Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 23/12/19
What a year!
Back in January, I wrote a blog post on this website explaining why 2019 was going to be a big year for Dieppe. It turns out that it was even bigger than I expected. Thanks to gorgeous weather throughout spring and summer, very high numbers of visitors headed to our sunny shores, and the local tourist office has enjoyed a bumper year. The best surprise arrived in June, when Dieppe’s famous Saturday-morning market was voted second best in the whole country! That really helped to promote this unique seaside town as a quality destination, where you can savour local food & drink at its best. Rick Stein would certainly agree, as you can see in the first episode of his new ‘Secret France’ series, which aired on BBC2 early November. He even crowned our port “home of the world’s best whelks”!
Another good surprise came last month, when the GR21, which crosses Dieppe and its surroundings, was voted France’s favourite hiking trail. Anyone who has walked along this scenic route can confirm that the natural beauty of the land and seascapes the trail offers are simply breath-taking. Being a real active and sporty town, Dieppe was then awarded the “Terre de Jeux 2024” label, recognising the town’s efforts to increase the amount of sport people play and to get them involved in the big Olympic and Paralympic journey. Dieppe will now have access to an exclusive visual identity, as well as marketing tools to spread news about Paris 2024 and make preparations for key moments.
That’s not all. Here in Dieppe, good news comes in fours, and just last week it was confirmed that Dieppe had gained the prestigious “Station de Tourisme” label, rewarding the town for the quality of its beaches, facilities, activities and restaurants. Tourism is on the rise in Dieppe, and this label will help the town draw even more visitors, thus contributing to the local economy. Remember, Dieppe is right on your doorstep, and you don’t have to travel further south to experience the best of France.
I really came to realise that the town was in good shape while reading through the comments section on The Argus’ website a couple of weeks ago. Under an article on the closure of several independent stores in Brighton city centre, a reader commented that the city by the sea was going downhill and advised people to visit Dieppe, where one could find an amazing market, delicious restaurants and small independent shops galore. I was born in Brighton and have always looked to the city, but today I must admit the guy is right. Thirty new stores have opened in the town centre over the past year, which is amazing for a municipality of 30,000 souls. Dieppe has become a small mecca for local produce, quality events, good restaurants and indy shops, and the best is yet to come. Bring on 2020!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 03/12/19
The fun never stops!
What a weekend! On 16 and 17 November, tens of thousands of hungry visitors descended on Dieppe to celebrate the 50thanniversary of our famous herring and scallop fair. The event promised to be epic and it certainly was. The quaysides were packed from dusk to dawn and a true festive spirit was in the air. Despite the chilly weather, nothing could spoil the fantastic atmosphere. The forecasters had predicted rain. It didn’t rain a drop. The news readers talked about social protests. There were none. Everywhere you looked, people had smiles on their faces and sparkles in their eyes. Dieppe definitely was the place to be and the town put on a show to remember.
At nightfall, a delightful family-friendly sound and light parade illuminated and animated the streets, followed by one of the most impressive firework displays Dieppe had ever seen! Locals and visitors alike were left dazzled by the beauty of it all. This was truly Dieppe at is best: a welcoming, festive, authentic, friendly and yummy seaside town, whose heart beats year-round. I was surprised, and pleased, to hear so many foreign accents and speak to lots of Parisians who were visiting Dieppe for the very first time. Our town is the closest beach to the capital, yet many of its inhabitants have yet to discover France’s oldest seaside resort.
On the same weekend, Dieppe’s new multiplex cinema opened its doors in the heart of town, right opposite the busy train station. I wrote about this exciting new development last month, but wasn’t quite expecting it to be as good as it is. First of all, the place is huge, boasting eight screens in comfy, large rooms. Without doubt, it is also one of France’s most beautiful new movie theatres, combining the best of the old and the modern. The immense brick building in which the cinema is housed has been beautifully restored and is an attraction in itself. Under the same roof, you will also find one of France’s largest sport bars, a virtual reality park and a French Coffee Shop (our answer to Starbucks).
Now make way for the festive season! The lights are sparking across town, a huge Christmas tree has been installed right in front of the Café des Tribunaux, one of Dieppe’s most iconic landmarks, and quirky trees made of colourful scallop shells and herring figures are proudly standing at the top of the Quai Henri IV, beneath the beautifully-illuminated arcades. They certainly stand out and, just like Dieppe, have character! Enjoy the last days of the year!
© Photo : Pascal Diologent
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 28/10/19
Ready for the big screen!
France is a fabulous country, but it has its downsides. For years, soft urban planning rules on the outskirts of towns led to the development of horrendous shopping areas which sucked the life out of the high streets. Many mid-sized towns are suffering and are now trying to repair the damage caused by imposing new regulations. ‘Too little, too late’, some say… Here in Dieppe however, we are fortunate enough to still have a bustling town centre packed with independent shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. Over twenty new stores have opened since the beginning of the year and more are still to follow. Dieppe has an empty shop rate of only 7%, which is quite impressive considering the national average of over 11%.
It’s not only shops that have been moving to the suburbs though. Over the past years, many modern multiplex cinemas surrounded by giant car parks have flourished across the country, while in the meantime several centrally located independent movie theatres have shut their doors. Things are starting to change again though, and Dieppe is leading the way. On 16 November, one of the first modern multiplex cinemas housed in a historic building will open in the heart of our lively seaside town. Located right next to the train station, this immense brick building, which was once a tobacco factory, has been converted into an ultra-modern 8 screen cinema, complete with a virtual reality park, a huge sports bar and a French Coffee Shop.
This highly anticipated new complex will undoubtedly be met with huge success when it opens its doors in a couple of weeks’ time. Dieppe’s current cinema was way too small for an urban area of over 80,000 inhabitants, and locals are especially excited to see how the building has been refurbished from top to toe. Standing adjacent to the train station, just a stone’s throw away from the port, the hospital and the big cultural centre, the ‘halle à tabac’ is a well-known edifice which sat empty for decades. It will now welcome tens of thousands of spectators every year, along with virtual reality enthusiasts, coffee lovers and sport fanatics. Many people living near Rouen, Normandy’s capital, have already said that they will now start travelling up to Dieppe to catch a movie, adding extra footfall to our town centre.
Several other major projects are lined up for the coming years around Dieppe’s train station, including one of Europe’s most innovative and beautiful sea centres. Watch this space…
© Photo : Pascal Diologent
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 04/09/19
The endless summer
It’s been a sizzling summer here in Dieppe! It all started off early, when the superb Hermione frigate docked in our port mid-May, followed by several big nautical events such as the National coastal and offshore rowing championships, a national jet ski competition and of course the final stage of the world-famous Solitaire du Figaro. July was a scorcher, with two of the highest temperatures on record measured and jam-packed weekends on the beach. Normandy was even the sunniest place in the whole of France during the first two weeks of July, and visitors flocked form far and wide to enjoy our brilliant seaside atmosphere. The two night markets were met with huge success, the sports village set up on the seafront lawns was full throughout the week and over 30,000 people gathered on the same lawns on 10 August for the French Fab Tour. Dieppe truly is the place to be, and the excitement is set to continue until the end of the year!
Being France’s oldest seaside resort and the closest beach to Paris, Dieppe’s heart sure beats a little stronger during the summer months but the town certainly doesn’t shut up shop as soon as the kids head back to school! In order to make the summer magic last a little longer, a big wheel will be installed on the Quai Henri IV, right next to the famous Tout Va Bien brasserie, from 20 September. The perfect family ride to make the most of the Indian summer and get a bird's-eye view of the town centre and the port. On 14 and 15 September, Dieppe will also welcome over 170 teams for the Oxfam Trailwalker event, a challenge where teams of four people walk 100 km within 30 hours and fundraise for Oxfam to support its actions. High on the clifftop, overlooking the historic streets and the beach, Dieppe Castle will then host for the very first time a big medieval festival called Mers et Mondes Fantastiques on 28 and 29 September.
Things won’t cool down in October either! Now in its 17th year, the highly-anticipated Dieppe BD festival will take place in the castle on 5 and 6 October, bringing together hundreds of graphic novel aficionados. One week later, Normandy EcoSpace, located on the outskirts of town, will host the Startup Weekend in partnership with Google. In just 54 hours, local entrepreneurs can experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup and learn how to create a real company with some of best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors who are ready to help them get started. What if Dieppe became the next Silicon Beach?
Food lovers can rejoice too, as yet another restaurant is opening this month in the town centre. At the heart of the Ile du Pollet, right bang in between the two bridges, Chez Carlotta is set to become a mecca for anyone with a taste for Italian food. If you enjoy good beers, you can also head to La Porte Ouverte, at the bottom end of the Quai Henri IV, which has just opened its doors and boasts an impressive choice of bottled or tap beers.
Rides, major events, tech, food and drink… Dieppe has it all!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 06/08/19
The centre of it all
It’s easy to forget that Dieppe is in such a strategic geographic location. Halfway between London and Paris, two of the world’s most famous and bustling cities, lies a seaside town which has yet to unleash all of its potential. If you’re travelling by car or by bike, using the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry route is still the shortest way to link the two capital cities. Although many car drivers now choose to take the Eurotunnel service to cut the travel time, a growing number are rediscovering the pleasures of romance at sea and the comfort of a mini-cruise. However, over the past few months, it is especially the number of cyclists using the service which has increased, and for a good reason.
Three weeks ago, the final section of the famous Avenue Verte cycle route was inaugurated. Whereas cyclists previously had to ride a few miles to reach the start of the greenway in Arques-la-Bataille, they can now start pedalling on the route in the heart of Dieppe, just off the Avenue Vauban, south of the train station. This inauguration was met with acclaim from cyclists, who had been waiting for several years for the scheme to be completed. More and more bike lovers are choosing to travel via Dieppe to experience this unique greenway, which can take you all the way from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower. With its numerous hotels, gites, restaurants, pubs and cafés, Dieppe isn’t only the start (or the end) of the French section of the route, it is also one of the favoured places for cyclists to stop off before they continue on their journey.
Cyclists aren’t the only ones to have a smile on their right now. Last month, the timetable for the new direct train service between Paris and Dieppe was unveiled. Starting 2020, it will enable visitors and dieppoisreturning home to catch a train from Saint-Lazare at 9.12am on Saturdays which will arrive in Dieppe two hours later, just in time for tourists to stroll our famous Saturday-morning market. No change of trains in required in Rouen anymore. On Sunday evenings, the service will leave at 6.25pm and will take a little more than two hours to reach the heart of the French capital. This direct train route between Paris and its closest beach had been requested by users, local politicians and associations for a long time and it’s a great satisfaction to finally see it begin.
If you’re travelling on the ferry this August or next month, don’t miss the photo exhibition which is on display on both the Seven Sisters and the Côte d’Albâtre until end September. It features pictures of Dieppe’s cafés and portraits of the men and women who bring the streets of the town centre to life every Saturday morning when the market takes place. Recently crowned second best market in the whole of France, it wouldn’t exist without the local producers and vendors who give it its identity, vibe and authenticity.
© Photo : Erwan Lesné
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 02/07/19
Winning the hearts!
We did it! Well, almost that is. On Friday 14th June, Dieppe’s famous Saturday morning market was voted 2nd best in the whole country, the big winner being Montbrison in the Loire region. After two months of tough competition, most Dieppois were of course disappointed not to win the title, but everyone still had a smile of their face when the results were announced. Finishing second is still a fantastic achievement, especially when you know that over 260 towns and villages were competing at the start.
Here in Dieppe, we all know that our market is undoubtably one of France’s best, we just wanted to prove it to the rest of the country. Spreading over two kilometres from the top of the Quai Henri IV, up the Grande Rue and into several side streets, it is first of all Normandy’s largest market. Every Saturday from 8am, the town centre is transformed into an open-air street theatre which comes alive with an array of colours, scents and flavours. The market is so rich and plentiful that one really can't decide where to look or what to buy first, and you could actually spend all morning strolling through the busy streets.
Over the past year, these streets have become even busier. In 2018, Dieppe was already proudly representing Normandy in the national competition to elect France's most beautiful market (Votre Plus Beau Marché). Last year, we finished at the 8th place, which was already a good result. Extra efforts were put in this year, and the town centre was absolutely jam-packed when a television crew from TF1 (Europe’s most-watched TV channel) came to Dieppe to showcase the authenticity and the diversity of our market. Over six million viewers were able to see just how much this weekly rendez-vous matters to Dieppe.
Today more than ever before, people come from far and wide to enjoy the warm, relaxed, friendly and homey atmosphere that makes Dieppe the place it is. Over the past few weeks, I spoke to visitors from Paris, Lille and even Belgium who had travelled to our beautiful town just to see and experience the Saturday-morning market. This is of course hugely beneficial to our local economy, and helps Dieppe’s town centre stay alive, especially at a time where many are talking about ‘the death of the high-street’. People come for the market and stay for the wonderful restaurants, gorgeous scenery, livery streets and historical treasures.
Dieppe’s top-rated market is just one element of the renaissance that Dieppe is currently experiencing. As I already pointed out, visitor numbers are on the rise, the local music scene is booming, new trendy shops, cafés and restaurants are opening, the Alpine car factory is in full swing and several big projects are being implemented, such as the opening of a new ultra-modern multiplex cinema in October and a big sea life centre planned for 2022. Come see for yourselves, you won’t regret it!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 04/06/19
A summer to remember!
There is a real buzz about Dieppe at the moment. New shop and restaurant openings, a bustling market which is set to be elected as one of France’s most beautiful markets in a few days time, stronger cultural and commercial exchanges with the UK, visitor numbers on the rise and events galore. It just seems that the planets are aligned in order for this town to thrive! It’s in this context that the high season will soon kick in, making for a summer to remember. The sun is shining, the sea is sparkling, and Dieppe has its arms wide open to visitors, who can enjoy a wealth of events and activities these coming months.
Things already started to warm up last month, when the magnificent Hermione frigate docked in Dieppe and was welcomed by thousands on the quaysides. For the very first time, the National coastal and offshore rowing championships then took place on 24-25 May, which proved to be a great success. June is now upon us, and Dieppe’s heart is ready to start beating even faster! On Sunday 9 June, the Pollet neighbourhood will be the place to be, as Dieppe’s famous Colbert bridge will be celebrating its 130th anniversary! The town’s old fishing quarter will come alive like never before from 2pm with concerts, tastings and activities, finishing with a unique sound & light show at nightfall. Singers, jugglers, fire breathers and dancers will tell the story of two lovers separated by the river and who reunite thanks to the bridge!
On 22-23 June, thrill-seekers will enjoy an action-packed weekend when water craft drivers meet on the seafront for a national jet ski championship. The competition will feature some outstanding professional racers and will give spectators a chance to see the thrills and spills of this exciting sport up close.
From 25 to 30 June, Dieppe will then welcome the final stage of the Solitaire du Figaro, one of the world’s most famous solo sailing races. A village will be set up on the Quai Henri IV, with a variety of activities for all ages.
Thousands of people strolling up and down the quayside, packed bars and restaurants, bands playing in the street and dozens of merchants selling local produce, arts and crafts: this is what you’ll experience if you’re lucky enough to be in Dieppe on 6 July and 3 August, when the popular night markets will be taking place from 5pm along the Quai Henri IV.
Dieppe is truly a family-friendly town! Kids will love the heated open-air swimming pool on the seafront, the adjacent skatepark and mini golf, the newly refurbished pirate ship in the Square Pinsdez, the aquariums at the Cité de la Mer and of course the beautiful carousel on the Quai Henri IV. The whole family can aslo try renting a Rosalie 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. From 9 to 25 August, don’t miss the huge funfair held on Europe’s largest seafront lawns, with over 120 rides for big and small.
Many other festivities will be taking place throughout summer, such as the big firework display on 13 July or concerts and street shows in the town centre on every Saturday in July and August. You’ll be spoilt for choice!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 04/05/19
The place to be
Some of you may remember John Boyett. The gentle Sussex jazzman was a great friend of my late father’s, and that is how I came to know him well. He loved Dieppe deeply and used to spend most of his time here in his late years. I can recall often bumping into him in the Grande Rue, Dieppe’s main shopping street, his hands packed with groceries and shopping bags. Twelve years’ ago, we had a chat at the ferry terminal, and I remember him saying with his deep voice: “one day, Dieppe will become as popular as Brighton”. I laughed at the time, but deep down inside I knew he was right.
I have never stopped believing in Dieppe’s potential. After all, it was here that the Duchesse de Berry started the fad for sea bathing, which led the town to become France’s first seaside resort. Although most Parisians now tend to head to the Flowered Coast for the weekend or a short break, Dieppe remains the closest beach to the capital. The town boasts four ports, Europe’s largest seaside lawns, over 100 restaurants, 3 museums, a stunning golf course on the clifftops, a racecourse, one of France’s most beautiful markets, tens of independent shops, an active cultural scene and a rich industrial network. Dieppe’s strengths are many, and many are finally turning their heads towards this ever-surprising town.
I’ve been waiting to say this for years now, but I strongly believe that Dieppe’s moment has finally come. Since the beginning of the year, not a week has gone by without some positive news for the town. The Alpine factory has been producing the most-sold luxury sports car in France, the Canadian Film Festival enjoyed its most successful edition to date, the bustling Saturday morning market has been elected as one of the country’s best, and is now proudly representing Normandy in the national competition to elect France's most beautiful market, the famous Pont Colbert bridge is going to be preserved as a French National Monument and a huge sound & light show is even going to take place on 9 June to celebrate the structure’s 130th birthday.
All eyes are now on the town centre, where a lot of activity is underway. At a time where the death of the high street is mentioned quite a lot on both sides of the Channel, it's certainly not the case here in Dieppe. In January, an authentic and trendy wine bar opened up, followed by a hip concept-store, an organic hairdressers, a small Korean restaurant, a Thai restaurant and very soon Normandy’s first poke bowl store! It seems like Brighton has decided to relocate to Dieppe!
Dieppe has always remained true to its maritime identity, and this is now truer than ever before. On 11 and 12 May, the port will welcome the Hermione, one of the world’s finest tall ships, before hosting the national coastal and offshore rowing championships for the very first time on 24 – 25 May. End June, we will then welcome the final stage of the Solitaire du Figaro, one of the world’s most famous solo sailing races. From 22 to 26 August, Dieppe will be the beautiful Belem’s port of call, and, last but not least, will warm up in the Autumn for the 50th anniversary of the huge herring and scallop fair!
So, John Boyett definitely was right twelve years ago. With so much going on here, Dieppe really has become the place to be!
© Photo archive Solitaire du Figaro 2013 : Erwan Lesné
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 26/03/19
Let’s stay friends!
Every cloud has a silver lining. Brexit may well have been postponed, the forecast is still looking gloomy as uncertainty prevails. However, people tend to come together and reach out to one another when times are tough, and this is exactly what is happening at the moment on either side of the Channel. For years, Dieppe and Brighton have been looking at each other with friendly eyes, but cooperation hasn't exactly been a paragon of achievement. Brightonians love Dieppe and Dieppois love Brighton, but the truth is that most inhabitants of both cities have never crossed the Channel to pay their neighbours a visit. Although Brighton & Hove is one of the UK’s most successful cities and that Dieppe is the closest beach to Paris, cultural and business exchanges haven’t been rife. Until now that is.
Indeed, the times they are-a changin’, and with Brexit on the horizon, both the French and the British now believe that time has come to show their affection to their neighbours and to start working on projects together. Take Graham Precey for instance. When he discovered that it was often cheaper to hop on the ferry to Dieppe than to catch the train from Newhaven to London, he saw the potential straight away. He now spends as much time in Dieppe as he does in Sussex, and with his social enterprise Newhaven Regeneration Group (NRG), is working on building strong cross-Channel links. After inviting Newhaven artists to showcase their works in Dieppe last September and screening the French premiere of web series Seaside Town here back in December, he is now taking things to another level by inviting businesses in Sussex and Normandy to meet in international waters to discuss future business ties and investment opportunities.
Jointly hosted by NRG and Normandy Ecospace, based just outside Dieppe, the very first start-up cruise is taking place on Thursday 4 April on board the Transmanche ferry and will bring together a total of sixty entrepreneurs from both sides of the Channel to boost the trade links between the two regions. As Valery Jimonet, CEO of Normandy Ecospace rightly points out, “we have a lot in common and are looking forward to seeing a thriving cross-Channel partnership as a result of our voyage of discovery”.
Just before this unique initiative takes place, Dieppe will host the 6th edition of its Canadian Film Festival, which is unique in France, from 28 to 31 March. During this major event, Festival Director Nicolas Bellenchombre will unveil his very first modern circus and cabaret show called Kanada. For the very first time, Brighton Fringe CEO Julian Caddy will travel to Dieppe to watch the show live and meet local cultural actors. Brightonians will then have the opportunity to discover Kanada at the Fringe on 14 May.
Right after the festival, a new exhibition will be unveiled at the lovely Entrepôt café, under the Arcades. Named Côte à Côte (From Coast to Coast), it will showcase works by talented young photographer Brice Menou. Born to a British mother, he lives in Dieppe and has spent most of his free time over the past few years taking pictures of his hometown and the English coast. His first exhibition is a love letter to the friendship between his two countries, our two countries, and will be on display from 2 to 25 April.
© Photo : Erwan Lesné