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The 2021 lockdown will at least have had this effect: we are rediscovering the surrounding beauty. Less than 2 hours from Paris by TER (local train), get onboard to Rue, your ticket for an escape to the Bay of Somme (Baie de Somme), aka the kingdom of seals and saltwort.
Rue, your home base
Yes, a town called Rue is unusual! It will be your base for visiting the Bay, with more affordable rates than in Le Crotoy or Saint Valéry, and benefiting from a direct train from Paris. L’hôtel Caudron offers a rather nice half-board stay. The complete set menu of starter, main course and dessert offers home-made northern specialities, such as Potjevleesch, fish terrines and meats…with Maroilles sauce (a smelly cheese), of course. You can appreciate the vintage aeronautical decoration. Indeed, the Caudron brothers were aviation pioneers and flew their biplane on the nearby beach of Le Crotoy. There is a small museum about the flying brothers to visit in the center of Rue.
Saint-Valéry, an air of holidays
Saint Valéry sur Somme is a 20 minute drive away from Rue, or a bit longer if you prefer a cycle ride, and is a great change of scenery without having to take the holiday motorway. The town has a lot to offer: a walk on the dyke, hikes, a visit to the medieval ramparts (apparently Joan of Arc passed through one of the gates), narrow flowery streets, charming shops where you can pick up a sailor’s jumper, an antique train, a dugout canoe that makes you feel like you’re in the Amazon, or the departure of the Charcot boats to go and see the seals. Oh and many restaurants! My favourite is the Café de Jeanne for its excellent value for money. At only 24 euros for starter/main course or main course/dessert, the set menu offers local specialities such as ficelle Picarde (a filled pancake) or mussels with salicornia, these small wild green plants that grow in the salt marshes. In addition, the fisherman’s plate as a starter brings together shrimps, oysters and whelks.
LA POINTE DU HOURDEL, THE DOMAIN OF THE SEALS
And with all this, when do we see the seals? Yes, because it is only in the Bay of Somme that you can admire the largest colony of grey seals and seal calves in France! To observe the 600 beach sloths, go to the north of Cayeux, to the Pointe du Hourdel, at the foot of a blockhouse. After about 45 minutes on foot (remember to take off your shoes unless you like clay soles) you will arrive at the long awaited viewpoint. Not too difficult to find, you’ll see a bunch of enthusiasts armed with binoculars and spotting scopes, which you’re advised to take with you if you want to see more than a little white spot in the distance.
Le Crotoy, seaside town
If you stop by Le Crotoy, you’ll enjoy relaxing on the wide beach, watching the swimmers battle the current, the brave athletes on their paddles, the windsurfers and the walkers. The poppies and cornflowers at the foot of the Hotel des Tourelles, overhung by a vibrant red, offer a lovely view. The Saint-Pierre Church is also worth a visit for its nautical decoration: fishing nets and wooden boats decorate the walls and ceilings. In this pretty town, you can enjoy grey shrimps to take away or mussels (with salicornia of course). Make sure you book in advance if you come on a Sunday as the restaurants are very busy.
Don’t waste time, book fast!