Michael and Pam's Travels Our European Motorhome Adventures and other Travels

Douai, France 🇫🇷 2022

Date: 23-24th September 2022

Travelled: 120 kms from Hautmont to Douai  

Visited:  Le Cateau-Cambrésis and Douai   

Stayed: Douai Aire, free, N50.36480, E03.08520  

Budget: 122 days @ €100 per day

The paid aire on the marina in Hautmont has a lovely aspect and all the facilities, however it was full when we arrived yesterday afternoon so we spent the night in the carpark a short distance away. Not as salubrious but it was free.

There is nothing else to keep us in Hautmont, so we set the GPS for Le Cateau-Cambrésis and get going straight after breakfast.

Friday is shopping day and it appears to be a good day to get the tractor out with a big trailer full of something smelly and drive into town. The first 20 kms of our drive to Le Cateau-Cambrésis is all tractors and trucks with the odd 2CV thrown in for good measure.

Once we find the N932 (an old Roman road) it’s an easy run on for the last 30 kms. We find a motorhome size car-park, lock the Hymer and walk off in search of the Matisse Museum.

The Museum is housed in the Fenélon Palais on the main street of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. Henri Matisse was born here and worked here for several years before turning to painting professionally. The museum and his works were his gift to the town.

We pay our €6 pp (no seniors) and go in for a look.

We were a little underwhelmed, whilst it was an interesting visit it wasn’t a showstopper. There’s an extensive temporary exhibition that we couldn’t make heads or tails of. The fact there is nothing in English or any other language but French didn’t help.

It was interesting to note the development of Matisse’s work for the last 50 years of his life, there are only two of his more famous pieces and a Picasso which Matisse purchased himself of note.

Le Cateau-Cambrésis is a pretty small town with a myriad of one way streets the Hymer did not enjoy. It must be carnival week as the small square and centrum have circus and side show marques set up everywhere making a nice photo difficult. The pictures below the best I could do.

Back in the Hymer we continue on to Douai, it’s a relatively easy 60 kms further west.

So why are we visiting Douai other than it’s on our way west. Originally a Roman outpost this small city of 40,000 people has several interesting sites and a free aire with electricity. We find ourselves a spot in the aire and secure the last electrical connection.

Having settled in we walk into the centrum to start exploring…the following a compilation of our two days in Douai.

Walking down the pedestrian way past the Belfry we find Saint-Peter’s Collégiate Church, circa 1690, pictured below.

Starting as a 12th century parish church, it would be extended and rebuilt over the next 5 centuries to its current form in 1750. At a 112m long and 28m wide it’s a brick layers paradise.

We take a wrong turn finding the Porte de Valenciennes, pictured below. Built in 1453 as a fortified city gate, it has been a soldier’s barrack as well as a goal, now the centre of a roundabout.

Next morning we front at the tourist office and purchase our tickets for the Belfry, €6 pp. At 61m high this sandstone tower has 62 bells more than any other tower in Europe according to the blurb.

The Belfry is surrounded on three sides by the Hotel De Ville cone Town Hall and a wedding party are emerging as walk around. Love the wedding car.

Our tour of the Belfry is a little long winded to be truthful. The young woman is very knowledgeable and passionate about the tower and the carillon in particular.

It’s lunchtime and we continue on the tourist walk thinking somewhere for lunch as we do. We stumble upon a little Algerian family restaurant with some interesting tagine dishes on the blackboard, so why not. The food was excellent and a bargain lunch at €22.

After lunch we walk the bridges that cross Le Scarpe River and it cuts through the old town as we make our way back to the Hymer.

After a big lunch and a long walk our day is done. We get a little more rain, but other than a few noisy cars it was quiet evening.

Michael + Pam

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