from Eskimo masks to Egyptian mummies.
For hypermarket shopping, head for Auchan (N42 east). General shopping is better in the Ville Basse around rue Thiers, where Philippe Olivier (No.45) deserves a special mention for his gourmet fromagerie. And Boulogne’s Saturday market (also open on Wednesday), on place Dalton, should not be missed.
If you are heading north for Calais, the D940 makes an attractive alternative to the faster N1, with great views from the cliff-top heights of Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez.