Dunkirk......... anyone hearing that name could be forgiven for thinking of the troop evacuation from it beaches in 1940, but in the last 76 years Dunkirk has evolved into a town worthy of visiting and which was ‘Regional Capital of Culture 2013’.
For those travelling further afield Dunkirk is the perfect point of entry for routes to Belgium, Holland, Germany and beyond as well as for those who just want to visit a city that is steeped in history.
So how to get there……
DFDS operate the newest fleet of ferries on the cross channel routes, have 3 ships plying between Dover and Dunkirk, operating a 2 hour service around the clock Monday – Saturday and a Sunday service which is nearly as good. All ships have self service restaurants, bars, lounges and ‘Pirates Island’ a special play areas for children. For a small supplement enjoy the pleasures of the Seaview Lounge where complimentary, snacks, soft drinks, television, wi-fi, newspapers and baskets of fruit can be enjoyed from the comfort of arm chairs and settees with vistas of the ocean through large picture windows. Commercial drivers have their own area ‘Road Kings’, hot meals are included in the fare, but there is much more, showers, reclining chairs, sleeping area make this the perfect way for commercial drivers to cross the Channel.
For those staying in Dunkirk there is much to see and do. A local delicacy produced at the workshop of Jean-Daniel Vandewalle are ‘Aux Doigts de Jean Bart’ a calorie filled delicacy made from coffee cream and almond biscuit, coated in milk chocolate. The L'Atelier de Jean-Daniel at 6, Rue du Sud, really is worth a visit.
The ‘St. Eloi Belfry’ standing 58 metres high has World Heritage status. With the tourist office on the ground floor this is another ‘must visit’ whilst in Dunkirk. The internal lift takes you as far as the bell tower, then climb the narrow stone steps to access the viewing area affording views over the town, and beaches stretching to the Belgium border.
Over the years the Dunkirk has grown into a vibrant centre accommodating both the old and the new. Housing modern shops, supermarkets and boutiques but still tucked away in the older parts of town are small intimate restaurants for which the French are famous.
As said at the start, when mentioning Dunkirk, people can be forgiven for thinking of the great evacuation and ‘Operation Dynamo’ in 1940 where 1,400 British and French vessels of every types and size were used to evacuate 340,000 men to England in 9 days. A huge feat even by today’s standards. Dunkirk has evolved since then, but there is still a wonderful museum set in arches with the entrance flanked by the French and English flags. Within, see a film taken at the time showing the realism of it all, there are show cases exhibiting weapons, scenes and uniforms, preserved engines from aircraft and maps showing the advance and evacuation. Open every day during summer months’ entrance is 4 Euro but free to 1939-1945 veterans.
Dunkirk, now a modern town, but steeped in history, a harbour filled with craft of different sizes including the immaculately preserved Paddle Steamer, Princess Elizabeth that took part in the evacuation. The old and the new blend together so well, and, not forgetting the beautiful beaches stretching up to the Belgium border and beyond, it is a must to visit. The people are friendly, comfortable hotels, restaurants with the style and flair that only French Cuisine can offer and at reasonable prices. The suggestion is, try it, you won’t be disappointed.
Having sampled the aforementioned delights including a comfortable nights sleep at the Ibis Hotel, it is time to head back to the port. Today is a very important land mark in the history of DFDS, not just celebrating its birth in Denmark 150 years ago with the merging of Denmark’s 3 largest steam ship company’s of the day but the opening of the new DFDS Dunkirk passenger area. A joint venture between the Port of Dunkirk and DFDS at a cost of €14.88Miliion with facilities occupying 70 acres incorporating the ticket office, administrative offices, check-in barriers and installations necessary for controls by the French and British authorities to make the transit procedures clearer for passengers, staff facilities. Renovated is the ferry terminal now proudly flying the flag and bearing the insignia of DFDS. The terminal building is spacious with a separate play area for children, comfortable seating and vending machines offering a mix of hot and cold drinks with tasty snacks.
The opening ceremony attended by officials not only from the Port of Dunkirk and DFDS but also representatives of the Gendarmerie, French Customs and Coast Guard Service resplendent in their uniforms with insignias glinting in the early spring sunshine. As the ribbon is cut musicians strike up the national anthems of The United Kingdom and France, video cameras record and cameras click as the journalist’s present press forward for better views and pictures. The result, a joint operation between DFDS and the Port of Dunkirk that has not just brought better passenger facilities but systems that have improved access to the terminal from the motorways, increased the pre-boarding parking areas, improved safety and security with a new double fence and surveillance cameras and finally that facet which everyone wants…………………faster boarding.
Get ready to be welcomed aboard one of the new DFDS ferries.
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
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