Visit the seaside and Shakespeare at Hardelot Plage

When the summer comes, try a visit to Hardelot Plage. This small town is a seaside resort lying on the northern French coast between Boulogne and Le Touquet. It is within very easy reach of the port at Calais and looks out across the Channel towards England. Families with children will love a visit. Hardelot is one of the official 38 ‘Kids’ resorts in France. They provide additional security and protection for children. Hardelot has so much to offer all people though.

Hardelot seafrontThe town embraces 13 kilometres of tidy and clean sandy beaches and all is chic, polished and sophisticated. The immediate sea front area is home to superbly maintained beach huts, top notch shops and sand yachting. On the inland side of town rests a greatly restored chateau at the centre of a wonderfully preserved country park. This area is home to much wildlife, natural forestry and a brand new contemporary Shakespearean theatre built with timber panels and bamboo struts. The architect is an Englishman and he presently lives in Paris.

I visited Hardelot in the autumn but town life remained busy and elegant. The sport of sand yachting thrives all year round. The famous French aviator, Louis Bleriot, started it all up. He invented the ‘Aeroplage’, the forerunner of the modern sand yacht. The flat and wide beach open to the elements is an ideal location for pursuing this sport. Kite flying is also popular on the sands and the town presents many opportunities for canoeing with the children too.

Town shops were busy and many offered very sophisticated goods and services. Restaurants were all pretty full and offered stylishly prepared cuisine. Hotels were plentiful and of high quality. For families of course, they provided great value for money.

Hardelot ChateauBetween the beach frontage and the more inland chateau and park area, domestic housing was conspicuously prestigious, varied and graceful. In this area there were many opportunities to take part in other sports. Two golf courses exist in the town and are open to non members. The ‘Pins’ course is one of these with its 18 holes. It is said to be the most ‘technical’ in France. Horse riding and training is available for children and there is a pony club for the youngsters.

In the north east corner of the town, visitors will find the chateau. This is the Chateau d’Hardelot and is a medieval ruin converted into a Tudor style large fortified house. It was restored to its present state by its 19th century British owner, Sir John Whitney. It is dominant, impressive and is a symbol of French and English entente cordiale flying a flag split by the two nation’s emblems. King George V used to stay there.

The grounds amongst the protected park land are home now to an impressive, contemporary theatre. The English architect is Andrew Todd. He is an Oxbridge graduate and he now also practices as a jazz musician elsewhere in France.

Shakespeare TheatreThe theatre is constructed of wood and bamboo and meets all modern design requirements to fulfil safety and fire resistance rules. It emerges from the surrounding old lime tree woodland as a superb modern contrast. It is impressively two stories high and provides 388 seats arranged in such a way that everyone can view both the stage and all other visitors at the same time. The theatre is referred to as ‘Shakespearean’ but presents many different theatrical performances. It looks a little like the recent globe theatre on the south bank in London. That, it seems, is the root of its culture. It provides for all tastes though and desires to bring the history of drama into the 21 first century. It rests in the countryside and keeps a low profile but if visitors find it, they will love it. I found it in the shadow of the cultivated manor house just outside the castle fortifications.

Town housingIronically, the first performance at the theatre was presented as a symbol of European solidarity. It took place on the 24th June 2016. The day after the British referendum.

The theatre is supported by a separate cafe and restaurant presenting itself in the best of styles. There is a beautiful grand piano amongst the seats that players can try out for themselves.

Hardelot is a charming, civilizing oasis to visit. Adults and children will find so much to enjoy in what is actually quite a small town. It rests just north of Le Touquet which is brimming with the finer things of life on the Cote d’Opale. My impression though, was that Le Touquet suited the affluent, but Hardelot was for the seaside connoisseur.

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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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