Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 03/11/17
It may come as a surprise to learn that there are over 100 restaurants and brasseries in Dieppe, one of the highest number per capita in France! More and more people are visiting the town not only for its beach, world-famous seafront lawns, historical gems and busy shopping streets but also for its delicious eateries. You will find restaurants to suit all pockets and tastes, including two Michelin-starred restaurants (Les Voiles d’Or, adjacent to the Bonsecours Chapel and Le Colombier in Offranville, just five miles from the town centre).
In fact, Dieppe has always been a popular place when it comes to food. In Alexis Wafflard’s play Le Voyage à Dieppe (1821), one of the main characters points out to his friends that it is impossible for anyone to visit Dieppe without eating oysters. People come from far and wide to tuck into seafood, with the town’s most prominent speciality being the Marmite Dieppoise. Last week, famous food critic Périco Légasse published an article in which he wrote that the dish’s voluptuousness and delicacy are simply overwhelming. You will find the rich and creamy shellfish bouillabaisse on the menu of many of the town’s restaurants, but one of the best places to enjoy a Marmite Dieppoise is without doubt the establishment which bears the same name as the dish, in the rue Saint-Jean, just off the marina.
This month, seafood will also be king in Dieppe when the famous Foire aux Harengs returns to the Quai Henri IV and the quaint streets of the Bout du Quai. The event is one of the biggest herring festivals in France, and attracts over 100,000 people every year. Held on 18 and 19 November, the 48th edition will see flocks of hungry visitors tuck into delicious fresh fish, often served with a baked potato, a creamy sauce and a glass of white wine. As a reminder that Dieppe is the French capital of the Coquille Saint-Jacques, you will also find scallops galore.
However, seafood is not the town’s only culinary highlight. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love Caramel de Pommes Dieppois. This soft apple spread with hints of caramel was invented by local Chocolatier Jean-Pierre Roussel. It is so popular that it now comes in several flavours, including salted butter and cinnamon. It tastes absolutely divine on crêpes, waffles or with foie gras and chicken, so don’t forget to stock up next time you visit. When you stroll down the Grande Rue, the town’s main shopping street, you can also try an Etoile de Mer, a patisserie sold at Le Fournil bakery. Resembling a starfish, this giant chouquette can only be found in Dieppe and is well worth a taste. Yummy!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 05/10/17
Onwards and upwards!
On multiple occasions, I have taken to this blog to showcase and highlight the fact that Dieppe is one of France’s most surprising, interesting and attractive middle-sized towns. After a very sunny spring and a jam-packed summer, which both saw an increase in visitor numbers, Dieppe will be under the spotlight again this autumn, and for multiple reasons. First, the town’s biggest shining stars will be back home this month for two events which will draw crowds to our shores. On Thursday 5 October, reggaeman Naâman, now a music celebrity in France, across Europe and even in Jamaica, will return to the town where he grew up and gave his very first concerts. Just before midnight, he will come meet friends and fans at Disques Shop, Dieppe’s only remaining record store, where he will sign copies of his new album, ‘Beyond’.
© ESA - montage Ville de Dieppe
A week later, Thomas Pesquet’s homecoming is sure to get national coverage as it will be the first time that the astronaut retruns to the town he referred to as “France’s best kept secret” since leaving the International Space Station as part of Expedition 50/Expedition 51. Although he now lives in Germany, Thomas grew up in a small village near Dieppe and went to high school at the Lycée Jehan Ango, where he obtained his Baccalauréat (A-Levels). He will be greeted by Mayor Nicolas Langlois and MP Sébastien Jumel, who will give him a very special gift: a knife designed by ivory-carver Annick Colette and knifemaker François Queneuil, made from mammoth ivory and meteorite fragments!
On the economic and touristic side, Dieppe’s casino is currently undergoing a major refurbishment and upgrade which will enhance its facilities and activities. Located on the second floor of the building, the Grand Hotel has just obtained its fourth star, meaning the town now counts three high-range hotels. They will soon be joined by a small luxury boutique hotel which is under construction on the historic site of the Tour aux Crabes, above the marina, and which is scheduled to open its doors at the end of next year. Dieppe will therefore offer a very wide range of hotels and gites to suit various tastes and budgets.
Another piece of good news is the construction of the town’s new ultra-modern multiplex cinema, which will begin at the end of this year. Built within the derelict Halle à tabac, un old industrial building adjacent to the train station, the cinema will boast eight screens, some of which will be equipped with 4D technology. The theatre will showcase a selection of international blockbusters, French movies and arthouse films. On the other side of the station, opposite the fishing port, a new shopping and leisure centre is also on the cards, which will bring a big boost to the local economy. Dieppe is definitely on the move!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 04/09/17
Every Canadian visiting Dieppe knows that he or she will receive a special welcome here. Monuments, symbols and messages of remembrance are everywhere and you will see as many Canadian flags flying as French flags. Vancouver-born author Don Chapman even said that walking around the streets of Dieppe gave him the impression of being in a Canadian town. Last month, the ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, which involved 5000 Canadian soldiers, were hailed as a huge success and showed the world that Canada will forever be in Dieppe’s heart.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Dieppe is no stranger to the big and small screens as the town has featured in many films and documentaries. In the mid-nineties, a two-part series named Dieppe was aired on CBC Television. The film was nominated for eleven Gemini Awards, winning two including Best Mini-Series. It was released on DVD by the CBC in 2002 just before the 60th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. The town was also the set for one of Canada’s longest-running commercials, which debuted in the late 1990s and ran as recently as 2014. The Bell advert showed a young man walking along Dieppe beach and subsequently calling his grandfather to thank him.
It therefore won’t come as a surprise to here that Dieppe now hosts every year France’s only Canadian film festival. It aims to promote Canadian Anglophone and Francophone cinema in all its diversity and vitality with an official selection of feature films which will be screened from 20 to 26 September. A special evening focusing on the history of Canada and its ties with Dieppe is organised in parallel with ceremonies celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Canadian Confederation. At the top of the Quai Henri IV, a Canadian village will also be set up, where festival-goers can tuck into Canadian specialities, listen to concerts an even discover Canada through virtual reality headsets. Of course, several big names will be in town for five days, including young British actor Brenock O'Connor, famous for his role in Game of Thrones.
Big news for this year is the fact that the festival is relocating to Brighton for two days! The festival team, joined by actors, producers and film enthusiasts, will board the ferry on Sunday 24 September and head to the city by the sea, where a selection of Canadian short films will be screened at the Dukes at Komedia on Sunday eve. Brightonians are invited to join the fun and a delegation will even be received by the Mayor of Brighton & Hove, in an aim to strengthen the relationship between the city and Dieppe.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 02/08/17
Reinventing the seafront
Dieppe’s seafront is one of the town's most valuable assets and underpins a growing tourism economy. It is truly unique in that it is home to the Europe’s largest seafront lawns. They cover over eight acres of land are a wonderful place to stroll, relax and admire the castle and cliffs. Although the beach may not be sandy or white, it is the closest shore to Paris, meaning Parisians can reach the pebbles in two hours if the traffic is smooth. Back in the 19th century, Dieppe was popularised as a trendy seaside resort following the 1824 visit of the widowed Duchess of Berry, daughter-in-law of Charles X. She launched the fad for sea-bathing here and turned the town into the place to be. Those days of exuberance are long gone, but Dieppe’s seafront remains a popular and well-loved place, where numerous activities and festivities take place year-round.
However, if you take a look at photos dated from the 1960s, you’ll notice that not much has changed in fifty years. A modern swimming complex has replaced the previous one and a few new buildings have been built along the Boulevard de Verdun, but apart from that, it is pretty much the same place. One of the things I like best about Dieppe is the fact the town doesn’t seem to change a lot throughout the years, giving it a rather nostalgic feel. Still, I would be the first to admit that the seafront is now starting to show its age and needs to be modernised and rethought to meet with the public’s expectations.
Aware of the importance the seafront plays in the town’s personality and economy, the local Council has made its renovation a top priority. It will keep its identity but will be given a new lease of life. In an effort to get inhabitants and tourists to participate in the rehabilitation, a large consultation is currently taking place to identify the key issues, the different uses, strengths and weaknesses of the site, but especially to invite all those who love Dieppe’s seafront to dream and imagine its future. Everyone is invited to take part in this consultation by filling in a questionnaire available online. If you’re travelling to or from Dieppe by ferry, you will find copies of these questionnaires in paper form on board and can take a bit of time during your crossing to have your say. Visitors’ feedback is essential and will be taken into consideration, as the seafront is a place which belongs to everyone.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 30/05/17
The East End
Does the name Neuville ring a bell? Everyone knows Dieppe, but only few are aware that half of the town is in fact…Neuville. Up until 1979, both localities were two separate towns, but they decided to stop turning their backs on each other and merged together on 1 January 1980, giving birth to the third largest town in the Seine-Maritime region. Today, Neuville-les-Dieppe still has its own town hall and has managed to keep a distinctive feel and identity. Nestled on the East cliff, it is a very residential area which manages to showcase Dieppe’s diversity. Stretching from Le Pollet, the town’s old fisherman's quarter, to Puys, an affluent suburb with its own beach, Neuville covers a mix of council estates, spacious townhouses and industrial areas. The old part of town, around the church, has an authentic French village feel to it. Over the past few years, an eco-village has also sprung up in the fields boarding the road that many drivers take once they have disembarked from the ferry at the bottom of the hill.
Up to now, few visitors ventured up to Neuville, but the wind is turning. First of all, many tourists are now choosing to stay at the well-named Brit Hotel, one of the town’s most modern hotels, which opened its doors two years ago just off the Eurochannel industrial site. More and more visitors are also getting to discover Puys beach, a real hidden gem, and the neighbourhood’s beautiful hilly streets overlooking the sea. The walk from this beach to Dieppe’s town centre following the cliff-tops is a must-do, and shows you how spread out and diverse Dieppe actually is. On the way, the Auberge du Vieux Puits is a perfect stop-off for a meal or a drink. The newly installed wooden terrace offers great views of the sea, especially for sunset.
Another good reason to walk up to Neuville is to discover, or rediscover, the lovely landscaped park which has just been completely restored. Left derelict for many years, this charming wooded public garden was inaugurated just two weeks ago, and has rapidly become a locals’ hotspot. Crossed by a stream and complete with children’s play areas, the park is a lovely place to relax away from the noise and the crowds. In the heart of the park, a large circus tent has also been set up. Not only will it be used for 300-capacity shows, but will also house a circus school. Local troupe Les Saltimbanques de l'Impossible will offer a variety of circus classes and workshops to children and adults all year round. Let the show begin!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 19/04/17
Everyone knows that Dieppe has always shared a strong relationship with Canada. The very first links can actually be traced back to the 16th century, when explorers such as the Verranzano brothers left the port, crossed the ocean and discovered the land they called “New France”. In recent history, Dieppe was of course the theatre of the infamous Operation Jubilee, in which nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers attempted to raid the town on 19 August 1942. Unfortunately, none of the objectives were met, and a total of 4800 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. Seventy-five years have passed since that day, yet Dieppe continues to honour the soldiers who perished during the raid year after year.
Across the Atlantic, a small Canadian city shares its name with our town. Located in the province of New Brunswick, Dieppe is the largest predominantly francophone city in Canada outside Québec. Its name was adopted by the citizens of the area in 1946 to commemorate the raid of 1942. The two towns are twinned of course, with various exchanges taking place between them on a regular basis. Soon, however, another Canadian locality will hold the same name too. Last week, the city of Montreal announced that it was working on naming a major public space to commemorate the raid. A monument will be erected in the centre of the square in remembrance of the soldiers who lost their lives on our beach. Among the Canadian casualties were 119 members of Montreal’s Les Fusiliers Mont Royal regiment and four from The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, also based in Montreal.
The public space honouring the Operation Jubilee will be created on the peninsula of the Parc de la Cité-du-Havre, just opposite Montreal’s waterfront and close to the Concorde bridge that connects to the Île Ste-Hélène. A prime location to underline the importance of remembrance and to strengthen the links between Montreal and Dieppe. The announcement was met with great satisfaction on both sides of the ocean. Dieppe Mayor Sébastien Jumel spoke of his delight to hear that a square was going to be named after his town in one of North America’s most important cities, while Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said his city had a duty to remember such an important battle.
Before Montreal gets its Dieppe Square, you can start by visiting the Square du Canada in Dieppe, which is a lovely place to relax just a few steps away from the beach. In its centre lies a monument which features the names of people and events linking Canada and Normandy. In the summer, maple leaves are represented by two large flower-beds on both sides of the square. Just another love letter from Dieppe to Canada!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 24/02/17
Shoot for the stars
Not a day goes by without the French media mentioning his name. Since his lift-off onboard the Soyuz MS-03 spaceflight on 17 November last year, astronaut Thomas Pesquet has become a national celebrity. By the time he returns to Earth in May, he will have spent six months inside the International Space Station as part of Expedition 50/Expedition 51, and is determined to make the most of his time up above the clouds. With hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Thomas is one of the social media heroes of the year, and definitely knows how to please his audiences. Every day, he posts a new photo of a different town, city or region of the world, offering a unique point of view of well-known localities.
Last month, one of his photos was met with plenty of excitement online, as it showed his hometown, Dieppe, from above. Although he was born in Rouen, Thomas grew up in a small village near Dieppe and went to high school at the Lycée Jehan Ango, where most of the Dieppois obtained their Baccalauréat (A-Levels). Several of his teachers, still currently teaching there, remember a very smart, dynamic and inquisitive student, who liked to question things and who practiced a wide range of activities. He holds a black belt in judo, along with advanced licenses in both scuba diving and parachuting, plays the saxophone and speaks fluent French, English, Spanish, German and Russian. For many, Thomas is a role model and has certainly become Dieppe’s best ambassador.
Although he is currently 400km above our heads and travelling at the speed of 17 000 miles an hour, Thomas hasn’t forgotten where he grew up and recently told one of his followers on Facebook who was questioning him about his hometown that Dieppe was “France’s best kept secret”. It’s no secret through that the whole of Dieppe has fallen in love with its space boy. Last month, tens of inhabitants gathered on the esplanade behind the Castle to send a video message to the astronaut, and for three months now, a large banner portraying Thomas has been hanging on the front of the Town Hall. Before he returns home, Dieppois and visitors will also have the opportunity to discover or rediscover some of his most emblematic photos taken from space during an exhibition at Dieppe’s Service Communication, located in the town centre. Named Thomas Pesquet: his view of the world, the exhibition can be seen until 28 April.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 25/01/17
Not stuck in the middle
We are in the first days of 2017, and I have just finished reading a remarkable book by Olivier Razemon called Comment la France a tué ses villes (How France killed its towns). The book essentially focuses on medium-sized towns, which have been taken over by metropolises in a process of urban sprawl and are now a major concern in France due to their decline and loss of functions. Whilst big cities such as Nantes, Lyon or Bordeaux are booming, many towns whose population is under 100 000 inhabitants and who aren’t part of a metropolitan area are suffering a population decline and a loss of commercial activity. As I already pointed out in a blog post last year, the number of empty shops and retail units in these towns has been constantly progressing for fifteen years now. At the same time, population has decreased – principally in towns situated in the North of the country. Since the beginning of the century, well-known localities such as Cherbourg, Evreux, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Alençon, Saint-Quentin or Arras have all seen their population shrink, as people leave for the excitement of big-city life or simply for a place in the sun.
What about Dieppe then? It is located in the North of France, is definitely medium-sized and is forty miles away from Rouen, the region’s most important city. One would think that Dieppe is having a tough time of it, and many speculated that the town would already be in a state of gradual decay by now, yet Dieppe is still Dieppe: a place unlike any other. Yes, population is down (although it is growing a little across the whole conurbation area), but despite that fact, Dieppe remains an incredibly dynamic, attractive and surprising town. In an interview in the Council’s latest publication – 365 jours à bord – famous architect Roland Castro explains how he fell in love with the town and why he thinks it is such a singular place: “Dieppe isn’t one of these landlocked and sinister medium-sized towns, where you only find a sub-prefecture. It is an active town, and of course it is a port – that makes a huge difference”.
Defying the odds, the town’s industry is on the cusp of significant growth. The symbol of this revitalization is the Alpine-Renault factory, where tens of engineers and workers have recently been recruited to manufacture the new A120 model. Tourism figures are also on the rise, with more and more British travellers choosing to take the Newhaven to Dieppe route and many Parisians now heading to Dieppe instead of Deauville or Honfleur during the summer months or just for a week-end. All the town’s hotels were full on New Year’s Eve! Although the council doesn’t only want to capitalise on tourism, it is particularly aware of its invaluable role and has several projects lined up to attract even more tourists to Dieppe’s shores, the biggest of which being a substantial refurbishment of the seafront. Many private investors also have eyes on Dieppe, and in the years to come the South of town will be transformed thanks to a major retail and leisure complex, a new multiplex cinema and maybe even a record-breaking aquarium. Watch this space…
We are in the first days of 2017, and I know that Dieppe can look towards the future with optimism.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 02/11/16
The hip herring
When I was young, I didn’t think much of the famous Dieppe herring festival, which takes place every year at the end of November. For me, it symbolised the beginning of the winter, and all I had in mind when I thought of the event were images of people walking down a windy and smoky quayside in the drizzle. At the time, I wanted people to picture Dieppe as a trendy and fashionable destination, and in my head the festival was anything but that. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then, and I now realise that not only were my negative feelings quite wrong, but also that it is actually the authenticity of the event that has helped it to develop into a hip festival that many people look forward to all year long.
Last month, I met a young professional in Paris who told me that he used to go to Deauville three or four times a year, but that he now only travels to Dieppe when he heads to Normandy for a break. What made him change his mind was when a friend of his took him to the herring festival three years ago. He was stunned by the relaxed and rustic charms of both the event and of Dieppe. “People now go to Deauville just to be seen he said. What I saw in Dieppe was the complete opposite”. People go TO Dieppe FOR Dieppe. It’s true that the festival itself can sometimes be a journey back in time. Over the past twenty years, nothing much has changed. In a world where everything and everyone seems to be on fast forward, I personally find this perenniality to be reassuring, and I believe that the success of the event is due to its timeless vibe and its originality.
Today more than ever, people travel from all over France and even from surrounding countries to attend the festival. On the 19th and 20th of November, if the weather is good, more than 100,000 visitors will flock along the Quai Henry IV and the picturesque streets of the Bout du Quai to tuck into delicious fresh fish, often served with a baked potato and a glass of white wine, make the most of the numerous outdoor activities (flee market, funfair, concerts…) and to savour the strong, seductive smells. While the herring is of course king of the festivities, scallops are also on the menu, reminding visitors that Dieppe remains the French capital of the coquille Saint-Jacques. From October to mid-May, the local fishing boats land tens of thousands of scallops on the quaysides, many of which are sold directly by the fishermen to delighted scallop-lovers during the festival.
If you want to experience a real Dieppe moment, you now know where to head on the 19th of November!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 03/10/16
Ivory is a delicate object, and subject. Everyone agrees that poaching, ivory trading and similar illegal activities are a disgrace and should be ended now. On the other hand, ivory-carving is a beautiful art which must live on. Here in Dieppe, many people are defenders of this craft, as the town can pride itself on being one of Europe’s ivory-carving capitals. Ivory trade developed between Dieppe and Guinea in the 17th century, and since then a small guild of artisans has passed down the techniques from master to apprentice. Today, there are only five ivory carvers left in France, two of whom live and work in Dieppe. One particular family, les Colette, have been perpetrating this tradition for centuries in a beautiful workshop tucked away in the rue Ango, just a few steps away from the marina. Some of the finest ivory figures of all time were carved in Dieppe, and the town’s famous museum situated in the castle dominating the seafront is the sanctuary of Europe’s largest ivory collection gathering together 1600 remarkable pieces.
Although the remaining sculptors only work with small antique cuts of ivory, refusing to touch any pieces supplied by modern poaching, new procedures now demand that all ivory objects regardless of date must receive prior approval before they are sold. These measures unfolded in August, when Ségolène Royal, the French environment minister, passed an executive order controlling the sale of all species of elephant ivory. Whilst the Minister’s intentions are commendable, the few remaining professionals believe that these red tape procedures will have a dramatic negative effect on the French art market. They also find the measures all the more incomprehensible since their profession was officially recognized as an art craft in last December by a decree relating to the development and promotion of trade and crafts.
According to Dieppe Mayor, Sébastien Jumel, genuine solutions are found through negotiation and pragmatism such as the establishment of licences allowing professionals to buy ivory from existing stocks. “Ivory carvers in Dieppe already work with material whose source can be clearly traced, identified and controlled. They do not feed in any way illegal trafficking and don’t pose a threat to the species. Their ivory mostly comes from stocks accumulated over the centuries and their commercial impact is marginal”. Afraid that Dieppe’s ivory carvers will no longer be able to exercise their art in the months to come, Sébastien Jumel wrote a letter to Ségolène Royal last week alerting her to the situation and inviting her to dialogue. The future has yet to be carved…
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 22/08/16
“Melancholy is the happiness of being sad” once wrote Victor Hugo. When I think of Dieppe, one of the first feelings I am hit with is instant nostalgia and melancholy. I have always found Dieppe to be a very melancholic town, in a romantic and dreamy kind of way. A few years ago, I spent a couple of months in San Francisco and remember thinking a lot about my hometown while sitting on sandy beaches under the blazing sun. I seemed to miss all the things I would usually complain about, such as the wind, the rain and the fact that I would always bump into the same people whenever I walked around town. Some will simply say that there’s no place like home, but when it comes to Dieppe I believe there’s a lot more to it. I have lived in five different towns and cities, and there are several that I call home, yet only Dieppe has that satisfyingly nostalgic feel about it.
I know that I am not the only one to think the same. I administrate a Facebook page about Dieppe and whenever I post a photo, a video or a news story, people now living all over the country or even in different parts of the world will comment saying how much they miss the town and how they are highly nostalgic of the years spent in Dieppe. I have a friend who is now working for one of the biggest companies in the world in Dubai who told me that he looks at the webcams on the Dieppe website everyday just to picture himself on the quayside or on the beach. He said that despite the high quality of life he experiences in Dubai, he thinks about the town he grew up in all the time.
Some say that people are mostly nostalgic of the place that Dieppe used to be, especially in the seventies and the eighties, when the ports were booming. The older generations will speak about the magic times when the ferry used to dock in the heart of town, saying that those days are long gone now and that Dieppe will never be the same again. I simply don’t believe that’s true. Walking around town on the 15th of August, I had never seen Dieppe so full of life, diversity and potential. The beach was packed, the bars and restaurants were full, adults and children were having fun together at the funfair of the seafront lawns, yachting and fishing boats were coming in and out of the port under the shining sun. In the evening, Naâman, Dieppe’s homecoming king, took to the stage in front of five-thousand people and told everyone how much he loved his hometown. I guess that in a few months or years, some will look back on that night with nostalgia, saying that things were better back then. Personally I believe that next summer, and all the others to come, will be just as good as this one. Dieppe is a melancholic town because every single generation has good memories of the place, and that isn’t going to end now.
Here’s to the past and to the future!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 17/06/16
Myths and truths
A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, who both seem to be making French-bashing a daily routine at the moment, published a series of articles in which they portrayed Dieppe as the “new Calais”. Sometimes illustrated by photos that weren’t even taken here, they gave a very misleading version of what is actually going on at the moment in Dieppe.
Let’s make things clear: just like all major ports along the Channel, from Dunkirk to Brest, Dieppe has seen an influx of migrants over the past months. However, the situation is not, and never will be, comparable to the one in Calais. There are at the most 150 migrants – mostly Albanians - trying to cross the Channel from Dieppe. A year ago, they were around 100, meaning that the number has increased, but not significantly. In comparison, there are around six-thousand people sleeping rough in the “jungle” outside Calais. The port has always been a magnet for migrants as a ferry leaves from there every half hour and there is of course the Channel tunnel. Here in Dieppe, not only is the ferry port well secured and considerably smaller, but there are only two to three crossings a day, meaning the chances of managing to get onto a ferry are a lot lower. A few months ago, when a large section of the Calais “jungle” was demolished, many feared that hundreds of people would choose to settle in Dieppe instead. That simply didn’t happen, proof that Dieppe is not seen as a gateway to the UK by migrants or people smugglers.
On the overhand, more and more British and French travelers are choosing to take the Newhaven to Dieppe route because of the ongoing problems in Calais. Last year, passenger numbers increased by thirty-five per cent, and things are looking good for this summer too. Not only is it safe to travel on the ferries, but Dieppe is also a very safe and welcoming town to visit. Problems involving tourists and migrants are extremely rare, even around the ferry terminal. Last month, the Department of Seine-Maritime promised to secure the future of the Newhaven to Dieppe route with more funding and revealed that a new public tender would run for four new years from this August. A major marketing boost aimed at encouraging tourism in the regions around the ports was also launched, under the banner “Bienvenue en Normandie-Sussex”.
Today more than ever before, the transmanche ferry line is a link that brings us closer together, and Dieppe looks forward to greeting many British tourists during the high season.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 25/04/16
A preserved heritage
I was walking around town on Saturday afternoon when I bumped into a British couple looking up at a recently restored building in the rue de l’Epée, just behind Dieppe’s main shopping street. We started talking and they seemed quite impressed by the way the structure had been preserved. I explained that the town was renowned for the restoration and preservation of its old buildings and especially for its beautiful inner courtyards. Delegations from around the world have visited, and continue to visit, Dieppe, which is seen as an example for the rehabilitation of old buildings and, most importantly, the eradication of insalubrious housing.
Back in the nineties, substandard housing was a preoccupying problem in the town centre. Many historic buildings were seriously showing their age and insanitary flats were common. At the time, over 700 residences were vacant and some were even crumbling. Given the urgency of the situation, a major urban redevelopment scheme was introduced by the Council aiming to restore hundreds of homes in the historic heart of the town. Seventeen years later, the results of the operation are extremely positive: Dieppe’s Public-Private Partnership, the SEMAD, has rehabilitated over 1000 flats and houses throughout the town, along with dozens of retail units.
The restoration the British couple was looking at on Saturday is one of the latest, and most important, projects to be carried out by the SEMAD, together with a private property developer this time. When the scheme is completed – hopefully before the end of the year – tourists and locals will be able to walk through a lovely courtyard linking the rue de l’Epée to the Grande Rue. A 750 square-metre clothes shop, along with a brand new restaurant, will be built on the ground floor and the beautiful vaulted cellars will welcome a charming piano bar.
On the other side of the town centre, another famous building has also just been magnificently restored. Located on the Place Louis Vitet, la Maison Miffant is Dieppe’s oldest house. Built in 1624, it magically survived the bombardment of 1694 but was literally starting to fall to pieces. Once again, the Council stepped in, and, after a year of restoration, the façade of the building is now looking rather splendid. As often in Dieppe, local heritage will be combined with modernity as work will soon begin at the rear of the house to build a new hotel and a housing complex.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 29/02/16
A heart still beating strong
Last month, Le Monde published a very interesting article focusing on the desertification of town centres in France. What the British call “the death of the high street” is also happening on this side of the Channel, often on a larger scale than in the UK. The number of empty shops and retail units has been constantly progressing for fifteen years now, especially in middle-sized towns whose populationis under 100000 inhabitants. Almost one in four shops are empty in Béziers for instance, and closer to us, Calais is also suffering a lot with over 20% of vacant units. However, as often, there are the winners and the losers, and while many towns have seen life sucked out of their shopping streets, others are booming and attracting new stores year on year.
With a population of just 35000 and located close to the major city of Rouen,Dieppe could also be considered as having a tough time of it. Yet, it is actually the opposite that is happening. Not only is Dieppe absent from the list of 300 French towns severely hit by desertification, but is also proving to be quite attractive to new stores and companies. At the beginning of the year, the international fashion chain H&M confirmed that it has its eyes on Dieppe, and will probably open up in the heart of town within the next twelve months. Other popular names such as KFC, Burger King, Leroy Merlin and Gifi are also rumored to be preparing their arrival here, and are currently looking for suitable sites for their installation.
You just have to stroll around the town centre to see that vacant shops are actually quite rare on Dieppe’s main shopping streets. Along the Quai Henry IV, up the Grande Rue, on the Place Nationale or even along the by-streets, the diversity of stores, cafés and restaurants is really quite impressive and includes things for every wallet and mood. When a unit does go up for sale or for rent, it usually doesn’t stay empty for a long time and is soon snapped up by a local retailer or a big name. Classified by the State as a 40000 to 80000 inhabitant town, Dieppe is targeted by many national and international chains that are now focusing on middle-sized towns after covering all major French cities.
So, why isn’t Dieppe concerned by this desertification that is hitting most towns of the same scale? First of all, the Dieppois are very much attached to their town centre, which is regarded as a lively meeting place. Secondly, unlike many other French towns and cities, Dieppe still has many free-of-charge parking spaces, especially along the seafront and around the station. It is a controversial issue, but has obviously helped many people continue to shop in the heart of town instead of heading straight to the shopping centres on the outskirts. Last but not least, Dieppe remains a popular tourist destination, especially with Parisians and the British of course, who are increasingly choosing to cross the Channel via Dieppe instead of Calais. In the months and years to come, things could even be getting better shopping wise!
Photo © Erwan Lesné
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 25/11/15
Draw me a Dieppois
Whenever I’m abroad and tell people that I come from Dieppe, one of the first questions I’m asked is: What are the inhabitants like? Usually that’s quite an easy one to answer, but not when it comes to the Dieppois. Just like Dieppe is a town unlike any other, its inhabitants are unique and hard to define in a few words. So, here is a list of facts, details and anecdotes that portray the Dieppois:
-For nothing in the world will they miss the Saturday morning market. Bursting with flavours and colours, it is one of the largest traditional markets in Normandy, and never fails to impress. After filling their bags with fresh fruit, veg, meat and of course fish, the Dieppois meet up with friends and family in one of the town centre’s numerous cafés to gossip, exchange views and keep up with the local news.
-At a time when French national newspapers are slowly dying, local newspapers are still very popular, and that is especially true in Dieppe. Published twice a week, Les Informations Dieppoises seems to be read by absolutely everybody in town. Despite the emergence of online news, the local rag still has a circulation of 20000 copies, which is huge when you know that the population of Dieppe’s conurbation area is 55000. On Tuesdays and Fridays, you will see most people walking down the street with a copy in their hand or sitting in a café reading Les Infos.
-Like many cities and towns in France, the Dieppois have their own dialect. They will for instance shout out “boujoux” instead of “aurevoir” when saying goodbye and will greet one another in the street by saying “ça va ti?” instead of “comment vas-tu?” Another fine example is the use of the word “rien”, meaning nothing, in different contexts. Don’t be surprised if you hear the Dieppois say “c’est rien beau” for example, that doesn’t mean that they don’t like what you are showing them but on the contrary that they think it is very appealing.
-Strangely, the Dieppois aren’t really fond of anything new and tend to stick with the good old restaurants, pubs and cafés they know off by heart. Whereas local institutions such as Les Tribunaux or le Tout Va Bien will always be packed to the brim, newcomers often have to battle to survive. Once they manage to conquer the hearts of the locals, you can however be sure that they are here to stay.
-Viennoiseries are a true form of French art. All over the country, croissants and pains au chocolat are the norm, but in Dieppe another type of pastry seems to have the favour of the inhabitants: the étoile de mer. This viennoiserie in the shape of a starfish is in fact a huge chouquette (another famous French pastry), but is hugely popular in town. A boulangerie located in the heart of the main shopping street specializes in preparing hot and tasty étoiles de mer throughout the day, and you will often see people queuing outside, waiting to tuck into their starfish.
-The Dieppois are real night owls. Despite most middle-sized towns, Dieppe still has an impressive number of bars and pubs, most of which stay open late. Tucked away in the rue du Boeuf, La Boussole for instance is one of the most famous night bars in Normandy, and continues to attract an eclectic and large clientele every weekend. Other popular venues include Le Quadra on the Ile du Pollet, L’Alexander, Le Julia’s, Le Silver or the well-named Cambridge Pub.
-Young Dieppois are surprisingly and remarkably proud of their town. Where else will you see a bunch of friends in their twenties launch a clothing brand dedicated to their hometown? That is what happened in Dieppe a few months ago with the birth of Deeptown, a new streetwear company. Named after the town’s nickname, the brand is doing so well that the young founders are having to reprint T-shirts every week to meet with the demand.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 06/11/15
And then there were five
For decades, Dieppe has been nicknamed “the town of four ports”. This however is about to change as the town now boasts a fifth port! Along with the existing ferry, industrial, leisure and fishing ones, local authorities have recently undertaken the reconversion of a former dry dock into a dry port for yachts and small motor boats. Located in the heart of Le Pollet, Dieppe’s historic fishing quarter, it has a capacity for 292 boats and is one of the first examples of its kind in Europe. In fact, Dieppe’s dry port is the only one in France to be fully automated. The dock has been equipped with shelves served by a lifting apparatus enabling the yachts to be moved around. The boats are stacked on four floors covering a length of 125 metres and a width of 18 metres. The system operates very quickly, meaning up to fifteen yachts an hour can be fetched from their space and lowered to the water.
The creation of this dry port was a necessity for Dieppe. Being the closest beach to Paris, the town’s marina is packed to the brim. Located in the heart of town, opposite the beautiful facades of the Quai Henri IV, Dieppe’s leisure port is one of the most successful and well-loved marinas along the Channel. All of the 544 moorings are occupied and demand remains very high. With the dry port now in operation, the aim is to move the smaller boats into the new structure in order to enable bigger yachts and antique sailing vessels to take their place in the marina. Many have already agreed to do so, as the dry port is modern and convenient. The automated system is self-serviced and the port isn’t conditioned by the tides.
The opening of this dry port is just another bit of good news for the town’s maritime industry and economy. As I pointed out a few months ago in this blog, the ferry line is proving very successful and passenger numbers have risen by over 50% since the beginning of the year. With the unfortunate problems occurring in Calais, more and more people are choosing to travel via Dieppe and have rediscovered a convenient and pleasant route. Things are looking good in the industrial port too, where the import of wind turbines has helped boost the number of stopovers. Last month, a small luxury cruise ship accosted in the port – the first in a very long time.
The four (now five) ports are Dieppe’s heart, and it is now beating very strongly !
Photo © Erwan Lesné
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 15/07/15
Staying out for the summer
The sun is shining, the sea is sparkling and Dieppe has its arms wide open to tourists for the summer season. Over the last months, quite a few changes have taken place as the town is proving to be increasingly popular with visitors. Take the Tour aux Crabes for instance. Nestled at the end of the Quai Henry IV, it is one of the last remnants of the defensive system that surrounded Dieppe as from the 15th century. The place had been left in a state of despair for far too long but has recently been bought by a private investor who wants to convert the building into a boutique hotel. On site, things have already started to change and an outdoor bar named La Terrasse has been set up. Overlooking the marina, it offers fantastic views of the quayside and is the perfect place to hang out as soon as the sun shows its face.
On the seafront things are on the move too. Adjacent to the big swimming complex, a new restaurant and bar called L’Ô 2 Mer (a pun for the word seawater in French) has recently opened up. It is located beneath the promenade and proudly presents two terraces: one with sea views and the other looking out onto the swimming pool. The managers of the restaurant have also opened a small café area at the entrance of the complex, where a number of delicious French crêpes are served. Just a short walk away from there, opposite the busy skatepark, a new Segway rental service has been established to add a little more fun to the Dieppe seafront. Often used in big cities for sightseeing tours, these two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicles are a great way to stroll rapidly down the promenade in style. If Segways seem too risky to you or if you simply don’t want to show off, you can try renting a Rosalie on the lawns opposite the Aguado Hotel. Rosalies are four-wheeled pedal cars and are very popular in French seaside resorts. They are appreciated by families who can tour the town centre and the beach while enjoying a little exercise.
A new and original way of discovering Dieppe this summer is…by taxi! Dieppe Taxi Service is indeed now running a thematic tour of the town allowing visitors to discover most of Dieppe’s treasures while relaxing in a comfortable car. The tour that is currently scheduled is centred on the Jubilee landing and a commentary is even available in English. Leaving from the tourist office, passengers will be driven around town for an hour and will be able to finish their tour by visiting the Jubilee Memorial Museum.
The latest addition to the calendar of events is Les samedis du quai, organised along the Quai Henry IV until September. Most Saturdays from 5 to 10 or even 11pm, Dieppe’s most popular quayside will be entirely open to pedestrians who will be able to enjoy numerous activities, concerts and shows. On the 8th of August, a nocturnal market will also take place, rich with local producers and artists. Enjoy your summer in Dieppe!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 01/06/15
Ferry good news !
All the Brits (and all the others) who love Dieppe will be happy to hear that a third daily return crossing has just began on the Newhaven-Dieppe route, which hopefully will result in another influx of passengers and should mark the return of the great Dieppe day-trip, which many said was difficult to organise with only one ferry operating. Previously being used on the Portsmouth - Le Havre route, the Seven Sisters vessel is now back on our waters and will operate alongside its sister ship the Côte d’Albâtre, meaning more crossings at more convenient times.
As recent passenger numbers show, both the British and the French are very attached to the ferry line, which is still the shortest route by car between London and Paris. Since the beginning of the year, passenger numbers have increased by up to thirty-five per cent and freight is also on the rise. As Dieppe Mayor Sébastien Jumel rightly pointed out, the introduction of this third daily crossing is simply common sense and is an effective response to the growing tourism and economic demands recently recorded.
With a ferry now leaving Newhaven at 9am, an hour earlier than before, and returning at 6pm or midnight, day-trippers will be able to spend more time in Dieppe and discover many more of its treasures (check the Taste of Dieppe mini-site for suggestions). Dieppe is however well worth a longer stay, and the new timetable is also a lot more convenient for those who choose to spend a weekend or more visiting our town. To meet with the increase in visitors and passengers, a new three-star hotel has just opened its doors a mile and a half away from the ferry terminal, just off the Eurochannel industrial site. The well-named Brit Hotel is a good option is you are travelling by car and are looking for somewhere to stay not too far from the ferry port.
On the other side of the Channel, the news of a third daily return was welcomed by Newhaven Mayor Judith Ost, who said that the ferry link with Dieppe was a very important part of the town’s identity and that day trips were a real asset : “Local people and visitors from further afield used to very much enjoy being able to cross the Channel for the day to shop in Dieppe or sample French food in cafés and restaurants and I am really pleased that this will be possible again this summer.”
Newhaven Port Authorities are also looking to construct a multi-purpose quayside up to 300 metres long, to widen access to the ferry terminal. Plans were recently exhibited to the public, and developers believe that up to 150 jobs will be created if the development is approved.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 24/04/15
The Dieppois proud of their town
According to a recent study, Brighton is the proudest place in the United Kingdom. Conducted by YouGov, this new poll found that Brighton has the proudest residents in the entire country - with 91% of Brightonians expressing pride in their city. Last week, a columnist from the daily newspaper Metro listed seven reasons why people are so proud to live in Brighton, including the night life, the university nobody wants to leave and the unique Brighton characters. If our neighbours are so happy to live in their city by the sea, I am pretty sure that it’s the same on this side of the Channel. The Dieppois are also very much attached to their town, and quite proud of it too. So, here are my seven reasons why Dieppe’s inhabitants should express pride in their town:
1) A friendly atmosphere: Simply walk up the Grande Rue, Dieppe’s main shopping street, on a Saturday afternoon and you will see people everywhere kissing each other on the cheeks, friends and family bumping into one other by surprise, shop-keepers waving to the passers-by and large groups of young people strolling down the street with smiles on their faces. Dieppe is a town where everyone seems to know or recognize each other, which probably makes it sound like a small place, but the truth is most people are friendly and like to get to know others.
2) A micro-climate: How many times have I left Paris or Rouen in the pouring rain to arrive in Dieppe where the sun is shining? The town is windy, but this helps to chase the clouds away. The weather in Dieppe is quite unique, with ever-changing skies and colorful sunsets. No wonder Pissaro or Turner fell in love with the place.
3) A great music scene: Turn on French TV in the morning and you will probably find yourself watching For The Hackers’ latest video clip. Signed to Sony Records, the band is no longer a new-comer and can now pride itself on having its song Babyshambles on all the main radio stations and TV music programmes. The band formed at the Dieppe music school and all four members still live in or on the outskirts of town. The reggaeman Naâman, now a celebrity in France, across Europe and even in Jamaïca, also started his career here in Dieppe and comes back as soon as he can to play at l’Entracte, a small bar where monthly reggae parties are held.
4) A healthy industry: Not many small towns boast four big names among the companies registered on their territories. Alpine-Renault, Nestlé, Toshiba and Davigel all have large factories or their headquarters in Dieppe, and business is flourishing for them. Alpine for instance is again growing rapidly and Renault is expanding its plant in Dieppe. All Nestlé coffee is produced on the south of town and Davigel is currently one of the most important frozen and chilled food product companies in France.
5) A town everyone knows: Whether you are in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux or Strasbourg, everybody seems to know or picture Dieppe when you tell them you come from there. Maybe because it’s the closest beach to Paris, or one of the country’s oldest seaside resorts, or even because the town is the world’s kite capital… If Mayor Sebastien Jumel recently said that Dieppe was the country’s most talked about middle-sized town, it’s certainly for a reason.
6) A famous bridge: The Dieppois are immensely proud of their swing bridge! It was built in 1889 (the same year as the Eiffel Tower) and is the last hydraulic swing bridge in operation in Europe and the longest of its type. Today, many believe that the bridge is under the threat of destruction, and thousands have come together to protect this masterpiece, asking for it to be listed as a French National Heritage historical building.
7) And unique characters too! I have lived in Brighton, Dieppe, London, San Francisco, Rouen and Paris and yet it’s in Dieppe, the smallest of all those places, that I have met the most unique characters. Any town with a port tends to attract a very broad crowd, and this is certainly true in Dieppe. From the tiny nun we used to see wizzing past our house in her deux-chevaux to the Russian soldier who escaped prison to settle in Dieppe, from the old chap who spent his nights fishing and used to salute me on my way to work at 5am and the guy who made a hole in his living-room floor in order to plant a cactus, I have came across some incredible people along the way. They may not have pink hair or wear vegetarian shoes as in Brighton, but they are remarkably bohemian, different and trendy in their own way.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 19/03/15
As every year, 2015 will be jam-packed with events
One of this year’s main events will be the lightning passage of the world-famous Tour de France on Thursday the 9th of July. Thousands of people will line the streets to watch the cyclists wizz through the town centre on their way to Le Havre. Following the windy roads of the Normandy coastline, this stage of the race will offer amazing scenery: the cliff tops, the sea, and some of the region’s most picturesque towns and villages.
Invented in France in 1976, and officially launched by the French government in 1982, the “fête de la musique” is one of the country’s most popular events. The national music day takes place every year on the 21st of June, the longest day of the year and is the perfect night to stay outside with friends and family. This year the 21st is a Sunday, so concerts that will suit all tastes will also be organized by the council on the Friday and Saturday to cover three days.
The 46th edition of the Solitaire du Figaro will see skippers depart from Bordeaux and travel 2185 nautical miles before they reach Dieppe, this year’s port of arrival. From the 22nd to the 28th of June, a festival village will be set up along the Quai Henry IV, with events and activities galore.
An old fisherman’s tradition in Dieppe is the “fête de la mer”, held this year on the 19th of July. Most of the town’s fishing boats will take to the sea together, decorated especially for the occasion. Tourists and locals will watch from the quaysides and the pier as tens of colourful boats parade through the harbour.
From the 7th to the 23rd of August, the funfair will be back in town. The seaside lawns will be packed with rides both big and small and with games for all ages. Adrenaline addicts will take to the skies and families will be able to enjoy a wide range of fun rides for the younger thrill-seekers. Gooey candy floss, toffee apples, waffles and lollipops will contribute to everyone’s wellness.
One of the highlights of the summer will be the Rock sur les Galets festival, held on the 15th of August. Last summer, Louis Bertignac got the beach rocking and this year again a famous name will be cheered by thousands of spectators on the seafront lawns. Check this website for more details on the programme.
Dieppe Retro, held annually the first weekend in September, celebrates veteran cars and the people who are passionate about them. This year again, the historic vehicles will rush around town before gathering on the seafront lawns. From the 11th to the 13th of September, Dieppe will celebrate the 60th year of the Alpine saga. The famous sports-car company was founded in Dieppe in 1955 and is now back in force.
Also getting bigger every year is the 'bandes dessinées' (graphic novel) festival which is held in two different locations on the 3rd and 4th of October. Hundreds of graphic novel fans will come to meet over forty authors at the Cité de la Mer and at the Jean Renoir library. The event will also include conferences and exhibitions.
Another popular event is the annual herring and scallop festival, which will take place around the Quai Henry IV on 14-15 November. People travel to Dieppe from all over France to attend the event, where they can tuck into delicious fresh sea-food and make the most of the numerous outdoor activities that take place.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 17/03/15
Parks and gardens
Although they cannot actually be classified as a park, Dieppe’s famous seafront lawns are a remarkable green space. Located just a step away from the town centre, they are in fact Europe’s largest, and are used all year round for a wide variety of purposes and events. Covering over eight acres, the lawns are the perfect spot for gazing at the cliffs, the castle and some of the town’s finest buildings, such as the Castel Royal mansion.
Parc François Mitterrand
Nestled in the heart of town, behind the large cultural centre, this small park houses a children’s playground, beautiful flowerbeds, a boulodrome for playing petanque, a pond and even a delightful waterfall. Popular with the young in the summer months, the park is also often used for wedding photos.
Parc du Bois des Moutiers
Located in the picturesque village of Varengeville-sur-Mer, just three miles west of Dieppe, the Bois des Moutiers is one of the country’s finest gardens. Created in 1898 by Guillaume Mallet, with the help of British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and the famous English landscape designer Miss Gertrude Jekyll, the garden boasts an impressive variety of blooms all year round. Open to the public daily from the 15th of March to the 15th of November, the Bois des Moutiers is a must-see. In addition to the colourful garden itself, don’t miss the elegant Arts & Crafts inspired house, the only one of its kind in France.
Parc Paysager de Neuville
If you have time to venture up to Neuville-les-Dieppe, one of the town’s largest neighbourhoods, you will discover a charming park tucked away among the blocks of flats. The place was neglected for many long years, but is currently undergoing major transformation and renovation with the help of the inhabitants. The park has a beautiful stream running through it and will rapidly become again a lovely place for families to stroll and relax.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 29/10/14
The wind is turning
It is a secret to no one that France is one of the world champions of nuclear power. With 58 reactors strategically implanted over the country, it is the second-largest generator of nuclear power on earth, after the United States. Dieppe itself is situated in between two large power stations, and Penly, the closest one, contributes to the local economy in a multitude of ways. In 2009, the site was even chosen to build the country’s second Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) reactor, although construction is now uncertain.
However, after decades of nuclear power monopoly, France is starting to lose its appetite for the atom. Under persuasion from Ségolène Royal, the French energy and environment minister, a bill was passed last week to cut the nuclear share in power generation from 75% now to 50% by 2025, while the share of renewables should increase from 15% to 40%. With the EPR plans now on hold, this boost to renewable sources of energy is very good news for Dieppe. The town is positioning itself to become a centre of reference for wind power, and will see the start of construction of a 500 MW offshore wind farm in 2019. Located midway between Dieppe and Le Tréport, the plant will be operated and serviced by the ports of the two towns. Local partners and companies will take active part in the production and installation of components for the turbines, and it is estimated that hundreds of jobs could be created in the area.
Dieppe still being an important fishing port, many questions continue to be raised with regards to the impact of the wind farm on fishing activities. The project partners have tried to reassure the fishermen and the opponents of the wind farm, stating that only the most technology -advanced turbines, with a capacity of 8 MW each, will be used. This means that the total number of wind energy systems installed will be reduced, leading to greater compatibility with fishing activities.
In addition to the wind farm itself, Dieppe’s Mayor Sébastien Jumel has called for the town’s educational sector to benefit from the development of renewable energy in the area. He would like to see a specialized training section open in one of Dieppe’s technical secondary schools, hoping that the programme will attract more students to the town, where only a few under-graduate courses are currently available.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 23/09/14
In top gear
Dieppe’s recent history is intimately linked to Alpine, the sports-car company that was founded in 1955 by garage proprietor Jean Rédélé. Working in the heart of the town, Rédélé was the youngest Renault dealer in France, and had a real appetite for car-racing. He first started rallying from Dieppe to Rouen with a 4 CV in 1950 and after a few years began racing in Monte Carlo and in the French Alps, where he won his greatest victories. The name Alpine is, in fact, a memento of his first victory in the 1954 Coupe des Alpes. His cars contested the Le Mans 24 hour race eleven times between 1963 and 1978 and went from success to success, winning a first world title for rallying in 1971 and then again in 1973. That year, the company was bought by Renault and high hopes were raised for the manufacturer. Unfortunately, the oil crisis that hit the world at that period and the introduction of speed limits triggered a period of decline for Rédélé’s company, although one of his cars did win another Le Mans title in 1978. The last Alpine, an A610, rolled off the Dieppe line in 1995, with Renault abandoning the Alpine name. The factory went on to exclusively produce Renault Sport models. Jean Rédélé died at his Parisian home in 2007 marking the end of an exceptional era, but, happily, not the end of the Alpine adventure.
After many lean years, Alpine is now back in force. In 2012, a new model, the A110-50, was unveiled in Monaco to mark the 50th anniversary of the brand. Last year, Renault partnered with Signatech to enter a Nissan-powered prototype (the A450b) in the European Le Mans Series championship's LMP2 class and achieved the teams' championship. In the 2014 Le Mans 24 hour-race, the Signatech-Alpine squad finished third in the LMP2 class and placed an excellent seventh in the overall classification. Renault’s plans to revive the Alpine brand are now stronger than ever, and, although the partnership with Caterham Cars (who acquired 50% ownership of the Renault's Dieppe assembly plant assets in 2012) recently fell through, the future is looking bright for the brand and especially for the factory, where over 300 people work.
Although this doesn’t really have a link with Alpine, Renault signed a deal last month with the French conglomerate Bolloré to build the electric vehicle it uses for its car-sharing program in France, and especially in Paris. Renault will start production of the Bluecar in Dieppe during the second half of 2015. The news was greeted with masses of enthusiasm here, with Mayor Sébastien Jumel proudly promoting the “made in Dieppe” label. Alpine enthusiasts and local workers now hope that the next generation of the company’s sport cars will soon be assembled in the factory, that, correspondingly, has recently begun hiring again. If all goes well, the new model will be commercialised in 2016.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 01/09/14
More than just a harbour
According to the latest figures, the ferry line linking Newhaven to Dieppe is proving to be very popular, especially with the British. All the passenger numbers are on the rise, as people seem to be rediscovering the pleasures of travelling at sea. However, although more and more people are disembarking in Dieppe, many simply get a glimpse of the town as they approach the harbour and then speed up the hill towards Paris or the south as soon as their car rolls off onto French soil. Although it is entirely understandable, it’s still a shame as Dieppe is far more than a port. Unlike many seaside towns, it doesn’t just have a windy seafront and a few downmarket restaurants to offer, but a whole range of leisure activities, cultural visits, festivals, architectural beauties and dining experiences. If ever you decide to travel to Dieppe in the near future and are thinking of just passing by, here are a few suggestions that may make you want to stop and take a longer look:
- On leaving the ferry terminal, take a sharp right and head towards the town centre. Just before the swing bridge, you will notice a delightful little café named the Mieux Ici Qu’en Face (Better Here Than Over There), which is the perfect place to watch the world go by. Simply sit on the terrace opposite the marina and observe the fishing and leisure boats enter the port, the old bridge open and close and the locals fish for their supper along the quayside.
- Dieppe is renowned for the restoration and preservation of its inner courtyards and old buildings. Over the past fifteen years, the SEMAD has rehabilitated over 900 flats and houses in the historic heart of town. Around St-Jacques’ Chrurch and up the Grande Rue (Dieppe’s main shopping street), don’t be shy about pushing open the old wooden doors and slipping into the courtyards to get a glimpse of the town’s hidden treasures. You can also simply lift your eyes up to observe the beautiful wrought iron balconies and architectural delights from the streets.
- Many restaurants in Dieppe serve fish fresh from the day’s catch. Within fifteen minutes (or five minutes’ drive) from the ferry terminal, you can find a table at the Bistrot du Pollet, Le Turbot or the Bistrot des Barrières and enjoy some remarkable fish and seafood. If the weather is clear, you can book a table at the Windsor hotel or L’Horizon in the Casino, two panoramic restaurants from which you will be able to watch the sun set over the sea. The prices are moderate too!
- If you take a stroll up the hill behind the castle (which is also well worth a visit), you will get to a place the locals call l’Esplanade. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Channel, the cliffs, the seafront and the town centre. It is from this spot that you can really get an understanding of the city's unique charm and character. You will see kites floating high in the sky, the coming and going of boats, children playing on the seafront lawns, couples strolling along the promenade, clouds over the horizon and birds busy above the rooftops. With the castle in the foreground, it is also the perfect place to take photographs.
- Once the sun has set, take to the Rue du Boeuf, just off the Quai Duquesne, and search for La Boussole, Dieppe’s most secretive bar. There is no signboard, but you may see the local night owls entering or leaving the establishment. Once inside, you will understand why it is a real institution here in Dieppe and will be able to enjoy a precious experience of the town’s nightlife.
These are just a few ideas. If you want to discover all the joys that Dieppe has to offer, take a look at the travel guide on this same website: http://www.dieppe.fr/mini-sites/a-taste-of-dieppe
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 29/07/14
Under the spotlight
Dieppe has always been a popular place with painters, photographers and filmmakers. Recently, the town has been featured in several films and, over the past year alone, three movie crews have rolled cameras, lights and action into Dieppe. Only last week, the Town Hall was transformed into a huge film set when it provided the backdrop to a shoot for a feature film called Papa ou Maman. Directed by Martin Bourboulon, the motion picture stars famous actress Marina Foïs in the main role, along with actor Laurent Lafitte who plays her ex-partner. In 2005, the Town Hall was also featured in the film Selon Charlie, which saw Jean-Pierre Bacri play the Mayor of the town. Likewise, if you search YouTube for Tous à Dieppe, you will be able to find a short film directed by Peter MacDonald in which the town hall’s main meeting room also appears, this time with Mayor Sébastien Jumel playing his own role. MacDonald, who lives just outside Dieppe, is a famous film director, second unit director, cinematographer and producer who has worked on movies such as Harry Potter, Batman, X-Men, Star Wars, Superman or Rambo.
In April, it was Mathilde Seigner who was the centre of all attention in Dieppe. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, her face probably will. One of France’s most-loved actresses, Seigner has featured in numerous French blockbusters, although her career hasn’t been as international as some predicted. In the heart of spring, she spent three days in town to shoot Une Mère, directed by Christine Carrière. Crowds gathered in the Rue de la Barre to watch the actress perform in a scene which will unfold on the big screen next spring.
Prior to that, you will be able to see Dieppe’s beautiful coastline in SK1 - la Traque de Guy Georges, a crime movie directed by Frédéric Tellier. The plot of the film is centered around French serial killer Guy Georges, who was convicted of murdering seven women between 1991 and 1997 in Paris. Last September the film crew chose a beautiful sunny day to film an important scene on the shores of Dieppe and out at sea. On that occasion they contacted young Dieppois Jonathan Carpentier and boarded his fishing boat with actors Olivier Gourmet and Michel Vuillermoz for a bumpy and breezy shoot. Starring Nathalie Baye, SK1 - la Traque de Guy Georges will be released on the 7th of January.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 29/07/14
Burger today, bourgignon yesterday : where has all the good old french food gone ?
When McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in France back in 1979, who would have guessed that thirty years later the country was going to become the world’s second largest market for the fast-food chain? Just like the UK, France has become a nation of fast-food lovers. Over the past decade, Subway and KFC restaurants have popped up just about everywhere and in all the different regions of France. Even in typical Parisian brasseries the favoured dish on the menu is now a “French-styled” hamburger served with greasy chips. Fifteen years after leaving the country, Burger King is now back in force and will be opening its first outlet in Paris this December. Over here in Dieppe, a sparkling new McDonald’s has just begun serving clients on the edge of town, just up the hill from the ferry port, and it is rumoured that KFC has eyes on the area.
While most tourists continue to view the French as good food lovers who spend hours around the dining table and who still walk or cycle home with a string of garlic in their basket, the truth is somewhat different. Weekdays, employees now spend only 22minutes on average on their lunch break (less time than in the UK), compared to the over one hour and a half break of twenty years ago. They now nibble more frequently and have swapped their three-course meals for microwaved dishes and Americanized food and drink. It always amazes me when I see the huge queues stretching out of the Starbucks outlets in Paris and reflect on the fact that last year over 2000 traditional cafés closed in the Ile-de-France administrative region (Paris and its suburbs). Although they continue to love their sumptuous bread, cheese and charcuterie, the young seem to have turned their back on traditional French cuisine and, to a certain extent, wine. Cocktails and beer have become popular tipples in the noisy after-work gatherings on the pavements outside pubs and bars. Along with their strange fascination for London and New York, they now favour food-trucks in the capital (such as Canteen California – a huge success) and buy their sandwiches from Pret A Manger or Marks & Spencer. The French have waited too long for alternative food and eating habits and they are adapting their hearty appetites with relish and gusto to flavoursome street food.
However, the picture is not as gloomy as it looks. Take Dieppe for example : although there have never been as many fast-food outlets in the town as there are today, the Saturday morning market is as bustling, vibrant and colourful as ever, packed with people buying fresh, mainly local, produce. The restaurants on and around the Quai Henry IV seem to have improved over the past ten years, and we now have a Michelin-starred restaurant on the east cliff (Les Voiles d’Or) along with TWO fresh fish markets where the fishmongers’ wives sell the day’s catch for very competitive prices. The fact that the French are now craving cupcakes and cheesecakes is also good news for the Dieppe inhabitants: in a few weeks time, Franck Cléret – the owner of Real Patisserie in Brighton – will be opening a new boulangerie in the town centre. Alongside delicious, freshly -baked baguettes, croissants and éclairs he promises to sell home-made scones, cream buns and carrot-cakes. The mouthwateringly best of two food-loving cultures will melt together under one roof!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 20/05/14
Broken but beautiful
Although the coasts of Normandy and Sussex are different in many ways, there is one highly distinctive feature that they have in common: it is that their cliffs are crumbling into the sea at an unfortunately rapid rate. Take the picturesque Seven Sisters for instance. Endlessly battered by gale-force winds and ferocious seas, these enduring symbols of Britain have suffered severe erosion over the past few years, and especially during the recent winter storms, when the equivalent of years of damage was caused in the space of weeks or even hours. Equally, at Birling Gap, which marks the beginning of the Seven Sisters, the National Trust has had to demolish a well-loved ice cream parlour and sun lounge that were installed very close to the cliff edge after a huge section of chalk broke away in storms. Specialists claim that seven years of erosion took place in the space of just two months on some parts of the coast, and with the underlying threat of rising sea levels and climate change, the future is not looking bright for these beauty spots.
On this side of the Channel, Dieppe is facing the same challenge. The coastal road linking the picturesque village of Pourville to the western entrance of the town may soon completely disappear because of the erosion that has eaten away at the soft chalk cliffs, claiming land and soon to claim houses perched on the edge of the cliff-tops. As on the Sussex coast, erosion that is normally expected over the course of a decade can now happen in a matter of weeks. On both sides of town, war bunkers have recently fallen into the sea and towards the small town of Criel-sur-Mer several houses have had to be evacuated amid fears that they also could collapse. Once remarkably white, the cliffs are now often covered by muddy patches where the land has slipped onto a declining slope.
Last week, geologists and technicians visited the cliff-top between Dieppe and Pourville in order to conduct a series of tests to try to determine why the chalk is crumbling so rapidly. It seems that the clay and sand inside the cliffs is now swelling at an alarming speed, which is why specialists are quite pessimistic with regards to the future of the coastal road. At the end of last year, the Sub-Prefect of Dieppe declared that in three years the road may have to be closed not only to vehicles but also to cyclists and even pedestrians. However, all is not as gloomy as it seems. Although it may be impossible to protect ourselves from such geophysical phenomena, erosion is what makes our coastal heritage so attractive. The very fact that the amazing white cliffs exist is because they are constantly being eroded, and the very beauty of our coastlines is actually determined by the incessant change processes of Nature. It is now our responsibility to adapt to these phenomena, as the geologists of the Dieppe cliff-tops have wisely suggested.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 16/04/14
When I think of the main differences between France and the UK, one of the first things that comes to mind is the fact that the French really seem to get many more things done more quickly in their villages, towns and cities than on the other side of the Channel. I certainly love Brighton, my hometown, but it seems to me that the city hasn’t actually changed ostensibly since the turn of the century. Although Brighton is often described as one of the most thriving cities in the UK, the only large constructions that have been completed over the past thirteen years are the new stadium and the Jubilee library. The i360 observation tower has been waiting to be built for seven years now, and I wonder if the regeneration of the marina will ever actually take place. So many schemes have been scrapped (Frank Gehry’s asymmetric towers, the Black Rock leisure complex…) and although some projects are finally going ahead, it has taken over a decade for building work to even start.
Now take Dieppe. Despite being eight times smaller than Brighton & Hove, the town has considerably developed over the last decade. A new, architecturally delightful swimming complex has opened on the seafront, the main shopping streets have been completely reshaped and repaved, two new fish markets have been inaugurated, the tourist office has been transformed and completed with a glass tower, a dry marina is close to being finished on the île du Pollet, a business centre has opened in the disused ferry terminal, a huge new skatepark was completed last summer, bus lanes have been introduced and the neighbourhoods situated on the outskirts, such as Le Val Druel, are currently being redeveloped and regenerated. When a project is approved by the council, it usually takes only a few months for building work to begin, despite the complexity of the French administrative system.
So what does 2014 have in store? It is a local election year in France, but that doesn’t mean that activity is going to slacken. Tourists will be interested to know that 2014 will see construction start on the Tour aux Crabes, a historic mansion located above the marina. The building will soon be converted into a hotel and a panoramic restaurant which is bound to meet with success. In the heart of the Grande rue, Dieppe’s main commercial street, a disused cinema is currently being transformed into a small shopping mall, and a piano-bar will open in the beautiful cellar that was once used as a nightclub. On the southern end of town, the biggest project to date is the one planned for the industrial site situated opposite the fishing port, not far from the railway station. Within the next ten years, thirty-eight hectares of land will be used to erect blocks of flats, small houses, offices, shops and green spaces – all situated within walking distance of the town
Construction and regeneration of this kind can often be for the worst (some modern French buildings appear not to age well at all) and although the British tend to take their time, I must admit that most of the recent projects are remarkably built – the Falmer Stadium in Brighton is just one example. However, when it comes to getting things done, France leads the way and Dieppe may well be one of the most dynamic small French towns.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 06/03/14
Despite its compact size, Dieppe holds many titles, making it one of the most famous middle-sized towns in France. First of all, Dieppe is the country’s oldest seaside resort, ideally situated two hours away from Paris. In the early 19th century, the Duchesse de Berry started the fad for sea bathing here, and the Parisian bourgeoisie would spend many weekends in Dieppe as soon as spring sparkled along the coast. However, as years went by, the fearless swimmers moved on to Deauville, Trouville or Le Touquet, which to a certain extent, helped Dieppe transform itself an unfashionable but booming industrial town. Nowadays, the resort is still the closest beach to the capital and continues to attract tens of thousands of tourists every year, even though the beach isn’t as trendy as it was two centuries ago. That being said, a big redevelopment project is in the works for the seafront that will surely help restore the beach to its former glory.
Look upwards. Every two years, in September, the town becomes the kite capital of the world. Held on Europe’s largest seaside lawns, the international kite-flying festival has become an institution in Dieppe, and people travel from all over the world to see hundreds of kites soaring and swooping through the skies. If summer can sometimes be a disappointment, the weather in September usually tends to be fair, with glorious sunshine breaking through the clouds, mild temperatures and winds that help the kites to rise and flutter high above the rooftops and even the cliffs. Now in its 34th year, the festival is ranked among the 300 largest festive events in the world and attracts up to half a million visitors. The next edition will take place from the 6th to the 14th of September this year and promises to be bigger and better than ever before.
In Normandy, Dieppe is nicknamed “la ville aux quatre ports” (the town of four ports), and back in the old days (centuries ago that is), Dieppe was the country’s most important seaport. Now far outstripped by Le Havre, Marseille or Dunkirk, Dieppe remains France’s scallop capital. From October to mid-May, the local fish ing boats land tens of thousands of coquilles Saint-Jacques in the port, many of which are sold directly by the fishmonger’s wives on the town’s two fresh fish markets located on the île du Pollet and opposite the tourist office. You will often find these delicious scallops in the marmite dieppoise, a creamy shellfish bouillabaisse – and a local specialty - now served in restaurants all across France.
Last but not least, the town can pride itself on being one of Europe’s ivory-carving capitals. Ivory trade developed between Dieppe and Guinea in the 17th century, and since then ivory sculptors have passed down the tradition from generation to generation. There are only six ivory carvers left in France, and one particular family, les Colette, still perpetrate this tradition in a beautiful workshop tucked away in the rue Ango, a few steps away from the marina. Some of the finest ivory figures of all time were carved in Dieppe, and the town’s famous museum situated in the castle dominating the seafront boasts Europe’s largest ivory collection with over one-thousand remarkable pieces. Of course, the remaining sculptors only work with small existing pieces of ivory, and modern trade is condemned by all ivory-lovers in Dieppe.
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Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 13/01/14
What is the link between author Guy De Maupassant, footballer Emmanuel Petit, basketball player Tony Parker and Valérie Lemercier, a famous French actress? They were all born or have lived in Dieppe. It always amazes me when I think of the number of well-known faces that have emerged from this small town. Historically, Dieppe was famous for its ship-owners and navigators such as Abraham Duquesne, Jean Cousin and of course Jehan Ango. Duquesne’s statue still adorns Dieppe’s central square, and his name is probably the first that comes to mind to many of the town’s inhabitants when they think of the local personalities. As a port, the town conjured such epithets as “shelter” and “refuge”, and in centuries past many famous people set foot or saw the first light of day in Dieppe. Just to name a few, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Louis De Broglie, author Alexandre Dumas, musician Camille Saint-Saens or theologian Albert Réville are all linked to the town.
More recently, Dieppe has been home to Jean Rédélé, automotive pioneer, pilot and founder of the French automotive brand Alpine. Alpine contested the Le Mans 24 hour race eleven times between 1963 and 1978, and Renault's long held dream to revive the brand became reality last year. The factory in Dieppe is still going strong and Jean Redélé's statue stands at the entrance to one the town’s industrial areas.
Now an NBA superstar, William Anthony Parker Jr, better known as Tony Parker, grew up in Dieppe were he remembers playing football, before moving on to basketball. His father, once a professional player, ended his career in Neuville-les-Dieppe, and still returns to the town from time to time. The pair are not the only famous sportsmen to have spent time in Dieppe. Emmanuel Petit, who scored the third goal in France's 3–0 victory in the 1998 FIFA World Cup final, was born in Dieppe and began his career at minor club ES Arques-la-Bataille, before being signed by Arsène Wenger's AS Monaco at the age of 18. Last but not least, Olympic gold-medalist Jean-Paul Villain also started his career in Dieppe. Primarily known for running the steeplechase, he competed in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics.
Nowadays, Dieppe is home to several well-known actors, although the following names might not ring a bell with British citizens. Famous for his role in the French TV-series Julie Lescaut, Alexis Desseaux now lives in Dieppe and played a part in organizing the first Canadian film-festival last year. His friend Andy Gillet, a French model and actor, also spends most of his time in one of Dieppe’s nicest neighbourhoods: Puys. Previously serving as the face of the Kenzo advertisements, Andy Gillet began his career as an actor in Charles Berling's production, Caligula, and has since then starred in a wide range of venues including theatre, film and television. In 2008 he was awarded the French Male New Talent Award by Les Étoiles d'Or du Cinéma.
The latest talent to emerge from the town is Miss Ming, an artist who has dabbled in many fields: music, poetry, cinema… Well-known for her roles in films Mammuth, Henri and Mon Amoureux, she can also be seen in Groland, a TV landmark and French cultural phenomenon. Born in 1990, the young artist is, along with reggae star Naâman, the face of the latest generation of celebrities to hail from this ever-surprising town.
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