Montrueil sur mer – or is it?

Gorgeous little Montreuil-sur-mer, according to any sensible person’s expectations (one that knows some French that is), should be by the sea, but is in fact a small town inland from France’s north west coast. The town was founded in Roman times when the sea came up the Canuche estuary, hence the name, because back then it was by the sea. The water is long gone now but the rather misleading name remains. The town was famous for its cloth industry in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and its ramparts date back to the ninth century. It has an interesting history peppered with plundering raids by naughty Kings, the English King Henry VIII and Spanish King Charles V, and then the plague turned up in 1596. Charming Montreuil-sur-mer is most famous though for having inspired one of France’s great authors. Victor Hugo passed through in 1837 and used the town as his setting for Les Miserables, which is performed outdoors each year in late July in the town.

Montreuil sur mer, France

The town centres around the eleventh century abbey of Saint Saulve and features a few characterful shops including an amazing and truly distracting chocolaterie. There is a bistro, with outdoor seating, from which you can take in the town square and the magnificent abbey, which rather sadly, the last time I visited was hosting a funeral.

Montreuil sur mer, France

It is worth a drive or a walk around the town too as being a walled town it is high up so offers occasional glimpses and views of the seemingly endless (and mostly flat) plains of northern France. Montreuil-sur-mer is only an hour’s drive south from Calais and is the perfect escape from all the day-tripping hordes if you fancy a more authentic French experience. It is a very pretty village and definitely worth a visit.

What are your favourite French villages?

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