A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
Posted on October 20, 2014 by thebritishberliner
So last week I returned from my first press trip ever. And it was in France!
I mean, come on!
Isn’t that everybody’s dream. Riding on a French bicycle with garlands of onions strewn across, a beret on one’s head, and a basket of wine tucked away ready to be drunk next to that certain someone, on a French field, with French cows in the background.
Or is that just me!
OK. Cut to reality.
The Press Trip that I went on last week was completely awesome, and more than I ever imagined it would be.
I was sooooo anxious. Excited. But anxious.
I needn’t have worried.
In my last post, which you can find right here. I told you why I was picked to go to Northern France or Nord-Pas de Calais, and what the trip was all about. Basically, it was a way to introduce the delights of the Northern Region. I mean, everyone knows Paris, the French Rivera, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Normandy. I’ve been to many of these places but I had never been to Nord-Pas de Calais. I’d never even heard of this part of Northern France.
I thought that I was going to Normandy. Ooops!
Suffice to say, in 3.5 days, I learnt a lot about Northern France and now it’s time for you to follow my footsteps and see what I discovered, and what you missed!
So let’s break it down.
1. Northern France is awfully near: In fact, you can take a plane, take a car, take the train, or take a bus. You can probably cycle too. It’s that close! On this press trip, we got to experience travelling by bus and travelling by train.
We had a 5:00 wake-up call (that was eeeugh!), and we took a long-distance bus or coach that took us through Germany, Belgium and France. Breakfast was provided by the Northern France team and free tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and water was also available whenever we wanted. This bus was privately hired for our group but on commercial buses you can also buy beer AND you CAN drink it and eat snacks on the bus, as long as you take your litter with you.
On the way back to Germany, we took the train. The Thalys train and in First Class. A snack, lunch AND wine is included too. Service by pretty girls and attractive guys. Huge plush individual seats. With free WIFI. Wow! These guys want you to know that you don’t have to fly to France to have comfort, and guess what? They’re right.
You don’t have to fly. Magnifique!
Hurrah for Europe!
2. Northern France is near the sea: If you’re looking for brisk walks in fresh air then this region is pretty good. The French Rivera it is not, but you can’t have everything! You can go sand yachting and experience local history by the port and harbour in Boulogne. In fact, we watched a film on the bus about what other French people think about Nord-Pas de Calais, quite frankly, they think it’s like England. Weather-wise.
And was it?
Pretty much. I was the only person who took off my jacket and strolled along in the wind and drizzly rain, whilst the French and German participants huddled under jumpers, scarfs, and water-proof jackets! Ah, dear old England! Ye olde Englande of yesteryears, of vinegar, fish and chips, and digestive biscuits and….
Oh sorry, we’re talking about France!
3. Yes, in Northern France you can go to a sort of seaworld place. French-style called Nausicaa or the National Sea Centre. We didn’t have a huge amount of time there but they have:
It’s pretty good for underwater observations of sharks, huge fish, giant turtles, jellyfish, and seals. You know my feelings about responsible tourism, but as far as I could see, the seals seemed to be well looked after, and there was no painting, writing, or jumping through hoops of fire, or anything, but if you’ve got a few hours to kill. Why not?
4. It’s full of history: Northern France is definitely in France. France is in Europe. Europe is thousands of years old, so it’s absolutely chock-a-block with memorial sites, churches, stately homes, buildings, gardens, museums, markets, town squares and the like, with a rich and varied heritage. It’s true that a lot of them were destroyed in WWI but the Northern French people were determined to carry on regardless, and built most of it back again!
We were able to see some of these historical places. We went to an old town called Bethune or Béthune. In fact, it’s origins are celtic in nature and flourished due to clothing, trading, and coal. And it’s main glory? A UNESCO World Heritage property called The Belfry which we were lucky enough to go up in so that we could get really close to the bells and the clock, in order to get panoramic views of the town from the roof! The Belfry was originally built during the Middle Ages and managed to survive.
Oh yeah, Bethune is also known for it’s history of giants. I’ve seen two (2) of them about seven (7) years ago, passing through Berlin on the riverside. We all came out and were awfully impressed!
5. Northern France is actually Belgian!: Northern France has history with Belgium and although distinctly French, is enormously proud of it’s Flemish heritage. We visited a lovely little town called Arras which has a wealth of Flemish history, architecture, and lifestyle. We went to the Town Hall that is amazingly Gothic in style with wonderful Flemish buildings surrounding the Square. In fact, it reminded me of Krakow. In Poland!
We were also told that in the winter, the famous Grand’ Place holds a huge German-style Christmas Market with 70 stalls filled with French chefs, craftsmen, and choirs, catering to local goods and products. Consider the image of horses parading, soldiers clattering, and the glitter of a German Xmas Market. These German Christmas Markets are everywhere!
6. The First World War or The Great War: Northern France was heavily involved as the region is steeped in history and charged with emotion. During The Great War between 1914-1918, Northern France suffered and was practically razed to the ground. The region is surrounded by traces of WWI. More so, that The Great War is now 100 years old. Arras in particular was at the heart of the torment of the First World War and so we were shown the Wellington Quarry that was taken over by the British Army in the memorial of The Battle of Arras on the 9th of April, in 1917….
We were shown the scarred countryside in Arras and Cambrai, and the many cemeteries and memorials necessary and important, to keep alive the awfulness, and utter wretchedness, of war.
Visiting the cemeteries of The Fallen in the British, Canadian, French, and German sites was painful. I found that I was more emotionally affected than I expected, surrounded by the silence of trenches, gunshots and screams of an utterly, bloody war. It brought home to me how many young men, women, and children, were really involved and died for the cause of a “Great War.” Nobody could even imagine that less than 20 years later, an even more horrific war would take place, yet again.
7. Traditional Art and Culture: Northern France has a clothing, trading, and coal background. Located at the heart of a coal-pit is one of the world’s largest museums – The Louvre-Lens Museum. Yes, the sister of that most marvellous French icon – The Louvre! This museum only opened in 2012 and in a contemporary building of glass and light, has now become a must-see attraction so of course, we went along too. You know how I like to go to museums as I like old art.
I was salivating when I heard that we would get to see “the other Louvre.” However, The Louvre-Lens Museums goes through a lot of effort to let you know that it isn’t THE Louvre but “another Louvre” with pieces that have never ever seen the light of day. I was so excited! The Museum is free (except for temporary exhibitions) until the end of 2014, so go now!
Another museum to note is The Museum Matisee in Cambrai. Founded by Matisee himself. It’s recognised throughout Northern France for the quality of it’s collections, and it’s exceptional works by major modern artists.
8. French food and drink: OMG! The nosh and booze of Northern France is glorious to behold. I mean, it’s French! Forget your supermarket croissants, and your cheap hams and salamis. On this press trip we were sooooo looked after. This is what we had:
9. Yes. Lille!
I loved the fact that the Northern France city of Lille is young, vibrant, bold, innovative, exciting, re-inventing itself, and yet able to retain it’s traditional French flair and exceptional heritage.
I can’t begin to describe the old town with it’s charming cobbled streets that make Europe so lovely, the hidden little squares, the architecture and history of it’s colourful buildings, it’s slim buildings with a flair for drama, it’s festivals of culture, music and art, it’s avant-garde buildings, and wealthy Flemish houses. The richly endowed streets overflowing with boutique shops, French knickers and bodices in respectable front windows, Haute couture, and rudely delightful French cakes and pastries.
10. Because Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France is worth it. If you’re in France, Germany, Belgium, or in the UK, go visit.
I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I want to go to Northern France again. Hint! Hint!
WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?
WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?
Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!
This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the stinky cheese and paté made from goose, that I had for breakfast, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.
Next week, I will be writing about the Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour that I went to yesterday! Enticing!
In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:
Skylight on: 30.10.14.
Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.
Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.
DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.
In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.
October is going to be smashing!
Watch this space!
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!
Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!
A win-win for all!
Thanks a million!
Category: France, French, history, INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL, motivation, MUSEUMS & GALLERIES, new media content creators, press, Press Trip, social media, the travel industry, THOUGHTS & IDEAS, TOURISM, TOURS, TRANSPORT, TRAVEL, Travel and Tourism, Visit, women in travel, writersTags: Atout France, Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, europe, European, FAM Trip, Fam trips, First World War, food, France, France Deutschland, French, French food, goose, how to, Lille, Nord-Pas de Calais, Nordfrankreich, North France, Northern France, paté, press, Press Trip, social media, stinky cheese, thalys, The Great War, The Louvre-Lens Museum, Travel and Tourism, war, war cemeteries, war memorials, World War I, WWI
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I'm a British girl from Manchester living in Berlin with my German husband and my half British – half German son. My blog is a lifestyle expat travel blog and puts a focus on my promotion of culture, history, travels around the world, Europe, Brexit, the Royal Family, British-German life and being British in Berlin - I am The British Berliner!
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wow – I admire your elite style and theme – You have first class presentation – well deserved. As far this post, incredible!
Awww! Thanks very much kmihran. That’s nice of you to say so!
10 very good reasons!!! Especially the food bit 🙂 . Nice write up, and l would do a short break there..big hint.!!! I saw Andre the Giant wrestle quite a few times!!! I actually think he’s from around there.
Thanks kemkem! Northern France is brilliant for a short trip and now that you’re in Spain. It shouldn’t be a problem LOL!
You’re right. Andre the Giant was a huge fellow. And he was French! Not quite from Nothern France but close enough, at the foot of the French Alps. I’ll give yyou full points anyway! 🙂 🙂
Oh. My. God. Food. Coma. And those tulips remind me of Super Mario 🙂 It looks like you had a really fantastic time.
Isn’t it? I was astonished at the food and delighted that we didn’t starve or were made to sing for our supper LOL! Those tulips were huge and reflect the city of Lille rather well. 🙂 🙂
I had a gorgeous time. Thanks so much Jenna. 🙂
What a trip! I would love to visit more of Europe, including France. Now I just have to wait for a warm summer. 🙂
Thanks babe. Er. A warm summer?! Ummm! Nothing can compete with Thailand (weather-wise) where you live LOL! Just come anyway. 🙂 You’ll have a delighful time. Whatever the weather. 🙂
So many things to do! Though I think I’d be perfectly happy spending my time there just eating French food and drinking French wine:)
Tell me about it Mitzie Mee. I needed to get out there and walk and climb and be active, otherwise I would have been stuffed!
I’d never really heard of this area either, but it sounds great! Anywhere you can get French food it’s the best in my eyes!
Thanks Catherine. I totally agree and I’m so glad that I went!
Wow, it sounds like you were well looked after on this trip! The food alone sounds epic (love the dessert pics) not to mention the sights! France never seems very exotic to me because it’s so close to home and I spent my childhood holidays camping there but I forget how beautiful it is. Definitely time to head back there when we’re next in Europe!
Thanks Amy. Indeed we were. Phew!
I have to say that the food was gorgeous and did France proud LOL! And yes, you’re right about France being just so near that Europeans don’t think of it as a place to go to anymore either because it’s expensive, or it’s “just-around-the-corner-so we’ll-go-later” hence the FAM trip, and the Northern France region as a selling point of “don’t-think-of-this-as-a-holiday-but-rather-a-long-weekend” type of thing! As far as the UK is concerned, France is still a romantic option, but the Germans are more skeptical and the language difficulty is a huge factor as to whether the average traveller would go to France instead of say, a German-speaking country, or a country in which German is considered a language of pride (Eastern Europe for example).
France, is and will always remain, a country of beauty and intrigue. I can’t wait to go again!
Wow, look at you go! 🙂 How absolutely fabulous, dahling! And I’m bloody hungry after reading all of that! See you later! 🙂
Thanks sweetheart! See you later tonight! 🙂 🙂
Oh, France. I miss you so. I love seeing Lille pop in and out of your blog – one of our favorites 😉
Thanks so much Annie! I really liked Lille and even though this was the first time that I had been to it, somehow I knew that I would!
You may not know that, but I am in love with French cuisine and once I got to Paris, I was eating pastries all day long and gained like 3 kg LOL!!! I was in a food heaven. By the way, your French chicken in Nord-Pas-de Calais looks so delicious!
You are such a cool babe Agness! I knew that I would like you when I meet you! I love French food too and let me just say that pretty much everyone who visits or lives in France, begins to get a little tighter at the waist LOL! I mean, the food, the desserts, the wine. It’s all go, go, go!
Thanks for your kind comments babe. I was awfully lucky to be on such a lovely press trip. 🙂
That looks and sounds like a fabulous press trip! Lucky you. So much great food and scenery.
I was just invited to one myself. A press trip for three days in Atlantic City. Casinos, food events, drinks, shows, etc. It’s not France but it’s just a three hours drive from NYC!
Thank you so much Phil. My first press trip was indeed awesome! Wow! Look at us. Press people! Many congratulations mate. You totally deserve this as you have worked so hard, and your blog is fantatsic. Sorry that it isn’t France (French shrug!) but I’m sure the Atlantic City will be 3 days to behold. 3 days of casino, food, events, and shows. You’re gonna have a blast! 🙂
Stinky cheese and goose pate is enough for me, but you make quite a case beyond it! I am strangely attracted to northern provinces – of France, Spain, Belgium, Italy… Not sure why that is.
Thank you Anna. My job is done (she bows)! These areas have gorgeous food and wonderful landscape. It’s no wonder you’re attracted. You have enormously good taste! 🙂
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Which Lille did you go to???? Lille is full of illegal migrants, aggressive homeless people and Muslim gangs who threaten people!! The Nord is nice, but Lille is a toilet and that is being generous….
Thank you for your comment Steve however, to be clear, I don’t condone racist remarks!
As you can see above, I went to Lille and saw nothing in the way that you described. I only write about places that I have personally been to, and my opinion of them while I was there.
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