Calais doesn’t seem the obvious place for a mini break, the majority of trucks and travellers leave or join the ferries and channel tunnel and continue on their way – but some do pause.
Carol Sadler, our travelling nutritionist, spent three nights in Calais on a tight budget and was pleasantly surprised.
Calais is a city for one night stands
Travellers for business or leisure often arrive in Calais in the evening, stay for a night’s rest and carry on with their journey the next day. Heavy traffic fills the trunk roads around Calais, but within the town, roads are quiet, it’s easy to get around and the restaurants and cafes have quality food at reasonable prices. There is a good choice of budget hotels where you can expect to pay around £25 per person per night, twin share. The main hazard you can expect from a cheap room is noise; packing ear plugs is essential for hotels stays everywhere and effortlessly takes care of this issue.
The cold buffet breakfast served in our hotel was pricey and didn’t offer the healthy fruit and grainy cereals we would have been tempted by, so we opted for cheap comfort food. Pain Et Levain on Rue Gutenberg served excellent coffee and was great value at €2.50 for a café au lait with a pastry. Delicious!
Volunteering in Calais
The purpose of our trip was a few days volunteering at a warehouse, sorting donations into useful packages for distribution to the refugee camps. We worked alongside Tom from Bristol, Pauline from Germany, two lovely Parisian ladies and a school teacher from Madrid.
The healthiest, tastiest food we ate was served by the amazing chef Blaise, who cooked for the masses. We ate chickpea and black lentil casserole, with perfectly cooked savoy cabbage and broccoli and steamed rice with pumpkin seeds. Day two was similar tasty vegetarian fare with salad instead of cooked greens. This meal is provided free of charge to volunteers.
After sorting clothing kits all day, we were ready for a good dinner. The local Brasseries served reasonably priced pizza, steak frit and seafood. To get more balanced cuisine we did very well at Au Cote d’Argent, which looked pricey at first glance, but with the two-course meal deal was excellent value. Delicious cream of endive soup, fish main courses and a 500ml bottle of wine was around €50 for two.
Calais could be pretty quiet in March, apart from the truckers and the ski trippers. Weirdly the migrant crisis has produced more bustle and business. Our fairly ordinary hotel restaurant fed at least thirty Police National each evening. The cafes and restaurants visibly had extra custom from the likes of us volunteer workers and we weren’t the only ones to stock up the car with stinky cheese and cheap French wine. Calais is no beauty spot, but we enjoyed blustery walks along the long pristine beach, the locals are friendly and we would happily do it all again.