Before we hopped the pond, I convinced a friend to join me on an extended day-long bus trip to the fishing village of Boulogne-sur-Mer in France. This was big; it was her first whole day away from her kids for fun in 10 years. Thankfully our husbands were able to work out a work schedule that freed them up for kid duty in a very hectic, busy time. I knew nothing of this town, and started to entertain ideas of regret as our bus approached Boulogne-sur-Mer along the waterfront. We were greeted by weary sea-blasted, worn buildings – all seemingly closed.
We stepped off the bus at the fish market. I made a mental note to cook more fish. What an impressive selection! In minutes I understood that the locals weren’t used to English visitors and, particularly, speaking English.
We wandered in the general direction of the bus driver’s pointed finger, on the hunt for breakfast. There was a coffee shop I bookmarked on Trip Advisor. We couldn’t find it in real life. (Silly us, we thought that the driver, as our tour guide, would have provided maps.) Up the hill we went, dodging dog shit and vomit slicks past nightclubs that exhausted thirty-something moms would hardly have any interest visiting. We snaked side streets back down the hill in hopes of finding a decent croissant and perhaps the brilliant market that was promised. We found a market. It was far from bustling, though in a certain way vibrant. We also found chocolate croissants, which made us feel much better about the day, even if the worker at the bakery was startled by our pronunciation of the word. And then… we wandered our way to the proper market. The lovely town center around a sturdy stone church.
Does anyone else instinctively drool around rows and rows of beautiful produce? Fresh eggs and butter? French cheese? Ooooo, I want to go back!
Having oriented ourselves, we found the city’s most noted cathedral and its moated castle, amidst a proper tourist area that felt much more like the destination we had expected.
The castle held a museum with an eclectic collection of art, from Greek urns and Egyptian artifacts from the Louvre to modern paintings. Admission includes a tour of the catacombs, too.
The Notre-Dame Basilica isn’t a particularly old cathedral, having been built in the mid 1800’s atop of ruins from a previous cathedral that was destroyed in the revolution. Nonetheless the interior is beautiful.
To be honest, I was most excited to eat. If you don’t have small children, you may not appreciate how magnificent it is to sit and eat a meal FOR YOURSELF. Fresh fish for lunch. Crepes. Another stop at the bakery. At your own pace, without interruption, with adult conversation. It’s one of life’s finest pleasure. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t even bother to take pictures.
We capped off our day with a half-hearted perusal of the shopping district. Then back to the bus for the journey home. Many families with small children took this trip, too, to see the town’s aquarium, so the ride back was less than restful. But the crying kids weren’t ours.
We should all be so lucky to have the opportunity to spend a day in a new place with a friend. Getting to know her, sharing stories and learning from her about things I normally don’t think to wonder were a wonderful bonus to our day away.