288. Dunkirk Beach Front

IMG_3187 (640x480)Dunkirk was a fascinatingly historical spot to visit. Not merely for war history of the evacuation of Dunkirk, but the other end of the beach (Malo Les Bains) provided a really interesting peek at what the seaside holiday was like in the inter-war years and the 1950s.IMG_3184 (640x480) IMG_3188 (640x480)

I really loved seeing the beautifully painted beach huts, and charmingly decorated piers. It was pastel colours galore and perfectly in line with nostalgic seaside imagery. Upon searching for a bit of information in an attempt to discover when it became a popular beach spot, all I could find on Dunkirk was war history. However, I did stumble across an interesting article about how the beach holiday rose so dramatically in popularity in the 50s. During a time of austerity budgets were slim, but a bigger issue was that although religion was on the decline, everything was still closed on Sundays so there were few other options for entertainment on a Sunday. Despite the beach becoming popular, and fashion subsequently following, activities on a Sunday were still fairly contentious. Photos of Prince Philip playing cricket on a Sunday were as outrageous and shocking as the Kate Middleton being snapped sunbathing topless!IMG_3202 (640x480)

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Sadly, these days, making it across the Channel to France is no longer an achievement of a holiday, with the ease of accessibility of the guaranteed sunshine of Spain, and the myriad cheap airlines flying there. Never have British stereotypes been more visibly conformed to than in the line for a Ryanair flight to Majorca and Ibiza and Malaga at Barcelona airport!IMG_3178 (640x480) IMG_3179 (640x480) IMG_3180 (640x480) IMG_3177 (480x640) IMG_3185 (640x480) A solo sunbather amongst the empty promenades, with his wind shield:IMG_3189 (640x480) IMG_3191 (640x480) IMG_3193 (640x480) IMG_3194 (640x480)

The result is that Malo Les Bains, in the peak of summer with its golden sandy beaches, promenades lined with restaurants  children’s play areas backing on to the sand (including built in trampolines) and marvellous beach huts, was completely deserted. It was quite surreal, and almost felt like an exhibition in a museum.

Down the other end of the beach, that was much more the desired effect, with a memorial and really interesting display outlining the events surrounding the evacuation of Dunkirk (where almost 400,000 French and British soldiers were evacuated in 9 days, many of which on around 700 non military/private boats, called the ‘little ships of Dunkirk’). Having studied it in great detail at school, it was really fascinating to actually be there.IMG_3205 (640x480) IMG_3210 (640x480) IMG_3209 (640x480) IMG_3215 (480x640) IMG_3214 (480x640) IMG_3213 (640x480)

55. A Glass of Flensburg’s Finest

Last weekend I dipped my toes in the water that is Germany by taking a day trip to Flensburg – a small seaside town on the border with Denmark. Flensburg is famous for a few things – a handball team and Flensburger Pilsner. The trip was scheduled for the day after my date with the Vengaboys, but I didn’t think I would be too tired/hungover to take the opportunity to visit another country. Another not so correct assumption. I wasn’t going to let a hangover bother me though, so after a nap on the bus, a bit of a wander around town, a coffee (a REAL espresso from a delicious Italian place) and a bretzel, the final phase in getting back on my A- game was bit of hair of the dog.

I was keeping my eyes peeled for a bar that looked all german and traditional just to add to the experience, and spotted this gem down by the waterfront.

Being only 2pm I didn’t think it would be too rowdy. How wrong was I! It seems we managed to find all the drunks of Flensburg. The most entertaining part though, was the old seaside stereotypes of the place. I actually felt like I was in the ‘Old Greg’ episode of the Mighty Boosh, and if it wasn’t for the fact that none of them spoke English, I’m fairly sure I would have learned all about some legendary myhtical creature to avoid.

It seemed everyone in the place knew each other (although they were sitting seperately – true commitment to the drink) and we were definite outsiders. They were a friendly bunch of alcoholics, even if some of them kept forgetting we had told them many times over we don’t speak german. If the following photos don’t sum up the ‘seaside’ nature of the place, the shape of the 1 euro bottle of Flensburg Pilsner surely does: