Quick French getaway on the Belgian National Holiday

July 21. The Belgian National Holiday. And what do I do? I go across the border for a day out in France. Oops, bye national pride.

I live only about twenty minutes away from the French border, so when the entire family is home we easily end up crossing the border to discover France’s beauty. This time we headed for the St-Omer region, which the intention of visiting St-Omer, Clairmarais and Cassel.

After an hour drive, we arrived in Saint-Omer and were luckily able to park on the Place du Maréchal Foch. From there it’s only a short walk to the Tourist Office which was the obvious first stop since we hadn’t really prepared a lot for this rather spontanious getaway. But while it might have been a short walk, we managed to spend quite a long time to locate the place. Guess my dad’s navigation skills aren’t really on point after all.

The Tourist Office can be found close to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, on Place Victor Hugo. The lady operating the place offered us a map of the city and quickly showed us all the highlights of the city so we were quickly on our way.

Since we were already close to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, we first headed there to inspect this majestic building.

The rest of the city we discovered by foot. It’s a nice place to just walk through and see whatever comes your way since it’s doesn’t have many sightseeing points. I especially loved the beautiful city park. I wish we had brought a picknick because there are many lovely spots that would have been perfect for one.

A little bit out of the actual center of the city, you can also find the Ruins of the Abbey of Saint Bertin, an Abbey which was built in the 7th century and destroyed starting from 1792. It’s nothing really spectacular but when you’re this close, you just can’t skip it. The park around it is also really lovely.

In the afternoon, we headed for our next stop of the day; Clairmarais. The city center doesn’t offer anything, but it’s most famous for it’s marches. There are many walking tours but most take a couple of hours. Thé thing to do is to rent a boat to see the canals up close. For 29 euros you can rent a heat engine boat (seats up to six people) for one hour and take a really beautiful route over water. There is also a two hours and three hour tour and you can also choose a rowing boat or electric boat.

Our last stop was Cassel. Since it was already getting quite late, we didn’t have a lot of time to see a lot of this place. We first went up to the panoramic view at the top of mount Cassel. There you can also find the statue and monument of Maréchal Foch. Then we went down to the ‘Grande Place’. This is a lovely square with many lovely cafes to enjoy a drink.

And then it was time to head back to Belgium. I really had a great day in Nord Pas-De-Calais and I’m sure I’ll go back to Clairmarais with friends to discover more of the beautiful marches. That definitely was the highlight of our day!

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