Monday, May 19, 2014

The ABC's of Dunkirk, France

If you are a WWII history buff, then you know all about Operation Dynamo in 1940.
It's an amazing story of bravery and courage.  Over 300,000 British, French and Belgium soldiers were evacuated across the English Channel by an unlikely fleet of 800 boats.  That amazing fleet included military ships as well as the 'little ships',  lifeboats, fishing boats and pleasure crafts, vessels of all shapes and sizes.

The setting for this miraculous rescue that changed the course of the war was Dunkirk, France.
The 'Miracle of Dunkirk' is a story that is very close to Matthew's heart.
His grandfather was in Dunkirk in 1940 and became separated from his command.
He was one of the many soldiers that were captured, marched to Poland to spend
the next five years as a prisoner of war.

Dunkirk, France

Operation Dynamo is an epic moment in the story of Dunkirk.
But, we were invited to spend the weekend in Dunkirk to experience everything else that
this city in Northern France has to offer

 Matthew and I both have a passion for visiting coastal cities.
There is just something special about how that water winds its way through every aspect of life.
Dunkirk is the third largest port in France and has a rich maritime history.
So, it's only appropriate that we arrived by sea.
A two-hour ferry ride from Dover and it was time to explore Dunkirk and the surrounding area.

Dunkirk is located on the Northern Coast of France, just miles from  the French- Belgium border in an area known as Flanders.  It started as a fishing village in the middle ages and has been in the hands of the French, Spanish, English and Dutch at one time or another.  The story of this port city is full of kings and pirates, battles and intrigue.

Remember that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, The Man in the Iron Mask?
It's based on the true story of a political prisoner who was arrested in Dunkirk.
The town hero is a man named Jean Bart who was an infamous corsair with quite a colorful reputation. 

On our first morning, we took a walk through Malo Les Bains, the seaside resort of Dunkirk
that was established in the late 1800's.  The architecture was lovely and a nice surprise.  Wealthy families built the most beautiful homes as they discovered the many joys of living near the sea.


Our stroll led us straight to the beach promenade that runs along the water.
There are terraced restaurants and outdoor dining along the way.
The weather was a bit chilly but can't you just imagine this place in the summer?

I fell in love with these adorable beach huts.
Dunkirk is known for it's watersports; sailing, sand yachting, canoeing, and kite surfing.
Longe côte was founded in Dunkirk and looks like quite a work out.
You walk through the surf with water up to your waist using a paddle to help propel you.
Wide, clean, sandy, white beaches are just waiting for the sun lovers to show up.

 A visit to the city center was next on the agenda.  It's not a European city without a gothic church at it's center that been rebuilt and restored numerous times.  The Saint-Eloi Church was founded in the 7th Century, burned down a few years later, rebuilt in the 18th Century, revamped in the 19th Century.

 Across the street you'll find the church's belfry that was constructed in the 13th Century.  It's detached from it's church because of a fire in 1558. The belfry has been restored and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's home to 50 bells which ring every quarter hour.  We timed our climb up to the top perfectly so that we weren't inside the enclosed spiral staircase when they started to chime.  For just a few euros, you get the most magnificent views of Dunkirk and the surrounding area.  (An elevator takes you part of the way up.)

Our wonderful guide for the weekend, Laurence, was eager to show us "the magic ABC of arts, beaches and cuisine."
 I've told you a little about the beaches today.  My next two posts will cover the art and the cuisine.
I'll also post more details about our DFDS Ferry experience.

Three times this week I've responded "merci" to a waiter as they served my food.
In London.

After two trips in two months, my heart is still in France.
I can't even tell you how much fun I had last weekend with the girls in Provence.
We drank all the rosé and I haven't laughed so much (and so loudly) in way too long.

I can't wait to show you more.  I hope you'll follow along.

Have you taken a ferry from England to France?


We were the guests of Dunkirk's Office of Tourism for our stay in Dunkirk.
  All photos, writing and opinions are my own.
As always, I promise to be open, honest and transparent with my readers.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


  1. I took a ferry from France to England many, many years ago (I was even young!). I'd love to visit Dunkirk in the summertime, its history seems so rich, and I love coastal towns and French food!

  2. Can't wait to hear about your Provence trip, so glad it was fun!

  3. I have taken a ferry to France, I went to Normandy recently and it was lovely. But what happend to Matthew's grandfather?

  4. Never took the ferry, but visited Normandy with the family to visit all the big WWII sites. We had the same chilly weather as you, but your pictures show a colorful side that we didn't see in November.

  5. Ooh, I love that gorgeous architecture in Malo les Bains! And I have fallen in love with those beach huts, too, and I haven't even seen them in person :) Thanks for giving me another place to add to my list of Future Travel Destinations! Looking forward to the next few posts!

  6. Selena, Wow. I can't believe his grandfather was a POW for five years. Tragic. I'll bet that really does bring the experience right home. I've not taken the ferry from the UK to France...but I've taken many, many other ferries. I love a ferry!

  7. I love the architecture and all the lovely details!

  8. It looks like a very charming place to be. It looks so different from 'my France' that if I didn't know that that's where you were, I never would have guessed :)

  9. Thanks so much for reading & commenting Marta. Yay for French food!!!

  10. I'm finally caught up & will start editing next week. I can't wait to hear about your trip to the UK. Was so much fun following along on Instragram. You're kids are such good little travelers.

  11. His father spent five years in POW camp and was released at the end of the war. He lived many more years, but never really spoke to the family about his time during the war. They've tried to piece everything together recently and have found some old photos of him in the camp. Your trip to Normandy looked wonderful and I'm so excited to read about your cruise!

  12. The history is so interesting and it's such a pretty area. Not to mention the food!!

  13. Aren't they adorable? I'd love to revisit in the summer.

  14. I would love to experience your France. Sending hugs your way.

  15. I can't wait to hear about yours with your dad and brother! You guys covered some serious ground!

  16. It was a nice weekend away and so easy to get to from London.

  17. I love ferries, too. His grandfather dies when Matt was about six. But, he never talked about his experiences during the war. He suffered until his death with health problems from his time in the camp. I'd love to know more of the stories.

  18. Thanks for commenting, Christy. The huts are too cute. I don't know about you but my travel list is endless.


Thanks for commenting. I love to hear from you!