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Summer Serenity By The Bay

Selling Seafood at Roadside Stands at Le Crotoy on the Baie de la Somme, Picardie

Summer Serenity by the Bay

Parler Paris–your taste of life in Paris and France

Monday, August 16, 2004
Paris, France

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Dear Parler Paris Reader,

It’s mid August and Paris is as much like a ghost town as I’ve ever seen it. In the touristic areas, the outdoor cafés are bustling, but in the Parisian neighborhoods, a majority of the shops are closed, there is nary a car on the streets, much less a human. This weekend was especially “tranquille” with “Assomption” celebrated on Sunday, so families were gathered together relaxing in their country homes or sunning on the beaches before “La Rentrée” hits town the beginning of September.

My advice, should you choose to stay in Paris for the Summer as I have, is to make friends with people who have country homes! We invited ourselves to one overnight at our friend’s “maison de village” in Le Crotoy on the Baie de la Somme in Picardie. It’s about two hours from Paris by car along the A16 first to Abbeville Nord and then in the direction of Saint-Valery sur Somme. From Paris you travel along small rolling hills, through farmland heavily planted with corn and wheat. At this time of year, the round bales of hay have been freshly rolled and sit symmetrically placed like checkers on a checkerboard awaiting their next move.

As you exit the Autoroute onto the two-lane roads, the scene is almost surrealistically pristine — colorful pots of flowers line the roads, manicured lawns and trees dress the eclectic style homes, bike paths parallel the motorway, no neon or billboards…just man-made landscaping “extraordinaire.”

The village is made up of small two-story houses, attached one to the other, landing directly onto narrow sidewalks, filling the knob of land that makes up Le Crotoy. Our friend’s house was once a corner café and couldn’t be more centrally located as it’s directly across the street from the Town Hall. A few steps away is the main shopping street and within moments, you’re at the port, where you can buy fresh seafood just brought in that morning from “poissoneries” and roadside stands and where there is inevitably lots of activity at the outdoor cafés and restaurants.

We lined up along with the locals awaiting our turns and took home enormous oily sardines to grill, large skate fins (stingray) to poach (“Raie au Beurre”), spicy “bulots” (sea snails) to dip into homemade “aioli” and gourmandized ourselves under the blue sky on the enclosed patio. In the afternoon, we visited nearby towns by car, one of which named “Le Touquet Paris-Plage” claims to have been the first “Paris Plage” for more than a century.

Le Crotoy’s history was born at the same time as the sand on which it sits. During the Middle Ages, it was an active commercial port with routes between Abbeville, Amiens and Corbie, but the Hundred Years War ended that prosperity. Jeanne d’Arc was imprisoned there by the British in 1430 before crossing the bay toward Rouen. The castle where she was held was destroyed in 1674 by Louis XIV. Jules Verne left Paris to set up a house there, bought his first boat in Crotoy in 1867 (the “Saint-Michel”) and there wrote “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Other French celebrities connected with Crotoy are Guerlain, the perfumer, Toulouse Lautrec, Colette, Anatole France…not to mention my friend.

This weekend Le Crotoy was especially lively thanks to the “Kermesse aux moules” (village fair celebrating mussels!) and an evening of dancing at the place Jeanne d’Arc, sponsored by the “Sapeurs Pompiers” (firemen). The sun was shining brightly at 6 p.m. as we raised our glasses to a mere 24 hours of R and R by the sea and watched the townsfolk and vacationers take the horse drawn carriage rides, chomp on “moules et frites,” roll up their pants to gather up clams on the beach and while away their Summer days in serenity by the bay.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. I’ll be talking more about life in this part of France in this week’s edition of French Property Insider. For more information and to subscribe, visit /frenchproperty/insider Also note there more new apartments for rent in Paris, so be sure to visit the apartment rental page at /parlerparis/apartments

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* Further resources:

* Take home special memories of Paris — have you portrait painted or photographed.

* Learn how to live and invest in France! Meet with us in Washington, DC this September.

* Learn things about Paris you never expected to know…realizing the true depth of this magnanimous city…Paris Confidential.

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French Property Insider is an e-mail newsletter from the editors of Parler Paris. If you’d like to learn about the insights, recommendations, and discoveries about buying and investing in real estate in Paris and France that French Property Insider readers get every week, read more about a subscription here: or call 1-800-643-2479.

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