The first leg of our big trip for the year started off with another tropical heatwave, the third this summer I think, pre-rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic all around Antwerp, yet another attempt to see Dover from Cap Gris-Nez, and my French food fix wonderfully fulfilled in my first-ever visit to Calais. Not a bad start at all.
Since the train that would bring us and our trusty subcompact into the UK was leaving on the early side, we decided to splurge on time by departing Amsterdam a little earlier, beating the afternoon rush, and spending the night closer to the Eurotunnel in Calais. The local Holiday Inn was good enough for a layover but our first meal of the trip had to have some gravitas – in this case, thankfully, Histoire Ancienne didn’t fail to satisfy. From the attractive storefront to the beautiful interiors, it was a terrific reintroduction to classic, approachable French dining – and once the foie gras hit our table I knew our holiday was full on.
After stuffing myself to a near food coma – generous servings of the tenderest veal and ice cream-stuffed profiteroles were deadly – we took a short walk around the neighborhood to burn off the billions of calories and get a feel for the city. Gritty-looking locals aside, the area looked promising despite some questionable kitschiness here and there. The impressive city hall was clearly a highlight but I was scratching my head looking at all the busy-looking ‘art’ structures all around it. Less is more isn’t the prevailing theme in these parts. If anything, our meal is probably the best thing about this city, so far at least, and one that I wouldn’t mind visiting time and again. If this trip of ours is a success, Calais and Histoire Ancienne might be the perfect stop each time.