Discover Northern France around Le Quesnoy, where history merges with culture and scenic charm. Roam through Arras and Lens for historic architecture and WWI sites, soak in Lille’s lively markets, or unwind amidst Cambrai’s tranquil countryside while savoring its exquisite culinary offerings.
A short drive from Le Quesnoy, you will find the Commonwealth cemeteries in Vertigneul and Romeries. This is where a number of New Zealand soldiers are buried. The town of Beaudignies is also a notable stop, where the NZ troops passed through before liberating Le Quesnoy. From Le Quesnoy, take the route de Valenciennes, to the town of Valenciennes, and enjoy a luxurious stay at the Royal Hainaut Resort & Spa, a former military hospital and one of France’s finest (and largest) renovation projects to date. A lovely restaurant in Valenciennes which sports rustic charm is called l’Auberge du Bon Fermier.
For history buffs, Valenciennes is where you can be based to conduct an independent or organised battlefields tour – Valenciennes is just over one hour to Ypres, Arras and Amiens (Passchendaele, Flanders Fields and the Somme). In the town of Ypres, hear the Last Post poignantly played at Menin Gate at 8pm. Visit the Ypres Salient battlefields including Hill 60, Polygon Wood, the Passchendaele Memorial and Tyne Cot Cemetery. A number of war museums are located in this vicinity. The Wellington tunnels in Arras are also a spectacular experience and particularly poignant for New Zealand visitors. The Amiens cathedral is a beautiful architectural masterpiece and features a reference to New Zealand soldiers. For the adventurous, there are many bike tours available that connect many destinations of the North with its gentle gradient being quite accessible.
In the neighbouring towns, Musée de la Piscine (an Art Museum) in Roubaix, Musée Matisse (Matisse museum) in Le Cateau-Cambrésis and Cambraiscope in Cambrai are worth the detour.
The town of Saint-Amand-des-Eaux, famous for its Olympic Games fervour, as well as its spa resort, is home to the Abbey Tower, known in French as Tour abbatiale, and is well worth visiting. The Opale Coast, where the Atlantic meets the Channel, features beautiful, wind-swept beaches, including Hardelot (famous for its sand dunes), Wimereux (for its classic villas) and Le Touquet (for its luxury resort-style character). Wind-karting is a popular sport along these coastlines. An afternoon trip to Dunkirk is also interesting from a World War Two perspective. In July, the Dunkirk Carnival and the Giants parading through the streets further afield in Douai are not to be missed, as well as the brocante markets scattered around the region which sell their wares from May until July.
Lille is known as the cultural capital of France. Boasting a wide range of gastronomical delights, the restaurants showcase the best of Northern French Cuisine. An international acclaimed light festival in April, and a jazz festival in May are some of the cultural events featured on its calendar. A visit to Villa Cavrois in Croix is a small detour which will captivate those with a keen interest in modern architecture.
Also in Lille, The Citadelle, a spectacular star-shaped formation of ramparts, by Vauban, is a beautiful place to unwind in nature and take in the scenery by foot. The market in Wazzemes, (one of the largest markets in France) provides a culturally diverse setting with fresh fruit and vegetables available most weekends. The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille holds a wonderful collection of beautifully curated artwork.
We recommend booking B&B or home-stay style accommodation through the Gites du Nord website as AirBNB options can be limited in the North.
There are luxurious Art Deco hotels in Lille as well as plenty of beautiful castles near to Le Quesnoy (Château de Ruesnes, Château d’en Haut Jenlain, Logis Hôtel la Gentilhommière) and campsites. Booking is essential and be sure to check opening days and times of restaurants and tourist activities ahead of visiting to avoid disappointment.
Photo: Château de Ruesnes, source: Tout l’agenda – Avesnois Tourisme
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