Popular sea-side resort, bustling town centre
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (to give it its full title) sprang from the grand 19thC tradition of Englishmen abroad ‘discovering’ beaches the French had previously overlooked (through lack of interest it must be said) – Lord Brougham at Cannes, for instance, and in this case Yorkshire businessman John Whitley. The ‘Paris-Plage’ was a splendid advertising wheeze (Le Touquet is more than 200 km from the capital), enticing the great and the good to disport themselves in its fashionable hôtels and casinos and on the magnificent beach. Satisfied customers included Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Pasteur, and the future Edward VII; it was still all the rage between the wars when P.G. Wodehouse lived here.
After a post-war slump, Le Touquet is back on form. Luxurious mansions hidden in the woods give way to a chic and bustling town centre, its narrow streets crammed with smart little boutiques, galleries and perfumeries, not to mention the celebrated fishmonger-cum-restaurant, Chez Pérard, 67 rue de Metz, famous for the fish soup its owner made in the 1960s. There are gorgeous flowers, grand hotels, and the uproariously kitsch Hôtel de Ville, jewel in the crown of a wondrously bizarre collection of seaside architectural follies running the gamut from full-blown Gothic and Scottish Baronial to half-timbered rustic mansions and Swiss chalets.
Le Touquet is looking very sporty these days with tennis, riding, sailing, cycling and golf courses near by. The vast sand beach (over 1 km wide at low tide) is a popular venue for land-yachting, and if the trek to the water’s edge seems too far, there is the Aqualud pool complex on the promenade (www.aqualud.com).
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