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Old July 8th, 2010, 07:21 PM   #21
brisavoine
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Day 2: Dover to Calais

(in this leg of our journey, we will study the ravages of WW2 and crazy city planners)

After a storm over the Channel which has delayed us somewhat, we resume our journey. We'll consider it's day 2 of our trip, since summer storms are rather rare in the Channel. So day 2: after a good night of sleep, we board a steamboat at mid-day (the only crossing of the day, no crossing every hour back then!).

[img]http://i46.************/ay51sz.jpg[/img]

The oldest part of Dover harbor, with the harbor district around it completely flattened down in the 1960s and 1970s:
[img]http://i46.************/2vbtnwn.jpg[/img]

The old harbor exit. The open sea!!
[img]http://i49.************/flka2r.jpg[/img]

Leaving Dover. To the right you can see the modern harbor of Dover, which is closer to the city center of Dover than the old harbor.
[img]http://i45.************/qy9w5z.jpg[/img]

Looking back: Dover Castle above the cliff. Back in 1805 when Napoléon attempted to invade England it was the most strategic English fortress, manned with the most troops in the kingdom, and equipped with the best cannons.
[img]http://i46.************/eb2b2t.jpg[/img]

The white cliffs of Perfidious Albion, which kept in check some of the greatest world conquerors.
[img]http://i50.************/2i8ehhf.jpg[/img]

Last view of Old Blighty...
[img]http://i50.************/m8e9dz.jpg[/img]

In the middle of the Strait of Dover (Pas de Calais in French), the busiest strait in the world. Take that Singapore!
[img]http://i49.************/2rdc30j.jpg[/img]

Back in 1823, the uneventful crossing from Dover to Calais took about 3 hours, thanks to the new steamboats. It was quite different before the 19th century, when the sailboats could take much longer to cross the strait, depending on the winds. The picture below shows the Brick Morgenster between Dover and Calais.
[img]http://i48.************/2rysmzk.jpg[/img]

Our first sight of the French coast!!! This is Cap Blanc Nez, to the south of Calais. The needle on top of the cliff (the one to the right) is an obelisk commemorating the Franco-British Dover Patrol which kept the Channel free from U-boats during World War I.
[img]http://i49.************/1h8g48.jpg[/img]

Our first French village: Sangatte, to the south of Calais. We're sailing northward along the French coast towards Calais. Sangatte is a name of Flemish (Dutch) origin. It means "gap in the sand". The region around Calais, the Calaisis, was Flemish speaking until the 16th century, then it became Picard/French speaking.
[img]http://i47.************/122en34.jpg[/img]

Finally, we arrive in Calais! Back in 1823, Calais and Dover had approximately the same size (Dover had 12,000 inhabitants, whereas Calais had 13,000 inhabitants), but today Calais is a significantly larger city than Dover. At the 1999 French census, there were 105,000 people living in the urban area of Calais, whereas at the 2001 UK census there were only 39,000 people living in the urban of Dover.
[img]http://i49.************/1113u45.jpg[/img]

We're navigating towards the old harbor where the boats from Dover used to moor:
[img]http://i46.************/35n1vkw.png[/img]

Gasp... les gens ne parlent plus anglais !
[img]http://i47.************/2ljkg85.jpg[/img]

The old harbor (invisible in this picture, but located behind the parking ground), with the only three monuments of Calais that survived WW2. Back in 1823, the 13th century watchtower was used as the lighthouse of Calais. The beautiful belfry of the new city hall didn't exist yet. The traveler would have seen the no less beautiful belfry of the old city hall, of which I will talk more in a little moment. To the left the Notre Dame church built during the English occupation of Calais. Calais and its territory, know as the "Pale" (just like the Pale which the English also occupied in Ireland) was annexed to the Diocese of Canterbury. The church was built by Flemish workers allied to the English after the whole population of Calais was deported by the English. Since stones were hard to find in the Calais area, the church was built of bricks made with the sand of the dunes. Back in 1823, the Notre Dame church was a very popular tourist attraction for the English travelers, due to its being reminiscent of the English occupation of the city. Incidentally, it is in this church in 1921 that a relatively unknown young man, Captain Charles de Gaulle, married Yvonne Vendroux, the daughter of a merchant from Calais and future Première Dame of France.

[img]http://i49.************/wcjm7q.png[/img]

The picture above offers a first glimpse at the ravages of WW2. English people are quite familiar with the Battle of Dunkirk and the hellish bombardment and destruction suffered by that city, but the suffering of Calais is less well known, I don't know why. Yet Calais suffered like few other cities during WW2. It was almost entirely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe in May 1940. All the ugly 1960s buildings that you can see between the three surviving monuments of Calais have replaced the Medieval and 18th centuries buildings that stood there before 1940 and which our traveler in 1823 would have had in front of his eyes. A very different view compared to today, to be sure. In fact it's even worse than what the unsuspecting traveler today could imagine. The tower of the Notre Dame church was shelled by mistake by the Allies on September 23, 1944 and collapsed on the nave of the church below. It had to be rebuilt after the war. As for the quaint Courgain district, the old fisherman's district of Calais, its roofs may look old, but it was utterly destroyed in 1940 by the Luftwaffe and rebuilt after the war with more grace than the rest of that unfortunate city.

This is how the old historical center of Calais looked like just before 1940. To the left, the 13th century watchtower, which was still used as a lighthouse back then, and to the right the Notre Dame church. Everything in this picture apart from these two monuments was totally obliterated by the Germans in 1940:


A German soldier standing in the ruins of Calais at the end of May 1940, with the watchtower in the background:


Arriving in the old harbor of Calais. We are going to moor in the Bassin du Paradis ("Paradise Dock"), the oldest dock of Calais, right at the entrance of the Medieval heart of the city, 42 km from the old harbor of Dover.

[img]http://i48.************/2pob9za.png[/img]

The Bassin du Paradis at low tide to our right, with the historical center of Calais behind it:
[img]http://i47.************/x6lhmw.jpg[/img]

This is how it looked from the same angle in 1900. What a contrast compared to today! Nothing remains of the pre-WW2 buildings.[img]http://i47.************/23msw11.jpg[/img]

The same, but seen from the other side of the Bassin du Paradis (which is now to our left). Pseudo-Communist buildings from the 1960s have replaced the ancient buildings of Calais.
[img]http://i47.************/25kkfgk.jpg[/img]

Same view in 1900. Only the tower of the Notre Dame church is still visible today.
[img]http://i48.************/3166r81.jpg[/img]

Now facing east. Behind the Bassin du Paradis, you can see the Courgain, the old fisherman's district, with its lighthouse. It was the only part of the old Calais that was rebuilt with a little bit of grace after WW2, with a Flemish influence. To the right you can see a column (also visible to the left of the previous view) which commemorates the landing of King Louis XVIII in France in 1814 after the abdication of Napoléon. Back in 1823, when our traveller landed in Calais, he commented there was a brass print on the quay of the Bassin du Paradis showing the exact location where Louis XVIII set his royal foot in France for the first time since 1792. I don't know if it has survived the Republic and WW2.
[img]http://i50.************/2qbt99s.jpg[/img]

This is how the Courgain looked from the same angle in 1900. As you can see, the Courgain was quite different from its post-WW2 reconstruction. There was no Flemish influence in the architecture, and each building had a different height.
[img]http://i50.************/2ykjsib.jpg[/img]

Close-up view of the Courgain (check the building with a blue dot, it's the same as in the previous view). The Courgain was sheltered behind a low defensive wall.
[img]http://i45.************/5zgo7o.jpg[/img]

The Courgain was a maze of small Medieval streets where working-class families of fishermen lived. People had their own (French) dialect, with a strong accent. None of these streets still exist today. The post-WW2 planners who rebuilt Calais did not respect the old street grid.
[img]http://i45.************/211lxzl.jpg[/img]

[img]http://i30.************/2mmz1wj.jpg[/img]

Back at the Bassin du Paradis, just after landing in the middle of the afternoon after our 3-hour crossing of the Strait of Dover, we have to go through customs. This was serious stuff in 1823. Custom agents wanted to make sure that nobody smuggled English products in, notably manufactured products such as lace. Everybody is thus body searched by the customs agents, people from the lower classes and upper classes alike, in front of each other, which our gentleman from 1823 found slightly upsetting, since it was a rare instance of complete equality in the class society of the time. Even the ladies are body searched by female customs agents in a separate room. Luggage is also thoroughly inspected.

Then our passports are taken from us and sent to the Préfecture de Police in Paris. Temporary papers are given to us for our journey, and we will have to report ourselves to the Préfecture de Police immediately on our arrival in Paris to regain our original passports. Finally we leave the custom house and we walk on the quay where we are assailed by dozens of young kids hired by the various inns of Calais who give us some cards with the names and addresses of the inns and pull us to go to this and that inn, and to furnish us with a coach for Paris. The scene must have been quite the same as what one can see on arriving in a Moroccan city today.

We don't listen to any of the boys because we have already decided to stay at Hôtel Dessin, the best hotel in Calais. It's already the end of the afternoon and we don't want to travel at night, so we won't take the night coach to Paris and will stay for the night in Calais. After having gotten rid of the kids with a few coins, we proceed to Hôtel Dessin on foot.

From the Bassin du Paradis, we take Rue de la Mer:
[img]http://i26.************/2z82edi.jpg[/img]

This is how Rue de la Mer looked like in 1900 (picture taken from the other end of the street):
[img]http://i29.************/2mwe73o.jpg[/img]

Then we arrive on the Place d'Armes, the central square of old Calais, entirely destroyed during WW2:
[img]http://i30.************/6iegzt.jpg[/img]

This is how it looked in 1900. To the right of the 13th watchtower, you can see the old city hall of Calais, rebuilt in 1740, with its 15th century belfry (tower). The old city hall was utterly ruined by the German Luftwaffe in May 1940 and was not restored after the war, I don't know why. The stupid city planners decided to restore the watchtower but they destroyed what remained of the old city hall.
[img]http://i26.************/2ufdrtg.jpg[/img]

A close-up view of the belfry, from the 15th century. Back in 1823, the modern belfry of the new city hall, which is now the symbol of Calais, didn't exist yet. It was built between 1911 and 1923 as I said above. Here is the story: back during the French Revolution when the French communes (municipalities) were created, they decided that the commune of Calais would encompass only the Medieval city within its city walls. Immediately outside the city walls it was another commune, Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais. In the 19th century, the population of the Medieval city stagnated, while the population of Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais increased a lot, to the point that Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais became more populated than Calais around 1850. It made no sense to have two separate communes for what was essentially the same city, so eventually in 1885 they merged the two communes. After the merger, it was felt the old city hall inside the Medieval city was too small, so eventually they built the new city hall just outside of the old city walls, on some unbuilt land at the junction of Calais and Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais, which was a symbol of the merger between the two former communes. This new city hall was not destroyed during WW2, or rather, if it was damaged, it was fully restored after the war, but the old city hall was not restored after the war.

[img]http://i29.************/t68her.jpg[/img]

A postcard showing the old city hall before WW2 (after 1923, it was used as a marine museum, displaying all sorts of models of old vessels and marine objects) and the same at the end of WW2. From the look of it, it could have been restored, but the city planners decided not to.
[img]http://i25.************/11rdk09.jpg[/img]

The watchtower (right) and the belfry of the old city hall (left) as seen from Rue de la Paix:
[img]http://i29.************/34iqsxs.jpg[/img]

We cross the Place d'Armes and we reach Rue Royale, the street to the right of the old city hall (and now to the right of the watchtower). Hôtel Dessin was somewhere on the right side of that street, but the street was of course completely destroyed during WW2.
[img]http://i27.************/2ef5cgn.jpg[/img]

This is how Rue Royale looked like in 1900, photographed from the same spot. It was already larger than what the traveler would have seen in 1823 (the street was enlarged during the Haussmannian period). Our traveler in 1823 would have seen a much more Medieval looking street.
[img]http://i29.************/2co1nau.jpg[/img]

In the middle of Rue Royale, looking back towards the belfry of the old city hall:
[img]http://i27.************/xlaslf.jpg[/img]

Finally, we arrive at Hôtel Dessin, the best hotel in town in the early 19th century, and after being shown our room, we proceed to the dinning hall where dinner is served. The menu is a soup compounded of every herbs, two kinds of fish, a thin beef steak, then fowls, then a breadmeat pie, then a gooseberry pie, then cherries, strawberries, grapes and figs, and a light kind of cake, all accompanied with Burgundy wine. Yes, we're in France.
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Last edited by brisavoine; July 8th, 2010 at 08:52 PM.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 01:29 AM   #22
Alqaszar
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Très beau, ce reportage du 19ieme siècle. Helas, on est arrivé sur la côte francaise, alors on ne peut plus parler l'anglais...
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Old July 9th, 2010, 03:50 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Alqaszar View Post
Très beau, ce reportage du 19ieme siècle. Helas, on est arrivé sur la côte francaise, alors on ne peut plus parler l'anglais...
The last time I wrote in French on this forum, I was yelled at. :-P
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Old July 9th, 2010, 04:05 AM   #24
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Chris doesn't miss anything. I prefer the french side. that photo: http://i47.************/122en34.jpg. looks stunning.
calais was really a great town. I didn't know that it was completely destroyed during WW2.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 04:06 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn's Woods View Post
The last time I wrote in French on this forum, I was yelled at. :-P
Les chiens aboient, la caravane passe.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 04:13 AM   #26
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Quote:
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calais was really a great town. I didn't know that it was completely destroyed during WW2.
It's the Medieval city that was completely destroyed. The former commune of Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais, outside of the city walls, was less damaged from my recollection of the last time I was there + views I've seen on Google Street View. The German Luftwaffe targeted essentially the harbor area, so it's the Medieval city that suffered the most. It's also the fault of the city planners. They could have restored the old city to its original state as they did in Warsaw, but instead they destroyed all the ruins still standing there and rebuilt the city in ugly Stalinist style.

French cities destroyed in WW1 were usually very well rebuilt, see for instance Arras, but the cities destroyed in WW2 were extremely badly rebuilt. They are a disgrace. I frankly don't know how the people living there accept to have such ugly city centers. If it was just me I would tear down all the historical center of Calais rebuilt after WW2, and replace it with something new and more pleasing to the eyes.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 05:24 AM   #27
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Chris doesn't miss anything.
I don't think it was Chris, actually.
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Old July 11th, 2010, 12:30 PM   #28
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Very nice presentation so far, brisavoine; i will wait for the last part
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Old July 11th, 2010, 08:23 PM   #29
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I'm gonna try and write in french

Existent deux problems avec les autoroutes; prèmierment, les voyageurs ne vont pas voir les villages et villes beaus. L'autre problem c'est qui l'économie des villes et villages dans les routes importantes est ?destroyed.distrué? sans voyageurs.

Is that too embarrassing?
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Old July 12th, 2010, 06:42 AM   #30
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I'm gonna try and write in french

Existent deux problems avec les autoroutes; prèmierment, les voyageurs ne vont pas voir les villages et villes beaus. L'autre problem c'est qui l'économie des villes et villages dans les routes importantes est ?destroyed.distrué? sans voyageurs.

Is that too embarrassing?
It's not my place to clean up other people's French. Even though I think I probably could, more or less. But "destroyed" is "détruit".

That's the main reason non-toll expressways in the U.S. never have European-style service areas (which do exist on toll roads, and some roads that were built as toll roads but are now toll-free): the legislation establishing the Interstates kept that sort of thing off them so that people would still have to get off the highway and patronize local businesses. Of course nowadays, "local businesses" tends to mean the cluster of chain restaurants and hotels at the exits.... I like a mix of roads when I travel - expressways for speed, local roads when I have time to get a feel for the area.
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Old July 12th, 2010, 10:37 AM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brisavoine View Post
It's also the fault of the city planners. They could have restored the old city to its original state as they did in Warsaw, but instead they destroyed all the ruins still standing there and rebuilt the city in ugly Stalinist style.

The cities destroyed in WW2 were extremely badly rebuilt. They are a disgrace. I frankly don't know how the people living there accept to have such ugly city centers.
We have exactly the same problem outre-manche, to this day it has still not been satisfactorily explained how the planning and architecture professions collectively lost their minds during the 50s and 60s.

I'm very pleased that my town only received 1 bomb during the whole of WWII.

Anyway, calais is not the greatest place in France, even the booze warehouses for English day-trippers are closing down now!

Onwards to Paris!
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Old July 12th, 2010, 10:47 AM   #32
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Quote:
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We have exactly the same problem outre-manche, to this day it has still not been satisfactorily explained how the planning and architecture professions collectively lost their minds during the 50s and 60s.

I'm very pleased that my town only received 1 bomb during the whole of WWII.

Anyway, calais is not the greatest place in France, even the booze warehouses for English day-trippers are closing down now!

Onwards to Paris!
The great irony is that Germany did succeed in rebuilding its cities without resorting to the brutalist rubbish that still blights many cities elsewhere in Europe. Take a look at Dresden today, and then Coventry. How could we get it so wrong? It will take hundreds of years to properly right the wrongs of mid-20th century planning in the UK.

And yes...Shrewsbury is lovely.
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Old July 12th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #33
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great thread! i really enjoy it.
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Old October 4th, 2013, 11:38 AM   #34
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How long did the journey take with overnight stops ? Today it's 2 hours with the train.
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Old October 5th, 2013, 04:53 AM   #35
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Unfortunatley, brisavoine has been banned, obviously, so we won't her the continuation from Calais to Paris.

Looking at the Cologne here in Germany, the modernist post-war architecture dominates and even somewhat drowns the city in utter ugliness. Only parts of the old town have been reconstructed, around Heumarkt and Neumarkt, but leaving that area results in severe eyesore. Even the immediate surroundings of the well-known cathedral are just ugly.

At the Northern side near the central station, some 1970ies attachements for souvenir shops and crap like that have been build right to the wall of the Dom. On the other side, the post-modern, but still mediocre Römisch-Germanisches Museum does not much to improve the situation.

The modern architecture of the post war era is not per se ugly, but mostly executed in an ugly way. Clear forms and lines, found in architecture since the 1920s and 1930s, do not automatically result in the aesthetical wasteland we can see in many European cities.

Even the heavily crticised "commie blocks" of the post-stalinist era have their western counterparts, the peripheral areas of the greater cities are full of them.
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