How about combining a hike in France’s great outdoors and a tour of the country’s emerging breweries? A recently released guidebook does just that, in the Hauts-de-France, named European Region of Gastronomy for 2023 and hub of French beer culture.
Written by beer enthusiast and child of the local region, Damien Courroux, the book offers no fewer than 40 walking itineraries and “the most refreshing way to see the Hauts-de-France“. We present here a translation of a hike in the port-city of Calais leading to the mysterious but refreshing Bière du Dragon. Whether you’ve just hopped off the ferry and feel like strecthing your legs, or want to explore the city in a different way, put on some sturdy shoes and pull out your map for a pleasant walk followed by a beer in Calais.
Located between the cliffs of Cap Blanc-Nez and the Platier d’Oye nature reserve, Calais beach, the longest on the coast, has been home to a dragon since a sacred stone under the sea was moved, thus opening up the Porte du Nordet which protects the surface of the earth from buried worlds… The dragon, imagined by François Delarozière, has escaped and now walks on the dyke. If you want to include a commented journey on the back of a dragon, before leaving for your hike, remember to book your place on the Compagnie du Dragon website!
Type: a loop starting and ending at the Cité du Dragon
Which map to use: IGN2103ET
Facing the Cité du Dragon, go left to reach Calais beach. Follow the Dragon Walk along the sea wall. A little further, pass the beach cabins. Once at Blério-Plage, continue along the seafront following the GR145, the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route linking Canterbury to Rome. After the Via Francigena information board, head left leaving the North Sea at your back to reach the Avenue de la Plage. Go past the cemetery on your right and, at the stop sign, turn left onto rue Vigier as far as the Gaston Berthe dike. Take the rue du Régiment de la Chaudière opposite, slightly off to the left. At the end, continue to the right along rue du Maréchal Leclerc. Once on Boulevard du General de Gaulle, walk to the left. At the roundabout, cross to follow the path along the Pierrettes canal on the right. At the very end sits Fort Risban, built in 1346 by Edward III of England to prevent any supplies reaching from the sea and thus plunge the city into famine.
Cross the canal to the right by the Henri Hénon bridge and continue along the Esplanade des Sauveteurs en Mer. At the roundabout, turn left onto Boulevard des Alliés towards the Calais lighthouse, dating from 1848, which can be visited. After climbing the 271 steps, you can enjoy a 360° view and even see the white cliffs of Dover in England in good weather. At the foot of the lighthouse, turn right onto rue Constant Dupont then, at the give way, turn right onto rue des Thermes and then take the third left to place d’Armes. Cross it towards the Tour du Guet, the oldest monument in Calais. This 13th century tower, the centre of a medieval castle and transformed into a lighthouse until 1848, withstood the bombardments of the Second World War.
Take rue Royale on the left in the opposite direction, then take the first left, rue du Duc de Guise. Turn right onto rue Adolphe Devot, then left onto rue Edmond Roche and right again, rue Ernest Lejeune to reach rue Richelieu where the Museum of Fine Arts of Calais is located. The room “Rodin, from Paris to Calais” presents studies and variants of the monument of the Burghers of Calais by the illustrious sculptor. On the first floor, in the space “Alice, her mirror, her wonders”, works from the permanent collection are confronted with works of contemporary art.
At the end of rue Richelieu, turn left onto boulevard Georges Clemenceau following the sign “Hôtel de Ville”. Pass the tourist office, then cross the George V bridge to join the Jacquard boulevard. Just before the station, you can admire a work of street art by KogaOne, commissioned as part of the graffiti festival “JAM EXTEND’Art” which offers a tour of the city around 40 graffiti artworks. After the station, at the roundabout, turn left to reach rue Paul Bert. In front of you, the belfry dominates the city from its height of 75 m. Open to visitors, it will reveal all its secrets to you. At its feet is Rodin’s famous sculpture Les Bourgeois de Calais, whose slow procession towards death evokes the tragic outcome of the siege of the city in 1346 by the army of King Edward III of England. Indeed, these six notables agreed to sacrifice themselves in exchange for saving the lives of all the inhabitants.
A little further on, just before the Mollien bridge, turn right onto the Quai du Lieutenant Andrieux. Rue Jean Jaurès, turn left to join the quai du Commerce and follow the canal from Calais to Saint-Omer. Pass in front of the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode, located at no. 135. Installed in a 19th century lace factory, this museum presents the techniques of making lingerie and its use in haute couture. Demonstrations on authentic weaving looms allow you to see the lace being created before your eyes.
A little further, before the Pont de Vic, a footbridge reserved for pedestrians allows you to cross the canal. Then walk along it on the left on the Quai de la Gendarmerie. At the end, turn right rue Mollien and at the traffic light, turn left rue de la Batellerie to cross the railway and the canal from Calais to Saint-Omer. Cross Norway Square on the right to take Moscow Street. At the end of the street, turn right on rue Lamy, then left on boulevard des Alliés. In the bend, turn right, rue Margolle. On the quay Auguste Delpierre, turn left. At the level of the Louis XVIII column – which reminds us that it was via Calais that Louis XVIII returned from his exodus in 1814 – turn right on the Quai Jean-Jacques Pollet to go around the Bassin du Paradis and cross the Henri Hénon bridge again. This time, pass Fort Risban by continuing on Avenue Winston Churchill to reach the Cité du Dragon, where you can taste Dragon de Calais beer at the restaurant L’Antre du Dragon.
When you arrive opposite Fort Risban, turn left instead of crossing the Canal des Pierrettes to return directly to the City of the Dragon.
What to drink?
La Bière du Dragon de Calais, an American pale ale with a golden colour. On the nose, you’ll get hints of flowers and grapefruit while a sip will reveal tastes of herbs and delightfully light bitterness. It was created by Vincent Nagot.
Vincent brewed his first beer in a couscous maker in 2003 and launched his nano-brewery Craft Brew Experience in 2018 to create modern beers, imagined in 150 or 300 l, before going to brew it at another brewer. This is how the Grizzly Beard was born at the Brasserie Saint-Germain, for example. A fan of mixtures and innovations, Vincent develops recipes at the request of his partners. An atypical approach that led him to collaborate with the Compagnie du Dragon to create La Larme du Dragon, a blue beer, or with the local clothing brand Calaisfornia. In 2019, he released the Dragon de Calais beer brewed at the Pays Flamand brewery, with 80% hops from Flanders and 20% American hops, to evoke the exotic character of the dragon imagined by the artist François Delarozière. Thirst-quenching, this lightly bitter beer reveals a well-structured body with subtle tropical aromas.
Order your copy of the guidebook (in French only for now) with a 10%discount!
Lead photo credit : A hike and a beer, the best way to discover Calais © Pixavril / shutterstock
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