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
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 25/01/19
10 reasons why Dieppe will shine in 2019
1) 2019 is the year to visit Normandy, and therefore Dieppe! Indeed, this beautiful part of France has been listed by Lonely Planet, CNN, Frommer’s and many others as one of the world’s top regions to visit this year. If you’re travelling from the UK, Dieppe can be the first stop on your trip. The town is the country’s oldest seaside resort and boasts over 100 restaurants, 400 shops, 4 ports, 3 museums, not forgetting Europe’s largest seafront lawns and one of France’s most beautiful markets. You’re in for a treat!
2) Seafood at its best! A few months ago, celebrity Chef Rick Stein visited Dieppe for his new TV-series ‘Rick Stein’s Secret France’ and fell in love with the town’s produce. The show will air next September in the UK, but until then you too can come and discover Dieppe’s gloriously fresh fish and seafood. Our famous coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops) have just been awarded a Label Rouge (Red Label), which is a sign of quality assurance in France. Dieppe is one of the best places to savour them on the whole continent, so hop on the ferry and come get your taste buds satisfied.
3) Movies and more! September will also be marked by the opening of Dieppe’s new ultra-modern multiplex cinema, which will be unique in France. Housed in a historic brick building, just a few steps away from the train station, it will boast eight screens equipped with 4D technology, a virtual reality centre, a French Coffee Shop and an impressive sports bar complete with a boxing ring!
4) A call from the sea. In Dieppe, the sea is everywhere and everything links to the sea. It will therefore come as no surprise to hear that the national coastal and offshore rowing championships will be taking place here on 24-25 May. One month before the world-famous Armada festival in Rouen, on 11-12 May, the Hermione, a 32-gun Concorde-class frigate fitted for 12-pounder guns, will dock in Dieppe. At the end of the summer season, competitors are due to celebrate the finish of the Solitaire du Figaro in Dieppe, which will be another big maritime event.
5) Culture galore! From 28 to 31 March, Europe’s one and only Canadian film festival will return to the town’s theatres and streets, with several big names announced such as French movie star Frédéric Diefenthal. June will be marked by the theatre festival ‘Les Enfants de Molière’, organised by a young and enthusiastic bunch of local girls, which will take place in the Casino’s beautiful theatre room. In September, the ‘Bandes Dessinées’ (graphic novel) festival will be held for the very first time in the castle overlooking the town centre!
6) The sound of music. Everyone loves a comeback! Dieppe used to have one of Normandy’s most active rock music scenes. Things died down a few years back, but now the scene is back in force. Not a weekend goes by without four or more concerts taking place in the town’s bustling pubs, cafés and night bars. If you really want to see Dieppe rocking, head to the Au Bout Là-Bas, at the top end of the Quai Henri IV, on a Saturday eve.
7) Time to cross the bridge! Five years ago, I wrote a column on this website informing readers that the new viaduct bridge outside Dieppe would be completed in 2015 and that it would soon only take thirty minutes to reach Rouen from the entrance to Dieppe, and a little less than two hours to arrive in Paris. Unfortunately, things didn’t really go as planned and work is still ongoing on the RN27 highway. However, things are finally looking up and car drivers should be able to cross the bridge at the end of this year!
8) Room with a view. Another big project which will be completed this year is the new 4-star hotel at the Tour aux Crabes, overlooking the marina. When finished, the hotel will have 49 rooms, a gourmet restaurant and a spa. It will incorporate the remains of historic local landmark, the Crab Tower, which formed part of the medieval ramparts of Dieppe.
9) The herring king. Dieppe’s annual herring festival is one of Normandy’s biggest and most popular food & drink festivals. This year will be a very special one, as on 16-17 November, the event will celebrate its 50th anniversary in style! Over 100,000 visitors from far and wide will flock to the quaysides to enjoy the freshest of smoked fish and seafood. Bring it on!
10) Brexit links. Brexit may indeed by a threat for Dieppe, but it can also be an opportunity. When Brexit comes into effect on 29 March, we’ll shout out loud our love for Britain and will remind our British friends that we will continue to welcome them with open arms, despite the circumstances. Dieppe is one of the gateways to the continent, and I’m positive that in the years to come, many Brits will choose to cross the Channel to show their affection to their neighbours.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 10/12/18
It’s the festive season and despite the ongoing protests over here in France, locals and visitors are still flocking to Dieppe’s town centre for Christmas shopping and activities. Magic is in the air, and as you might already now, in Dieppe we like to do things differently. No cheap-looking chalets selling products made in China in sight here, but several craft fairs and pop-up stores showcasing the best of local talent. At the heart of the Quai Duquesne, L’Effet Mer for instance will be welcoming several talented artists from 11 to 29 December. It’s a fantastic opportunity to purchase unique, handmade arts and crafts made in Dieppe. Right opposite St Jacques Church, another ephemeral boutique called ‘Chez les filles’ has set up shop and is selling jewellery, accessories and other handcrafted items. Just a few steps from there, in the Rue de l’Oranger, the ‘Atelier Konu’ is another fantastic place to head to discover the works of seven local artists. Finally, in the Grande Rue, Dieppe’s main shopping street, you can also visit Miro’s pop-up store to stock up with Christmas gifts with a difference.
The Tout Va Bien, one of the town’s most famous landmarks, looks more magical this Christmas than ever before. Overlooking the marina, it is lit with an array of sparkling lights and decorations, and this year its clients can make the most of the quirky sky tram cabins that have been installed on the pavement in front of restaurant. Perfect little cocoons to enjoy a coffee or a glass mulled wine while the cold hits in! On the other side of the street, kids can make the most of the small funfair which is in town until 16 December. It will then make room for the long-awaited free outdoor ice rink, which will be installed on the Quai Henri IV from 22 December to 6 January, complete with an authentic chalet selling crêpes, mulled wine and other winter delicacies.
On Saturday 15 December, an extra sparkle will come in the form of a magical light parade through the streets of the town centre. From 3 to 5:30pm, four musicians dressed in luminous clothes will light up the winter and warm people's hearts with their songs and stories. A week later, on 22 December, all aboard the musical train! At 3pm, the surprising ‘Loco Musicale’ will leave the Town Hall, cross the buzzing shopping streets and end its journey at the ice rink, where elves will share a snack with all the children. Once again, these street shows are free.
As Christmas is all about (well almost) food, don’t forget to treat yourself to one of our sweet or savoury delicacies when you’re in town. Dieppe is the place to tuck into glorious seafood of course, and with over 100 restaurants and brasseries, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Stroll through the town centre, and you’ll also discover a wealth of independent shops and groceries selling locally-sourced products to suit all tastes. Bakers and chocolatiers are particularly good here, so you won’t find it hard to satisfy your sweet tooth before heading home!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 05/11/18
A taste of gold
According to a recent survey, one of the main reasons British visitors choose to visit France is because of the country’s heavenly food and drink. From cheese to wine, crusty bread to patisseries, France has such a vast culinary heritage that it would indeed be difficult to give a full history in just a few lines. Good news for visitors arriving in this beautiful country on the ferry via Dieppe is that you don’t have to head down south to savour some of France’s most yummy treats. Did you know for instance that Neufchâtel cheese, which is increasingly popular in the UK, is produced in the quaint town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, just twenty-five miles from Dieppe? On Saturday mornings, local producers head to the town’s market, which was recently crowned the 8th most beautiful of its kind in the whole country, to sell their lovely heart-shaped cheeses on one of the numerous stalls.
As you wander along the streets, letting your senses succumb to the scents and colours of regional delicacies, look out for trendy Camembert Le 5 Frères, which bears a very distinctive blue and white label. Produced on a family farm located in Bermonville, at the heart of the Pays de Caux, thirty miles down the road from Dieppe, it has just been awarded a Gold Medal at the 2018 Farm Cheese Awards. It’s a real Camembert fermier, meaning the entire production process is completed on the farm. All the milk comes from the family’s own herd of 200 dairy cows, and the cheeses are moulés à la louche (moulded by ladle), just as they should be. You must give this one a try.
Another delicacy to taste in Dieppe and bring back home for others to discover is the Pâté au Neufchâtel produced by Antoine Vanost and his father, which is sold in their recently opened shop at the bottom of the Grande Rue, Dieppe’s main shopping street. Venture into Les 3 Conserveries, and you’ll fall for the many local gourmet products showcased there, especially the famous pâté which also recently won a Gold Medal at the Epicures de l’Épicerie Fine national competition.
If you are a fan of Andouillette, the traditional coarse-grained sausage with its distinctive smell, then you should book a table at the Café Suisse, one of Dieppe’s landmarks located under the beautifully-restored Arcades. Last January, Chef Vincent Normand received the Grand Prize at the international competition rewarding the world’s best Andouillettes! It’s definitely the right place to tuck into this dish!
You may be aware the Dieppe is France’s scallop capital. With scallop season in full swing, now is the time to head down to the town’s two fish markets to fill up of the freshest of seafood. Only a month ago, Dieppe’s scallops were awarded a Label Rouge (Red Label), which is a sign of quality assurance in France. It certifies that a product has a specific set of characteristics establishing a superior level to that of a similar current product. This decision comes as a reward for Dieppe’s many fishermen who work hard from dusk to dawn to bring healthy seafood to our plates.
If you too want to savour the best of Dieppe, pay us a visit on 17-18 November, when the huge herring and scallop festival is on. It’s one of the country’s largest and truly showcases the flavours of this authentic and welcoming French town.
© Photo d'illustration : Pascal Diologent
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 17/09/18
Hand in hand
With Brexit and ‘Scallop wars’ headlining the news in the past few weeks, it is needless to say that Anglo-French relations haven't been at their best lately. Being born in Brighton and having grown up in Dieppe, I am the first to be saddened by this, although as usual the media is only telling half of the story. Seen from Dieppe, a town which has shared very strong relations with the UK for centuries, the whole picture is indeed far from being bleak, and the general atmosphere here is actually quite positive.
As I already underlined in this blog, the ferry line which links Dieppe to Newhaven is still going strong and passenger numbers are slightly on the rise. This goes to show that despite the weakness of the pound, many British citizens are still choosing to visit France, and especially Normandy, where they feel at home while experiencing a break from the norm. Dieppe of course is often the first port of call for many visitors, a town where they receive a warm welcome and can savour the best of France as soon as they set foot off the ferry.
Hundreds chose to stay in Dieppe over the past ten days, when the international kite festival was in full swing. This years’ event was bigger and better than ever and attracted tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. The festival gained international press coverage, with many British papers sharing photos of the colourful parade and crowded seafront. I was pleased to hear so many people speaking English while strolling around town last weekend, like a reminisce of the good old days which saw British visitors pour into Dieppe when the ferry docked right bang in the heart of town. When tourists return to Dieppe after many years, they are generally surprised to discover how much the town has changed, although it has retained its spirit and atmosphere.
Graham Percey and his buddies can certainly confirm! The ‘Made in Newhaven’ team have just returned home to the UK after spending ten days in Dieppe, where they exhibited and sold works by talented local artists at the Effet Mer pop-up art gallery on the Quai Duquesne. The initiative was a great success and the Newhaven gang met lots of friendly Dieppois who asked them to come back again soon. Another British artist who has recently received a very warm welcome here is Brighton-based singer and songwriter Adam Davis, who has already played three times in Dieppe this year and who even has a small fan base in town!
Forget the doom and gloom: Dieppe still has its arms wide open to British visitors, artists and investors and can play an important role in strengthening the relationship between France and the UK in the months and years to come. Vive l'entente cordiale !
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 06/08/18
I was born in Brighton and grew up in Dieppe, two towns I love deeply and that have helped me become the person I am. Time flies, friends come and go, relatives sadly pass away, but as years go by, both Brighton and Dieppe manage to retain their identity. In an age where everything is moving at the speed of light, I find that reassuring and comforting in many ways. Over the past few years, I however realized I had come to defend and promote Dieppe a lot more than Brighton, probably because this French town needs more ambassadors and publicity than London-by-the-sea does.
According to the Office for National Statistics, Brighton’s population will increase by 17,100 by 2026 and the famous seaside resort is expected to become one of the top performing cities in the UK in terms of economic and employment growth across the coming months and years. Unfortunately, the same cannot really be predicted for Dieppe. Despite being France’s oldest seaside resort and the closest beach to Paris, this dynamic middle-sized town isn't experiencing the growth in jobs and population that other parts of the country are seeing, and especially that it deserves.
I have always said that Dieppe is a real gem of a town and a place unlike any other. It’s a great town to live, visit and invest, but has yet to unveil all its potential. I met a British couple on the beach three weeks ago who had just moved to Dieppe from Brighton as they were having difficulty affording the high cost of living on the other side of the Channel. They said they were impressed by the quality of life Dieppe offers and were surprised by the town’s infrastructure, facilities and affordable property prices. Word-of-mouth will now do the job around them but its important to get the word out there in the first place.
Today more than ever, I can therefore say that you don’t have to go far to experience the best of all that France has to offer. Beautiful scenery, gorgeous food & drink, historic streets, good shops, authentic cafés and brasseries, bustling markets and a touch of douceur de vivre can all be found right here in Dieppe. Simply hop on the ferry and four hours later you’ll be sipping a coffee at the Tout Va Bien.
Good news though is that the wind has already started to turn. Since the beginning of the year, both ferry passenger numbers and visitor numbers are on the rise. The good weather has certainly helped, but many people have also begun to rediscover Dieppe, which I like to call Normandy’s coolest town. Neither snobby nor shabby, distinctively different to many other seaside towns which are either rundown, either somewhat pretentious, Dieppe has finally started to catch the tourists' eyes again. Many people are also choosing to settle and live in Dieppe.
Just like London, which is seeing the biggest exodus to other parts of the UK for more than a decade, Paris’ population is also declining. 40,000 people have left the city in the past five years, and while most are heading to the suburbs or the South of France, others are buying properties in Dieppe, which is easily accessible from the capital via rail or road. Investors are also choosing Dieppe. Opposite the train station, entrepreneur Jean-Edouard Criquioche is currently building one of France’s most unique cinemas, which will boast eight ultra-modern movie rooms when it opens its doors next year. A consortium of investors, architects, planners and allied professionals have also selected Dieppe as the location for Normandy’s Oceanography Centre, which will be nothing less than one of Europe’s biggest aquariums in 2021.
Choose Dieppe to visit, live or invest: you won’t regret it!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 11/06/18
Believe in youth!
One of Dieppe’s main strengths is its young population. Over 20% of the town’s inhabitants are under the age of eighteen and approximately 36% are under the age of thirty. These young people greatly contribute to the town’s economy, cultural scene, nightlife and sport activities. The Lycée Jehan Ango, Dieppe’s main high school where astronaut Thomas Pesquet obtained his baccalauréat (A-Levels), is one of Normandy’s largest schools and its proximity to the town centre helps many cafés, food outlets and shops maintain a young clientele.
Over 3000 dieppois under the age of twenty-five practice a sport activity, which is a substantial number when you know that the town’s population is just over 30000. There are seventy sports clubs in Dieppe, most of which are formed of young members. 23% of the under 25s also practice a musical instrument, and Dieppe’s wonderful music school is undoubtably one of the most active in the region. Many young musicians meet there and go on to form bands that sometimes gain national attention. Local pop-rockers 4 the Hackers are currently touring the country for instance but will be back home on 18 August for a concert on the beach.
Thanks to these talented musicians but also a young and captive audience, Dieppe’s live scene is currently booming. Over ten bars and pubs now programme gigs on a weekly or monthly basis, and some even have two bands playing live every weekend. Jazz enthusiasts head to the Entrepôt café under the arcades, rock music lovers pack the Au Bout Là-Bas pub to the brim and reggae fans meet at the BDB when the weekend hits in. This vibrant music scene has led famous guitarist Nicolas Bravin to call Dieppe “the French Liverpool”: a town of contrasts and vitality, where workers and artists party together and with musical bands aplenty.
The town’s reputation as a young, lively and musical hot spot is now helping Dieppe become a trendy destination. Last month, pop heroes Tahiti 80, nicknamed “the French Beach Boys” by the press, chose Dieppe to shoot their latest video, which is already a hit on YouTube. The town is also trending on Instagram, and tourism is on the rise. On the ferry route liaising Newhaven to Dieppe, passenger numbers have increased by 8.58% in the first semester, which is of course very satisfying. More and more people are choosing to use this route not only because the line is convenient and the ferries on time, but also because Dieppe is a great town to visit, boasting fantastic restaurants, good shops, interesting architecture and a great music scene too. Come see for yourself soon!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 02/05/18
Changes for the good
In France, the 1st of May isn’t only a public holiday known as La Fête du Travail (May Day or Labour Day), it also signals a new raft of changes across the country, which often means increases in gas prices or train fares. In Dieppe however, the outlook isn’t as gloomy, and May 1st is actually a synonym of good news, as the recent changes will benefit everyone!
First of all, both the Brits and the Dieppois will be delighted to hear that the third daily return crossing has just started again on the Newhaven-Dieppe route. Ferries now leave the Sussex port at 9 am, 5:30 pm and 11 pm daily, and with returns from Dieppe at 6pm or midnight, anyone can come and soak up the local atmosphere for a day. Passenger numbers have increased by 8.58% in the first semester of the year and bookings for this summer are already looking very promising. More and more people are choosing to use this route not only because the line is reliable and convenient, but also because Dieppe is well worth a visit.
Another piece of positive news for visitors is the introduction of a new electric shuttle bus which connects the station to the seafront via the hospital and the quaysides. The modern vehicle hit the streets on the 1st of May and hasn't gone unnoticed. It completes the loop twice an hour from 9 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday in May and June, then every day of the week in July and August. Visitors arriving at the train station can easily hop on the little electric bus to reach their hotel, the tourist office, the busy shopping streets or the beach.
Let’s stay on the beach, where the well-loved swimming complex Les Bains has just extended its opening hours. Swimmers can now enjoy a dip in the outdoor pool seven days a week from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday though Friday and 8:30 am to 7 pm weekends. The complex also has an indoor section complete with a water slide, jacuzzis and games. Adjacent to the pool, restaurant L’Ô 2 Mer (a pun for the word seawater in French) is a local favourite. It boasts two terraces: one offering sea views and the other looking overlooking the outdoor pool. It’s a great place to have a drink or a meal while the sun is out.
On the over side of the street, the Casino has undergone a revamp and has just been relaunched in style! In addition to the dozens of new slot and gaming machines, the establishment now boasts a 4-star hotel, modern reception rooms and a beautiful new restaurant serving delicious and reasonably-priced food.
As always, Dieppe is on the move and is ready to welcome visitors with open arms!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 03/04/18
The spirit of Dieppe
If someone asked me what defines Dieppe best, I’d probably reply “Its market”. Bustling with life, it’s a place where locals and visitors alike come to enjoy a community atmosphere in a delightful setting. Spreading over two kilometres from the beautifully restored Arcades, up the Grande Rue and into several side streets, it’s the largest market in the region and is inevitably a must-see. 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 will have to spend at least an hour strolling through the busy streets.
One of the best things about the market is its diversity. Not only will you find fruit, vegetables, cheese and other local produce, but will also be tempted by the cheapest, freshest fish possible, available from the fishermen's wives who sell their husbands' catch at Les Barrières, just opposite the iconic Tout Va Bien. You can alternatively cross the bridge to the covered fish market, where plenty of other seafood delicacies are sold. The stalls located on the Place Nationale, the town’s main square, specialise in clothing and household goods. With over 200 vendors, there is truly something for everyone here, be it organic produce, freshly roasted coffee or local beer.
The market is also a place where people meet and socially interact with each other while doing their shopping, creating a strong community spirit. Locals often finish their Saturday morning market walk in one of the town centre’s numerous cafés, brasseries and restaurants, where tables are full and conversations lively. People come from far and wide to enjoy the warm, relaxed, friendly and homey atmosphere that makes Dieppe the place it is.
The Dieppois and visitors are so in love with their market that it was named as the best in the region back in February. Alongside Saint-Lô, it is now proudly representing Normandy in the national competition to elect France's most beautiful market. You can take part in the vote too by following this link. If Dieppe wins, no doubt that it’s wonderful market will become famous throughout the country and see people travel from even further to discover its treasures.
Long live Dieppe market!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 19/02/18
Industrial past, present and future
When they arrive in Dieppe, visitors tend to head directly to the beach, the marina, the shopping streets and the big supermarkets, often not realising that there are still many factories and working sites in this neither snobby nor shabby coastal town. However, several recent news stories have reminded everyone that Dieppe remains an important industrial and working-class town.
Last month, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn and Bruno Le Maire, France’s Economy and Finance Minister, inaugurated the new Alpine A110 sports car production line at the brand’s original factory, right here in Dieppe. The plant was created by Jean Rédélé in 1969, fourteen years after he gave birth to the name Alpine at his garage in the heart of town. 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, the year the company was bought by Renault. Although Alpine never died, it rose from the ashes in 2012, when the famous French car manufacturer officially relaunched the brand and promised that a new model would soon be commercialised.
Following two years of conversion to alliance manufacturing standards and, more specifically, for production of the new A110, the plant on the outskirts of town is now qualified to produce premium vehicles. In parallel to this transformation, the factory has raised workforce levels by nearly sixty percent with the recruitment of 150 staff members over the past two years. The “Made in Dieppe” label is now widely recognised as a synonym of quality and excellence, even more so since the 33rd ‘Festival Automobile International’ held in Paris last month saw the new Alpine A110 claim the Most Beautiful Car of 2017 Award.
Not far from the Alpine plant, another Dieppe factory was under the spotlight a few days ago when the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. An impressive meridian lift – a multi-level circular platform, equipped with a unique elevating system, was at the centre of the stage. The system is developed by Serapid, a world leader in heavy linear motion, electro-mechanical, rigid chain technology, whose French plant is based in Rouxmesnil-Bouteilles, just outside Dieppe.
Unfortunately, not all news is uplifting, as on Saturday 17 February, a big explosion at a factory on the port cost the lives of two workers and injured several others. The blast at the Saipol factory engulfed the six-storey building while a team of over fourty firefighters, police agents and rescuers attended the scene. Avril, the company that owns the plant, is France's leading manufacturer of vegetable oils which are used in food products and for biofuels. Our deepest sympathy goes to the families, friends and all those affected by this tragic event.
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 07/01/18
A new year full of hope, progress and projects
The wind is blowing strong on our shores and the ferry crossings are pretty bumpy at the moment. However, that doesn’t stop the boat from leaving both Dieppe and Newhaven harbours, even in stormy weather. The ferry line itself has weathered many a storm in the past decades, but continues to link both towns, both countries, at a time where it is most needed. The British and the French alike are very attached to the line, which is still the shortest route by car between London and Paris, and everyone knows that Dieppe without the ferry wouldn’t quite be Dieppe anymore. Good news is that the route is to continue for at least another five years after the French owners voted unanimously to maintain the service from 1 January until 2023 at the minimum. The announcement was welcomed with great joy and relief on both sides of the Channel, and as good news never comes alone, the SMPAT (Syndicat Mixte de Promotion de l’Activité Transmanche) also voted to improve the onboard restaurant services to make the crossings even more pleasant.
People visiting Dieppe this year are in for a treat as 2018 will see the town come alive like never before with many events and experiences taking place throughout the year. After a successful fourth edition in September, Europe’s only Canadian Film Festival will return to the town’s movie theatres and streets from 21 to 25 March, with several big names announced such as British actor John Rhys-Davies. The end of the summer will be marked by the 20th edition of the famous kite festival, which is the biggest event of its kind in the world! From 8 to 16 September, hundreds of kites big and small will fill the air, making for a magical and unforgettable family experience. A few days later, on 22 September, the 'bandes dessinées' (graphic novel) festival will be held for the very first time onboard the ferry! Graphic novel fans will travel from far and wide to meet over forty authors and enjoy conferences and exhibitions all at sea! Of course, the herring and scallop festival will also be back in November, bringing together tens of thousands of visitors and locals on the quaysides.
Dieppe will definitely be on the move in 2018 with the launch or completion of several major projects. In the town centre, just opposite the station, work will finally start on the new ultra-modern cinema complex, which will boast eight screens and a café. At the entrance of town, the Rosendal Park is currently being refurbished and will soon offer sports facilities, new walking paths and even a new viewpoint to look out over Dieppe. On the Quai Henri IV, the Tour aux Crabes, a historic mansion located above the marina, is being converted into a hotel and a panoramic restaurant which is sure to be met with success when it opens its doors at the end of the year. 2018 will also see production of the new Alpine A110 sports car start on the plant which has recently added 151 new staff members, an increase of 60 percent from previous levels.
Dieppe is a town for all seasons, Dieppe is a town for everyone and Dieppe is a town that never stops moving. Happy new year to all and see you soon in Dieppe!
Blogs / The depths and delights of Dieppe 04/12/17
In festive mood
Dieppe in December is magical. I love entering town from the fishing port and seeing all the lights shine along the Quai Duquesne. Just opposite, the Tout Va Bien, one of Dieppe’s most prominent landmarks, welcomes tourists and Dieppois alike with an array of decorations and sparkling lights. The café reminds everyone that all is well in this quaint and friendly French town, especially during the festive season when Dieppe puts on its best face. This year, some 475 Christmas illuminations have been turned on across the town, and the streets will be filled with events, concerts, fairs and shows.
The Quai Henri IV, overlooking the marina, is the centre of the festivities. It’s a beautiful place to see at night, with the arcades, tourist office, cafés and restaurants all lit up. From 1 to 17 December, the winter funfair will be set up along the quayside, with a selection of rides for big and small. It will then leave way to one of the highlights of the festive period: the outdoor ice rink. From 23 December to 7 January, skaters young and old will be out in force to test their skills on the ice. Best of all, it’s free!
If you’re in town on 16 and 23 December, don’t miss the magical street shows taking place all afternoon up the Grande Rue and the Rue de la Barre, Dieppe’s main shopping streets. Elfs, clowns, angels and other creatures will get your eyes sparkling and warm everyone’s heart. Once again, the events are free.
Dieppe is also the perfect place to visit in December as the shops and restaurants are full of festive culinary delights. The town is the French capital of the Coquille Saint-Jacques (king scallop), and you will also find oysters galore. Those with a sweet tooth can feast on delicacies from Roussel or Divernet, and try Caramel de Pommes Dieppois, a local speciality which will add a distinctive taste to all dishes.
For Christmas gifts with a Dieppe twist, head to l’Effet Mer, on the Quai Duquesne, which is hosting a Christmas craft fair from 12 to 31 December. It’s a fantastic opportunity to purchase unique, handmade arts and crafts from many talented local artists/makers. Back on the Grande Rue, you can also visit Miro’s pop-up store, which will be showcasing the best of local talent until the end of the year. There are over six-hundred shops in Dieppe, meaning you are certain to find presents for the whole family, and not one’s you usually see on the high street !
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!