10 reasons why Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as Northern France, is more than just stinky cheese and a paté made from goose!

Heart-shaped Coeur d'Arras cheese in Nord-Pas de Calais.

Heart-shaped Coeur d’Arras cheese in Nord-Pas de Calais.

So last week I returned from my first press trip ever. And it was in France!

OMG!

Like, France!

I mean, come on! Isn’t that everybody’s dream. Riding on a French bicycle with garlands of onions strewn across, a beret on one’s head, and a basket of wine tucked away ready to be drunk next to that certain someone, on a French field, with French cows in the background.

Garlic and onions. On a bike! Photo@ Alex Milan Tracey.

Garlic and onions. On a bike!
Photo@ Alex Milan Tracey.

Or is that just me!

OK. Cut to reality.

The Press Trip that I went on last week was completely awesome, and more than I ever imagined it would be.

I was sooooo anxious. Excited. But anxious.

I needn’t have worried.

Northern France. At the many flea markets. Photograph: Linda Nylind

Northern France. At the many flea markets.
Photograph: Linda Nylind

In my last post, which you can find right here. I told you why I was picked to go to Northern France or Nord-Pas de Calais, and what the trip was all about. Basically, it was a way to introduce the delights of the Northern Region. I mean, everyone knows Paris, the French Rivera, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Normandy. I’ve been to many of these places but I had never been to Nord-Pas de Calais. I’d never even heard of this part of Northern France. I thought that I was going to Normandy. Ooops!

Locks of love. Photo@ Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Locks of love.
Photo@ Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Suffice to say, in 3.5 days, I learnt a lot about Northern France and now it’s time for you to follow my footsteps and see what I discovered, and what you missed!

So let’s break it down.

10 (ten) reasons why Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as Northern France, is more than just stinky cheese and a paté made from goose!

1. Northern France is awfully near: In fact, you can take a plane, take a car, take the train, or take a bus. You can probably cycle too. It’s that close! On this press trip, we got to experience travelling by bus and travelling by train.

Near the Lille Main Train Station.

Near the Lille Main Train Station.

We had a 5:00 wake-up call (that was eeeugh!), and we took a long-distance bus or coach that took us through Germany, Belgium and France. Breakfast was provided by the Northern France team and free tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and water was also available whenever we wanted. This bus was privately hired for our group but on commercial buses you can also buy beer AND you CAN drink it and eat snacks on the bus, as long as you take your litter with you.

The Thalys fast-speed train. If it's good enough for the wonderful French designer John Paul Gaultier, it's good enough for you! Photo@ Thalys - Maurein

The Thalys fast-speed train. If it’s good enough for the wonderful French designer John Paul Gaultier, it’s good enough for you!
Photo@ Thalys – Maurein

On the way back to Germany, we took the train. The Thalys train and in First Class. A snack, lunch AND wine is included too. Service by pretty girls and attractive guys. Huge plush individual seats. With free WIFI. Wow! These guys want you to know that you don’t have to fly to France to have comfort, and guess what? They’re right.

You don’t have to fly. Magnifique!

Hurrah for Europe!

Under the sea in Nord-Pas de Calais!

Under the sea in Nord-Pas de Calais!

2. Northern France is near the sea: If you’re looking for brisk walks in fresh air then this region is pretty good. The French Rivera it is not, but you can’t have everything! You can go sand yachting and experience local history by the port and harbour in Boulogne. In fact, we watched a film on the bus about what other French people think about Nord-Pas de Calais, quite frankly, they think it’s like England. Weather-wise.

Sand yachting! Doesn't that sound exciting? In Northern France.

Sand yachting! Doesn’t that sound exciting? In Northern France.

And was it?

Pretty much. I was the only person who took off my jacket and strolled along in the wind and drizzly rain, whilst the French and German participants huddled under jumpers, scarfs, and water-proof jackets! Ah, dear old England! Ye olde Englande of yesteryears, of vinegar, fish and chips, and digestive biscuits and….

Oh sorry, we’re talking about France!

Images of France!

Images of France!

3. Yes, in Northern France you can go to a sort of seaworld place. French-style called Nausicaa or the National Sea Centre. We didn’t have a huge amount of time there but they have:

  • 36,000 fresh water, land, and marine animals.
  • 1,000 species in 4.5 million litres of water.
  • 50 aquariums, large pools, and terrariums.
  • More than 60 sharks.
  • An oceanographic expedition.
  • 6 Sea Lions.
The giant turtles at Nausicaa in Nord-Pas-de Calais.

The giant turtles at Nausicaa in Nord-Pas-de Calais.

It’s pretty good for underwater observations of sharks, huge fish, giant turtles, jellyfish, and seals. You know my feelings about responsible tourism, but as far as I could see, the seals seemed to be well looked after, and there was no painting, writing, or jumping through hoops of fire, or anything, but if you’ve got a few hours to kill. Why not?

4. It’s full of history: Northern France is definitely in France. France is in Europe. Europe is thousands of years old, so it’s absolutely chock-a-block with memorial sites, churches, stately homes, buildings, gardens, museums, markets, town squares and the like, with a rich and varied heritage. It’s true that a lot of them were destroyed in WWI but the Northern French people were determined to carry on regardless, and built most of it back again!

We were able to see some of these historical places. We went to an old town called Bethune or Béthune. In fact, it’s origins are celtic in nature and flourished due to clothing, trading, and coal. And it’s main glory? A UNESCO World Heritage property called The Belfry which we were lucky enough to go up in so that we could get really close to the bells and the clock, in order to get panoramic views of the town from the roof! The Belfry was originally built during the Middle Ages and managed to survive.

A giant from Bethune in Northern France!  Photo© Terre de Géants/Droits de reproduction réservés

A giant from Bethune in Northern France!
Photo© Terre de Géants/Droits de reproduction réservés

Oh yeah, Bethune is also known for it’s history of giants. I’ve seen two (2) of them about seven (7) years ago, passing through Berlin on the riverside. We all came out and were awfully impressed!

5. Northern France is actually Belgian! :Northern France has history with Belgium and although distinctly French, is enormously proud of it’s Flemish heritage. We visited a lovely little town called Arras which has a wealth of Flemish history, architecture, and lifestyle. We went to the Town Hall that is amazingly Gothic in style with wonderful Flemish buildings surrounding the Square. In fact, it reminded me of Krakow. In Poland!

The drinks are on meeeee!

The drinks are on meeeee!

We were also told that in the winter, the famous Grand’ Place holds a huge German-style Christmas Market with 70 stalls filled with French chefs, craftsmen, and choirs, catering to local goods and products. Consider the image of horses parading, soldiers clattering, and the glitter of a German Xmas Market. These German Christmas Markets are everywhere!

6. The First World War or The Great War: Northern France was heavily involved as the region is steeped in history and charged with emotion. During The Great War between 1914-1918, Northern France suffered and was practically razed to the ground. The region is surrounded by traces of WWI. More so, that The Great War is now 100 years old. Arras in particular was at the heart of the torment of the First World War and so we were shown the Wellington Quarry that was taken over by the British Army in the memorial of The Battle of Arras on the 9th of April, in 1917….

We were shown the scarred countryside in Arras and Cambrai, and the many cemeteries and memorials necessary and important, to keep alive the awfulness, and utter wretchedness, of war.

A reminder of "The Great War" between 1914-1918. Let there be peace.

A reminder of “The Great War” between 1914-1918. Let there be peace.

Visiting the cemeteries of The Fallen in the British, Canadian, French, and German sites was painful. I found that I was more emotionally affected than I expected, surrounded by the silence of trenches, gunshots and screams of an utterly, bloody war. It brought home to me how many young men, women, and children, were really involved and died for the cause of a “Great War.” Nobody could even imagine that less than 20 years later, an even more horrific war would take place, yet again.

At the Lovuvre-Lens Museum in Nord-Pas de Calais.

At the Lovuvre-Lens Museum in Nord-Pas de Calais.

7. Traditional Art and Culture: Northern France has a clothing, trading, and coal background. Located at the heart of a coal-pit is one of the world’s largest museums – The Louvre-Lens Museum. Yes, the sister of that most marvellous French icon – The Louvre! This museum only opened in 2012 and in a contemporary building of glass and light, has now become a must-see attraction so of course, we went along too. You know how I like to go to museums as I like old art.

The Louvre Lens. The sisiter of "the" Louvre is in Northern France. Hurrah!

The Louvre Lens. The sisiter of “the” Louvre is in Northern France. Hurrah!

I was salivating when I heard that we would get to see “the other Louvre.” However, The Louvre-Lens Museums goes through a lot of effort to let you know that it isn’t THE Louvre but “another Louvre” with pieces that have never ever seen the light of day. I was so excited! The Museum is free (except for temporary exhibitions) until the end of 2014, so go now!

The Museum Matisee in Nord-Pas de Calais

The Museum Matisee in Nord-Pas de Calais

Another museum to note is The Museum Matisee in Cambrai. Founded by Matisee himself. It’s recognised throughout Northern France for the quality of it’s collections, and it’s exceptional works by major modern artists.

8. French food and drink: OMG! The nosh and booze of Northern France is glorious to behold. I mean, it’s French! Forget your supermarket croissants, and your cheap hams and salamis. On this press trip we were sooooo looked after. This is what we had:

  • Networking glasses of French beer, a blue and green non-alcoholic drink of some sort, and slices of French flan.
  • The first night was a buffet and I was so hungry, and everything was so new, that I just gobbled everything up and didn’t take any photos at all! I remember that we had crepes with meat sauce, crispy potato balls, white fish in parsley sauce, ratatouille (of course!), rice, beef bourguignon (how French!), soup with Croûtons, a variety of salads, baguette, butter (thank goodness!), ice-cream, white chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, fruit salad and red and white French wine. This was while we were still in Cologne LOL!
  • Our 5 a.m. breakfast was a white paper bag of goodies filled with a huge croissant, an apple, a pear, a chocolate wafer, a carton of iced lemon tea, a bottle of water, and as much tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, as we wanted!
French chicken in Nord-Pas-de Calais.

French chicken in Nord-Pas-de Calais.

  • Our lunch in Boulogne was at the Nausicca restaurant and I had….Well, you can see what I had. Chicken! For dessert, we had that lovely crème brûlée which I put on my previous post!
  • During our afternoon walking tour we went into an underground cave in the Wellington Quarry and we had a tasting session of trays of Nord-Pas de Calais regional cheese with slices of baguette, and a wide variety of French beer ranging from white beer, dark beer to Rhubarb beer. Yes, rhubarb beer. That was my favourite! Nobody bothered with the juice that was on offer, and the beers went down pretty well I can tell you!
Seafood in Nord-Pas-de Calais

Seafood in Nord-Pas-de Calais

  • Our dinner at the Amarine Restaurant was predominantly seafood so I had white fish, creamy mashed potatoes with bread-sticks stuck in, and sliced carrots covered with parsley.
Ice-cream sundae in Nord-Pas-de Calais. Is this yum, or is this yum?!

Ice-cream sundae in Nord-Pas-de Calais. Is this yum, or is this yum?!

  • Dessert was some sort of ice-cream pudding with raspberry dribble, chocolate sticks, and crushed biscuit at the bottom of the glass. So yum!
  • Breakfast at all our hotels were fully continental in style and some even had bacon and sausages too. I was very pleased!
  • Lunch in Lens was at Le Pain de La Bouche. It was a really lovely place and one of my favourites as it was packed with French people. Always a good sign LOL! I had rabbit (I think), pork, chicory, and roast potatoes, and a type of pudding covered with biscuit crumble.
The frightful pudding in Nord-Pas-de Calais!

The frightful pudding in Nord-Pas-de Calais!

  • I had a bit of a scare as somebody said they thought there were hazelnuts in the pudding. I went pale and almost had a panic attack as I had already taken a spoonful. After investigating the chef, the manager, the waiter, and the organisers, they all assured me that there were no nuts in my dessert. Phew!
  • In Lille, we went to a restaurant called the Basillic Cafe. We were very tired as we were 1.5 hours late due to an incident on the motorway. We had baskets of crunchy bread, thinly sliced ham, pickled baby onions and cucumbers and bizarrely, spring rolls with sweet-sour sauce! I also had lamb chops with creamy mashed potatoes and a lovely buttery sauce, and after much deliberation I had lemon cheese cake.

ANYTHING ELSE?

One of our French guides -  Raphael -  in Nord-Pas de Calais.

One of our French guides – Raphael – in Nord-Pas de Calais.

9.  Yes. Lille!

I. Loved. It!

I loved the fact that the Northern France city of Lille is young, vibrant, bold, innovative, exciting, re-inventing itself, and yet able to retain it’s traditional French flair and exceptional heritage.

Macarons and yummy stuff in Northern France.

Macarons and yummy stuff in Northern France.

I can’t begin to describe the old town with it’s charming cobbled streets that make Europe so lovely, the hidden little squares, the architecture and history of it’s colourful buildings, it’s slim buildings with a flair for drama, it’s festivals of culture, music and art, it’s avant-garde buildings, and wealthy Flemish houses. The richly endowed streets overflowing with boutique shops, French knickers and bodices in respectable front windows, Haute couture, and rudely delightful French cakes and pastries.

10. Because Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France is worth it. If you’re in France, Germany, Belgium, or in the UK, go visit.

Down the cobbled streets in Lille.

Down the cobbled streets in Lille.

MY VERDICT:

I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I want to go to Northern France again. Hint! Hint!

Very Recommended.

A random picture of photographs in a shop window!

A random picture of photographs in a shop window!

WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?

Oui! Oui!

WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

On the beach in Northern France.

On the beach in Northern France.

This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the stinky cheese and paté made from goose, that I had for breakfast, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

Next week, I will be writing about the Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour that I went to yesterday! Enticing!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be smashing!

Watch this space!
At the entrance of that wonderful street in Lille; Nord-Pas de Calais.

At the entrance of that wonderful street in Lille; Nord-Pas de Calais.

Would you go to Northern France on a break? Have you ever seen giants? Do you like French food?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

A painting full of light and colour by Andre Derain at the Musée Matisse in Cambrai or Cambrésis.

A painting full of light and colour by Andre Derain at the Musée Matisse in Cambrai or Cambrésis.

I am a lucky girl.

I’ve just returned from that most romantic of countries – France – and to a region unfamiliar to travellers and visitors – Nord-Pas de Calais – or otherwise known as, Northern France.

In the last few weeks, I hinted to you that I would be going to France, but since a surprise isn’t a surprise if you know all about it, I kept it vague.

Inside the flea market in Northern France.

Inside the flea market in Northern France.

WHAT IS A PRESS OR FAM TRIP?

A PRESS TRIP is normally described as a visit to a destination, country, city, hotel, venue etc, organised for media groups. It usually introduces and presents the best bits of a particular itinerary and is usually for a small group of journalists or bloggers, or an organised private trip. Although a press trip could be for a few hours, it usually refers to a trip of a few days.

A familiarization trip, or FAM TRIP as it is better known, is similar to a press trip however, it usually includes a visit to a number of sights, venues, activities, accommodations, or restaurant spots, in one area or region. It is typically organised for travel industry professionals, to give them a better understanding of the regions and products they are trying to sell to their clients. Lots of different activities are included so that as much as possible can be experienced. Sometimes journalists might attend a FAM TRIP too.

The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping. Awwww!

The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping. Awwww!

In both instances your costs will usually be covered, though this will vary depending on the organiser. In this case, I made my own way to Cologne which was where our press trip weekend was to start.

This trip I went on is probably more a FAM or familiarization trip rather than a press trip per se, but since there was another journalist in the group, I’m calling it a PRESS TRIP. So there!

Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!

Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!

HOW DID I GET INVITED?

Well, as a blogger who has been writing for just under a year, I have been extremely lucky to be at the right place, at the right time. In May, I happened to be at the Sony Centre in Berlin where I got chatting to a PR person who promised to put me on the guest list of the Berlin Music Video Awards. She did, and even though, I never saw her again, my pro-active activity coupled with an outgoing personality, and a genuine interest to get involved, opened the door to being invited into the VIP section, a glimpse into the media world, and a whole host of people who had a friendly eye and were willing to help me in my quest for knowledge and information.

A press card and a front seat pass at a fashion show during the Berlin Fashion Week also came about because of the simple matter that I asked, and when I undergo to write a piece, I make a thorough job of it.

Let me be clear, that so far, not a single cent, dollar, or Euro has exchanged hands but for now, experience and a representation of a job well done, is all that matters. I blog because I have a passion for life, and where I live, where I go, and what I do. It’s a lifestyle, travel, expat thing LOL!

As far as I’m concerned, all good things have, and will continue to come my way whether it’s in the form of an invite, an event, or a press trip (you know where to find me LOL!)

On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.

On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.

Being invited on this press trip.

My first ever press trip, was no different.

In February, I went to the ITB in Berlin. The ITB Berlin stands for the “Internationale Tourismus-Börse” or in English, the “international tourism trade fair” and represents B2B, hotels, tourists boards, tour operators and providers, airlines, transport operators, responsible travel organisers, information technology experts, social media bloggers, and anybody else interested in travel and tourism.

It’s a big deal, as the ITB is the world’s largest international tourism trade fair and is located in my new home-town – Berlin.

If you recall, February was the first time that I had attended the ITB Berlin as a press person and during my networking, I met Claire Beaufromé, a senior professional member of the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas-de Calais. We had a chat. She gave me her details, I gave her mine. We sent each other a couple of Emails, and that was that, until this summer when she sent me a press trip invite.

I was surprised but enormously pleased. I met her last Friday again and she told me that she remembered me because of my passion and enthusiasm, and thought that I’d be a fun person to have along, and so here I am!

Symbols of France. Oh -La-La!

Symbols of France. Oh -La-La!

WHERE IS NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?

Nord-Pas-de Calais is indeed in Northern France. It’s a region located near the North Sea and right next to the Belgian border. Northern France is made up of coastal areas as well as vast countryside, and because of it’s closeness to Belgium is although French, Flemish in style and influence.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING IN NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?

The point of this press trip is to introduce the region as a cultural place to visit and a short-trip destination for not only France, but Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom! In fact, Northern France is that close that it’s extremely easy to not only fly but to travel by train, car, and by bus.

A flight from either the UK or Germany is about an hour and the other means of transport is as follows:

The Deutsche Bahn train.

The Deutsche Bahn train.

BY TRAIN:

Amsterdam – Lille: 2.30 hours.
Brussels – Lille: 35 minutes.
Paris – Lille: 1 hour.
London – Lille: 1.20 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.15 hours.
Frankfurt – Paris: 3.50 hours.

BY BUS or CAR:

Brussels – Lille: 1 hour.
Paris – Lille: 2.50 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.5 hours.
Frankfurt – Lille: 5 hours.

Travelling to Northern France really doesn't take up that much time!

Travelling to Northern France really doesn’t take up that much time!

This press trip is a long weekend starting from Friday evening and finishing late on Monday afternoon. I don’t have any information as to who is going to be there and what type of industry people will be attending. What I do know is that most of them will be German and French and even though I’m pretty fluent in German, working alongside “real” native-speakers sometimes makes me a little anxious that I’m going to make grammatical mistakes, that I’m going to be shy, or that I’m going to be completely out of my depth and thus, comfort zone.

Yes, I know. Silly isn’t it, but there you have it!

As I said earlier, our meeting point was Cologne so as soon as I had confirmation of the dates, I booked a train with Deutsche Bahn (they’re simply the best) and got a return fare of €65.00 of what is effectively a 6 hour train journey, which turned into a 7.5 hour train journey (OK, not always the best), but that’s another story…..!

On this press trip we will be doing the following:

FRIDAY:

• Network and Introduction
• Presentation of the region
• A Workshop about what we’re going to be doing and where we’re going.
• Dinner at the hotel
• Overnight at the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne.

SATURDAY:

• Early morning departure
• A visit to the Nausicaa (a sort of Seaworld) or Centre National de la Mer
• Lunch in Boulogne-sur-Mer
• A tour and introduction to Béthune
• A brief tour and introduction to Arras
• Dinner in Arras at “Amarine” Restaurant
• Overnight at the Mercure Atria Arras Centre in Arras.

SUNDAY:

• An introduction and tour of the Battle of Arras First World War memorial
• An introduction and tour of the Louvre-Lens
• Lunch in Lens at “Le Pain de La Bouche”
• An introduction and tour of Cambrai
• An introduction and tour of the Matisse Museum
• Dinner in Lille at the “Basilic Café”
• Overnight at the Hotel Novotel in Lille.

MONDAY:

• An introduction and tour of Lille
• Lille to Brussels by train
• Brussels to Cologne by train
• End of Press Trip

HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?

It’s been tiring but marvellous!

As I write this, it’s Saturday night (sigh!), and so much has happened.

Due to technical troubles, I had to abandon my Deutsche Bahn train and got to the arrival hotel with only 20 minutes to spare!

The staff of the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne were warm and welcoming and I hoped that I would have my own room as I was hot, tired, sweaty, and not yet ready for small talk.

Yes! I had a double room, and yes, it was all to myself. Phew!

The get-to-gether would start in 20 minutes so I just had enough time to drop my stuff (you should have seen the state of the room after I’d finished with it), freshen up, and change into my “work clothes.” This being Germany, this meant a suit. “French Connection” if you must know!

I was welcomed by Claire Beaufromé who worked for the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais or the Regional Tourism Authority, and that helped to calm my nerves. In fact, all the tourism people were lovely, friendly, and funny. We didn’t only talk about the region, but their work, my work, France, Germany, and the UK. It was really nice.

A map of France. Now you have no excuses!

A map of France. Now you have no excuses!

Oh yes, slices of French flan and French beer were also given out for us to “taste” whilst we got onto the business at hand.

After the refreshments, there was an official workshop, presentation, and video of what the weekend was all about, and what we would be doing or seeing.

There were roughly 20 people who were mainly French or German and myself as the sole British person. 50% were French and 50% were Germans who either lived in France, worked with groups and organisations, B2B, travel agencies, promoters, social media advertisers, one journalist and myself (the blogger)!

Being that this was my first (1st) such trip, and I had no idea who I would be meeting, when, and how, I’d packed for every eventually.

France. Forever!

France. Forever!

VERDICT?

A professional crowd who dressed casually, but smart. So the boots and scarf stay!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yep! Our job this weekend was to visit and see the region for ourselves and hopefully, discover the many interests and joys of Nord-Pas de Calais or Northern France, so that other travellers and visitors are encouraged to come and visit themselves.

WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?

Find out next week!!!

Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so....!

Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so….!

WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Don’t make your mind up yet.

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Pictures speak louder than words.

Pictures speak louder than words.

This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the tasty French nosh and booze that I’ll take pleasure in indulging, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

Next week, I will tell you what really happens on a press trip and also about the Boulogne, Béthune, Arras, Lens, Cambrai, and Lille, regions of Northern France. Oui! Merci!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be out of this world!

Watch this space!
It's Me!

It’s Me!

Have you ever been to Northern France? Do you know that the largest flea market in Europe actually takes place in Arras, Northern France? Is rhubarb beer the type of beer that you would consider having on a daily basis?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post.

Share it! Tweet it! Like it!

25 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Berlin, you’re my BFF!

The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!  Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung - Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)

The Berlin Wall after the opening of the Wall near Brandeburger Gate on November 11th, 1989!
Photo@ 25 Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung – Uwe Gerig. (www.berlin.de/2013)

You know how I love this glorious city right.

You know.

This city called Berlin.

I mean, I shout about it loud enough and it was just under a year ago that I introduced myself to you on this blog, when I wondered what the heck Berlin was all about anyway!

I mean, what’s the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the deal is my good man.

It’s the fact that the city of Berlin. THIS city of Berlin, has been together in peace and harmony for 25 years.

That’s right.

25 years!

A few days ago was October 3rd.

October 3rd is the public holiday given to the German people to honour the Re-Unification of the two German States previously called the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or DDR (Deutsche Democratic Republic) otherwise known as East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) otherwise also known as West Germany.

You are leaving the American Sector! Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis

You are leaving the American Sector!
Photo credit: © Owen Franken/Corbis

WHY WAS THE BERLIN WALL SET UP IN THE FIRST PLACE?

It’s a little complicated but after WWII, Germany was split up and divided by the allies as punishment, and you only had to look at the city of Berlin to see who the Allies were namely: Great Britain, France, USSR and the United States.

It was not long before arguments and squabbling took place in the international political arena and simply put, the Eastern and Western Bloc decided to go their separate ways and an Iron Curtain ensued.

East Germany took it further and built a wall in Berlin, cutting a line through the entire centre of the city. This wall was supposed to prevent East Berliners and citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West, but the Wall was unable to stop the mass of people from fleeing. As a result, in 1961, the ruling Communist Party in East Germany began adding more border fortifications to the Wall, creating a broad, many-layered system of barriers.

In the West, people referred to the border strip as the “death strip” because so many people were killed while trying to flee. I have seen this death wall myself as I live in East Berlin and not 10 minutes away, is the main local park called “Mauer Park.” The suburb of Prenzlauerberg where I live, is enormously trendy and gentrified, and if you’re “in,” or want to be “in,” you strive to live here.

However, let it be noted that “Mauer” in German, means “Wall.”

With the downfall of East Germany in 1989, the Berlin Wall that the Socialist Party tried to use to maintain its power, also fell. The fall of the Wall marked the definitive end of its dictatorship.

The Berlin Wall enclosed West Berlin from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989,

The Berlin Wall.

The Berlin Wall.

STREETS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE WALL?

In May, I went on a brilliant walking tour with an organisation called the Real Berlin Experience Walking Tour in one of my favourite places, and where I first lived in Berlin – Kreuzberg. You can read all about it right here! In my post, I mentioned that Kreuzberg had the Berlin Wall running right through the middle of it and that during the happy confusion when the Wall actually fell, young people were leaving the East to go West, or leaving the West to go East.

In Prenzlauerberg where I live now, the same thing occurred. There is a street called Bernauer Strasse on which the Berlin Wall also lay. In fact, it was pretty horrid for all concerned, as you could actually see the other side of the Wall from your kitchen window but you couldn’t go to the Western side without being shot!

Smashing through the wall! Photo@ frizztext

Smashing through the wall!
Photo@ frizztext

Imagine the frustration, pain, and horror.

Many people tried to escape to freedom and found ways to be creative by sailing across in a hot air balloon, digging tunnels underground, pretending to have a funeral and lowering the “dead” person into a pit, hiding inside the seated lining of a Volkswagen car, etc. All for a life of freedom.

It’s easy to forget that this situation was only 25 years ago. Most of you reading this blog, are probably older!

SO HOW DID THE BERLIN WALL ACTUALLY FALL?

Read on…..!


2 May

Hungary begins dismantling the fortifications on the border to Austria.

People demonstrate against the election rigging in front of the Sophienkirche (church).


7 May

Local elections in the GDR. Opposition groups prove that the results were faked. People demonstrate against the election rigging in East Berlin on the seventh day of every subsequent month.


4 September

First Monday Demonstration in Leipzig. 1,200 people gather outside St. Nicholas’ Church. Their demands include freedom of travel and democracy.


9 /10 September

New Forum’s initial call-out becomes a signal for change. Further grassroots movements follow.


11 September

Hungary officially opens its western border for GDR citizens, risking a breach in its diplomatic relations with East Berlin.


30 September

West Germany’s foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher informs the East German refugees in the Prague embassy, that they will be allowed to leave the GDR.


3 October

The GDR government bans travel to Czechoslovakia without passports and visas, to stem the mass exodus. Special trains transport people from the Prague and Warsaw embassies to the West, through the GDR. There are violent clashes with police along the railway line, as well as in Dresden.


7. October

On the 40th anniversary of the GDR, several thousand people demonstrate in Berlin outside the Palace of the Republic.  In numerous East German towns and cities, similar protests are broken up by force.


East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.

East End Gallery: A Part of the Berlin Wall.

9 October

Despite fear of military repression of the Monday Demonstration, 70,000 people take to the streets in Leipzig. The police, military and civilian forces do not intervene.


11 October

The single ruling political party calls for people to stay in the GDR, offering a “dialogue” concerning the country’s further development.


16 October

The number of people at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig doubles. The security forces do not intervene.


18 October

Erich Honecker is forced to resign after 18 years in office. Egon Krenz is made the new secretary-general of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).


24 October

Krenz is also elected chairman of the State Council and the National Defence Council. 12,000 people demonstrate against his appointment in Berlin that evening.


30 October

300,000 people take part in the Leipzig Monday Demonstration.


4 November

The largest demonstration in the history of the GDR takes place in Berlin.


7 November

The government of the GDR, and the Council of Ministers collectively resign.


8 November

The Central Committee Politburo, the highest body in the GDR, resigns. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl links economic and financial aid for the GDR to three conditions: the opposition must be legalised, free elections must take place, and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) must renounce its claim to sole authority.


9 November

The Wall falls, prompted by a vague, but now famous, announcement of new travel regulations at a press conference. Tens of thousands of East Berliners rush to the checkpoints and force the border open.


22 December

The Berlin Wall is officially opened at Brandenburg Gate. The first concrete section is removed from its beams at 0.30 a.m.


23 December

The offices issuing passes for the GDR in West Berlin close for good. West Germans no longer need a visa, or have to change a certain amount of money, to enter the East.


1990 Chronology


31 August

The Unification Treaty is signed in East Berlin.


3 October

Germany celebrates the “Day of German Unity” also known as “Re-Unification Day.”


Climbing up the Berlin Wall. Freedom! Freedom!!

Climbing up the Berlin Wall.
Freedom! Freedom!!

25 YEARS AFTER THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

It was the people who took to the streets en masse and courageously resisted a dictatorship, enabling both the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Peaceful Revolution. The 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is again going to mobilise as many as people as possible.

Berlin is inviting Berliners, eyewitnesses who were here, and people of the world, to actively participate in the anniversary celebrations as balloon patrons, and to tell your personal stories about the Berlin Wall.

Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.

Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.

You, and I, are invited to be involved in looking back at the events of 1989, and reflecting on the connection to the present.

The stories, memories, and wishes expressed by balloon patrons for a peaceful world without walls, are going to be seen and collected at www.fallofthewall.com. The result will be a unique online gallery that commemorates and reflects on the Berlin Wall from today’s perspective. If you want to be a part of this unique moment, then please go to the website here.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken  © Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013)

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE or Light Installations at Engelbecken
© Kulturprojekte Berlin WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder, Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013)

From the 7th to the 9th of November 2014, Berlin will once again be (temporarily) divided from Bornholmer Strasse to Mauerpark, and the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse to the Reichstag, past the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie to the East Side Gallery. 8,000 luminous, white balloons will mark the former course of the Wall. For more info about this: go here.

The highlight of the 25th year anniversary is a spectacular community event that will send all the balloons soaring into the sky. At the Brandenburg Gate, the Staatskapelle Berlin will play a live broadcast of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with “Ode an die Freude” under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. For more info about this: go here.

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate  © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche (www.berlin.de/2013).

Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Brandenburg Gate
© Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder. Photo@ Daniel Büche
(www.berlin.de/2013).

WHAT IF THE BERLIN WALL ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

As if!!

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.

Me relaxing at the Berlin Music Video Awards, 2014.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the currywurst and bratwurst that I’m sure to be happily scoffing in the next few weeks, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

As I told you last week, my huge surprise for you is that next week, I will be going to France! I can’t believe it. On my first (1st) ever press trip! My next post will be about Northern France. Yipee!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be amazing.

Watch this space!
19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun. Photo@ artwork images - Klaus Lehnartz.

19-year-old guard Conrad Schumann on August 15, 1961 jumping over the barbed wire in his uniform while toting his machine gun.
Photo@ artwork images – Klaus Lehnartz.

Have you been to Berlin? Where were you in 1989?

See you in Berlin.

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