A few weekends ago we were invited on an indulgent ‘girlie break’ in the chic coastal resort of Le Touquet. Located in Northern France (just an hour’s drive from Calais) and filled with boutiques, spas and more chocolate shops that you’re ever likely to see in one place, the town is known for being the playground of wealthy Parisians. Although we were unable to make it ourselves we asked our resident writer and Francophile Scott Balaam if he was up for the challenge. Just how would he cope with the spa treatments and all that shopping?
Normally my Saturday afternoons are spent watching football or at least following the results but last weekend was different. I swapped the football stadium and pints of beer for a spa and herbal tea in Le Touquet. I was to go on what had been labelled as a ‘girlie weekend’ but I didn’t let that put me off. I even got the okay from my lovely (and understanding) wife despite it just being me going with all-female group.
Chocolat de Beussent Lachelle
We caught the ferry from Dover to Calais, which brought back childhood memories of school trips, family holidays and booze cruises and our first stop was Chocolat de Beussent Lachelle, a traditional chocolate factory that opened in 1985 (surely every girl’s weekend should involve a little chocolate). It’s not just any chocolate factory – here they make every chocolate by hand using only the finest beans, mostly imported from Ecuador to ensure the best quality. You’ll learn about the careful art of chocolate making and get to indulge in a few chocolates yourself. If you visit make sure you give their specialty marshmallow sticks and to-die-for Crème brûlée a try.
Next, it was onto Le Touquet itself, a place that may not be that well known outside Europe but it’s a very chic resort, and judging by the long succession of swish hotels, it’s aimed at a wealthy crowd. The resort is also home to a beautiful long sandy beach complete with an elegant promenade. Visitors here would also be in very good company – it’s rumoured Ian Flemming was a regular (and even wrote Casino Royale in Hotel Westminster), along with Winston Churchill, PG Wodehouse, Noel Coward and the former Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson.
The resort is geared towards some serious shopping, and presentation is taken very seriously in Le Touquet. Aside from the traditional French market housed in an Art Deco covered area, there are also up-market boutiques stocking independent and designer labels, more shops selling Michelin-rated chocolates, typical French patisseries, excellent design and interior stores and of course a good handful of cheese and wine shops. Even the supermarkets in Le Touquet are decked out with a huge attention to detail.
Spas are another thing Le Touquet does very well and the pick of the bunch is the Thalassa Le Touquet – a lavishly decorated seawater spa that overlooks the beach. We indulged in four treatments: a ‘bain bouillonnant’ – a big whirlpool bath which gives you a full body massage at the same time, a ‘modelage’ one of the most relaxing massages I’d ever had, and a hydrojet, which involved lying face down on waterbed and having pumps massage your entire body.
After some vigorous pummelling and finally getting used to wandering around in a white dressing gown, it was time for the final treatment, the douche jet. To be honest I was more than a little nervous as I was told it involved standing in a corridor and being hosed down. To me it sounded like when Andy Dufresne first arrived in Shawshank prison but of course I needn’t have worried, it was definitely a lot more fun than that.
As evening falls Le Touquet takes it up a few gears – there are a dozen bars and pubs to choose from and if you’re planning a dinner out then there is definitely no shortage of exclusive restaurants either. Try Ricochet, which doesn’t serve up just your standard French fayre. I played it safe with marinated salmon in herbs, but if you’re feeling daring opt for the tomato crumble with homemade Parmesan ice cream (yes really). Also pay La Sole Meunière a visit for a ‘Fruits de Mer.’ I promise it will be the most seafood you’ll ever see on one plate.
With its French charm and a plentiful supply of boutiques, spas and coastal views Le Touquet does make a very relaxing retreat. It’s not just for all female groups – although of course, the resort caters for them very well – the area also offers a huge range of activities including sailing, sand yachting, horse riding, tennis, golf and even paint-balling. If you’re travelling from the UK, My Ferry Link offers some very reasonable deals. Prices start from £19 for a day return and £29 each way for any duration return for a car with up to 9 passengers.