In 2011 Peter Cole and Gillian Smith organised a few days at the Hostellerie Saint Louis in Bollezeele, a few miles inland from Dunkirk, on the way to the European Event in Spa. This was so enjoyable that they were persuaded to repeat the experience again this year.
So it was that some 21 cars – mostly T Types with a smattering of MGBs and MGFs - assembled at the hotel on Tuesday 24th April for three nights relaxation. Proceedings started with a champagne and canapés reception presented by the hotel management to welcome us all during which Peter and Gillian explained, briefly, the programme for the rest of the stay. While a couple of visits had been arranged, people were left largely to their own devices for much of each day - visiting local places of interest including Ypres, Arques, and the scenic channel coast. We then retired to the dining room for the first of three memorable dinners accompanied by much merriment, after which some retired after a long day while others continued to enjoy the hospitality of the hotel bar.
Wednesday dawned wet and very windy (the wind would be a feature of the whole trip). After breakfast we split into two groups. One group enjoyed a fascinating cooking demonstration by the head chef in the hotel kitchens – with plenty of opportunity to taste the results – while the other group watched a video on the distillation of a local Juniper gin – again with samples of the result. The groups then swapped. People then did their own thing for the rest of the day – as the rain eased and there were even hints of blue skies – before meeting back at the hotel for drinks and another excellent dinner.
Thursday dawned sunny and bright – albeit still with a strong wind. Again, people did their own thing for much of the day, before converging on a local micro-brewery at the Ferme Belle Dalle close to the coast west of Wissant where Christophe Noyon, the owner and master brewer, explained the history of the brewery and the varieties of beer he produces. The micro-brewery was tiny, being entirely based in a barn on the farm and producing a limited volume, but surprising range, of beers. We then all retired to a second barn to sample the results – following which many purchased a selection of the beers (limited mainly by the space available in a T Type). There was then a leisurely dash back to the hotel for pre-prandial drinks and dinner at which Peter and Gillian were thanked for another excellent event.
Friday was also dry as people left to go their separate ways. Some were booked back on the 12 noon DFDS ferry that, on arrival at Dunkirk, was retired “hurt” having had a crunch while docking – resulting in a long wait for the 2pm ferry. Others returned via the Channel Tunnel, Calais and Zeebrugge (the contingent from the north of England) or went on to Switzerland.
While there was little drama mechanically, there was one major disaster in that Sue and Alan Scott’s venerable TD persisted in throwing out all its oil via the filter casing in spite of the combined endeavours of all those present (in the process consuming most of the spare oil carried by the assembled throng). It would often be seen leaving a trail of oil where-ever it went. However, they did complete the trip, getting back to the UK and arriving safely home with no further dramas.
Overall, this was a most enjoyable few days in great company at a superb hotel where the staff looked after us all very well and the food was magnificent. Thanks must go to Peter and Gillian who organised the whole event and made sure we all enjoyed ourselves. Even the weather cheered up for the last couple of days.