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Chateau Museum The Chateau Comtal was built during the medieval period but its foundations date back to Roman times and it was strengthened by Louis XIV’s military engineer the great Vauban. Napoleon III was imprisoned here in 1840 and after WWI the body of the British Unknown Soldier lay here in state on the way to be buried in Westminster Abbey. It is now home to a museum displaying many artefacts that include an Egyptian art collection. It’s a little dated but good for a rainy day visit and there are some fascinating exhibitions. Nausicaa Nausicaa, the National Sea centre of France is listed by UNESCO as a “Center of Excellence”. It opened a brand new state of the art extension in spring 2018 which has made it one of the largest aquariums in the world, certainly the biggest in Europe – and it is spectacular. Giant tanks fill the new space and we mean giant. The “Big Tank” holds 10,000m³ of water – that’s enough water to fill four Olympic swimming pools. It is an awesome sight. You can walk right up to it and come face to face with shark, manta rays and shoals of fish. Or you can sit and watch, mesmerised, from benches in front of the tank, it’s strangely relaxing and hypnotic. There are almost 60,000 creatures, 1,600 species, living in the huge underwater world of Nausicaa, as well as a few above water too including penguins. The oldest resident is a sand tiger shark and the biggest resident is the wonderfully intelligent sea lion Speedy. It takes 7km of piping to move all the water round, a massive 17,000 m³ in total. You’ll often spot divers in the tanks cleaning the copious amount of glass with sharks, sea lions and fish of all sorts swishing close by. You get a real feel for what life is like under the ocean.
Beach Breezy for sure but the long sandy beach is great for a breath of fresh air – in fact Charles Dickens came here for the sea air and stayed for three years, bringing his family out to join him. He claimed it was his “favourite watering hole in France”. It was once a very popular beach though less so now and in the 1700s hordes of Britons flocked to Boulogne to enjoy the sea air and the laissez faire attitude of the locals. If the tide is out, wander to the Napoleonic fort on the beach at Le Portel and collect mussels for your dinner as people have for centuries. Climb Napoleon’s column Napoleon Bonaparte spent three years in Boulogne planning an invasion of England. He stayed in a mansion called the Imperial Palace, now a university building, at the Place Godefroy de Bouillon, Napoleon built 2000 boats and was so sure of success he had a victory column erected. His ambitions didn’t go to plan, but the colonnade remains, topped by a statue of the Emperor. You can climb the 296 stairs for a fabulous view across the Channel with the White Cliffs of Dover clearly visible on a fine day. A short walk away, a stone marks the spot where Napoleon issued the first Legion d’Honneur, in fact 2000 of them, sat on a throne, surrounded by 100,000 soldiers. If you’ve no head for heights check out the little museum at the base of the Column which is full of fascinating documents, medals and the original Napoleon statue which was damaged by bombs in WWII. La maison de la beuriere Step back in time at an authentic ancient mariner’s cottage. Climb the steps up the rue du Machicoulis, near Nausicaa, and you’ll find a fisherman’s 19th century house furnished, and with staff dressed in costume.
Here in the sticks, in the lovely S