Thursday has long been the new Friday in England; but today in northern France it is the new Sunday. Anne-Marie at Boulogne Tourism explains why the streets have that empty early on in a George Romeo movie feeling. “It is Ascension.”
“For Sarkozy?” I say: Nicholas Sarkozy assumed the Presidency of France yesterday. She thinks this funny. “No, for Jesus.”
“So it is like Sunday, everything is shut, all the hotels are full – and there are no buses.”
I’ve just quit my hotel and am planning to follow Tom Coryat to Montreuil-sur-mer, seventeen miles away, he says. In fact it is about 32. “So I walk?” I say to Anne-Marie with confidence.
“Non, non, non.”
Outside the main church there is a solitary taxi-driver with Barry Gibb’s old hair from the strutting days of Saturday Night Fever. We haggle. A little. I will never win The Apprentice with these kind of skills. “Why is every hotel full here?”
“Ascension,” says Barry Gibb.
“For Sarkozy?” I say, seeking friendship.
“You have the cash?” he says.
And thus carbon-heavy we drive in the rain past wind-farms and mobile-home showrooms and George Clooney adverts to Montreuil, an old walled town, and the part location for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It is also where the English genius Laurence Sterne picked up a servant in 1765 on his sentimental journey through France and Italy.