Wednesday 11 December 2013 19:48 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
I know most reading this will have flown to Le Touquet before - that great "rite of passage" for British PPLs! I myself have been a couple of times before in 10yrs. I suspect most, like me, have walked into the town for a quick lunch and maybe a walk on the front, then back to the airfield for the flight home. Especially if out of season and sunset at home airfield is an issue, we end up in the town for just a short time... and I must admit, the idea of going again hadn't appealed as I generally lust after new vistas and airfields I haven't visited before... but this weekend we returned, and it was well worth it!
This weekend was the first time I stayed there overnight - so we had a lot more time to appreciate the town itself and its attractions. My Mum is visiting from Australia this month, so wanted to take her down to Cornwall for the weekend where my daughters are staying with friends in a holiday home at Roserrow near Padstow (which has it's own grass strip!) so that had been plan A but when the forecast for Cornwall looked dodgy, I made a last minute (OK, Thursday...) decision to take her to Le Touquet instead.
We set out from Wycombe in a Warrior on Saturday morning around 11:00am. Weather was good - but just decided to delay departure a bit in order to let some showers that we could see on the Metoffice weather radar clear the Dover area as they had been hugging the coast for a few hours during the morning. In the event when we got to Dover there was some low scud still higging the coast that we were able to nip under, but the channel crossing itself was generally clear.
Routed LAM - DVR - Cap Gris Nez then south along the coast to LFAT. Previous crossings had been via the slightly more direct route via Lydd, but that's a longer water crossing and with family aboard (especially me Mum!) I tend to be more nervous/cautious of the water crossings so opted to minimise time over the water. We had life jackets of course, and a raft borrowed from Airways flying club at Wycombe, as well as a rented PLB so felt as safe as we could be for what is in reality an appreciably risky situation over water SEP - so I felt I had reduced the risks from very small to infitessimal, which is just how I like it ! Routing this way also kept us away form the scrum around the Farnborough area this weekend.
Something's changed at Manston - they are back on the air with a great LARS service... nice to have a radar service rather than just London Information (God bless 'em) as you coast out. I guess I have not kept up with the news so don't understand what has lewd to their re-surfacing or when it happened (I don't head over to Kent very often) but very glad that Manston Radar is back with us! The channel itself was clear, so we climbed to 3,500 and said our goodbyes to Manston mid-channel. We then had to descend back down under the coastal cloud on the French side however, 14~1500' or so, but stayed coastal past Boulogne so the combination of ~low cloud, wind farms and masts didn't become an issue for us...
Lille Info were alive as well, gave us a squawk - it did take me a few minutes to attune to the French accents on the radio as it has been a while since I have flown over there ('allo? 'allo?) and I could not for the life of me make out the rapid-fire Franglais on the LFAT ATIS frequency... I thought they were saying something about 1500' cloud base and a 24Kt+gust 90 degree crosswind at the field, but surely I had misunderstood..!? Well turns out that was what they were saying Passed 500' under a G-reg Cirrus in the instrument hold at LT then descended to circuit height to join downwind 32 right-hand. The cross-wind was a stonker, nearly gave it away towards the end as the gusts and sheer were presenting a 'sporting' challenge... just before we eventually touched down, my Mum commented that the aeroplane was 'doing a little dance' - how nice . glad to be down, parked up and took a taxi into town.
Thoroughly recommend the Novotel Thallasa spa/resort hotel - get a room with a sea view - we had spectacular views of the beach and dozens of kite-surfers, it was pretty as a picture! The hotel is not cheap, and they were fully booked (so Mum and I had to share a room for the first time since I was 8yrs old, I am now 47!), but well worth it and the restaurant is excellent.
Walked along the front in the westerly gale, then into the town proper. In the summer season the town is alive with crowds of weekenders up from Paris, and Mum and I really enjoyed ourselves - lots of nice shops to look at, especially the chocalateries and patisseries of course! Several very nice art/photography shops, a walk through "la foret", tango dancers in the bandstand, coffee in a cafe, people watching etc. All the while it got warmer as the low cloud eventually cleared, the sun got stronger and the wind tailed off considerably by the time we'd walked back to the hotel itself (which is at the extreme southern end of the town). We had a late dinner in the hotel restaurant, and I managed to walk down to the water's edge at low-tide in the moonlight while Mum read a book.
Next morning we wanted to do the tour of the big houses at the back of the in the "petit train" that goes from the Aqualud (pyramid shaped water slide thingy), but the train wasn't yet running when the taxi dropped us there with our bags etc so instead we had the very nice English speaking taxi lady (ref. Taxis Fusion) to take us on a private tour of the town on the way back to the airfield - great! We then paid the 30 Euro fees at the airport, which included parking - good value I'd say - and then took off in near perfrect conditions to cross back the way came this time at 4,500'. We cleared customs at Lydd, then vsitied family in Rochester for lunch on the way home to Wycombe. Altogether a great weekend, and WELL WORTH spending the extra time in the town of Le Touquet!
Happy landings and tailwinds to you all!
Forgot to add: used AFPEX to file both outbound and RETURN flight plans - worked a treat!
Interesting report Andy, We stayed in Le Touq overnight once and had a fabulous time in the town that evening....can recommend it as a night stop.
One question, why did you stop at Lydd for customs as oppossed to flying direct to Rochester and saving a landing fee etc?
Blissfully crawling very slowly through a man made ditch somewhere in the UK
Simply that family plans were still fluid at the time I sent the GAR form off and wasn't clear we would stop at Rochester at all, eg if family weren't available to meet we might have headed to IoW or somewhere else... all I knew for sure was that Wycombe would not be first for re-entry stop and you have to choose somewhere... being non-UK citizens ourselves as well, we don't want to fall foul of the system either so have found from experience that submitting form in plenty of time with details of our foreign passports allows time for the usual questions about residency status to be asked in advance, often over the phone, and can in fact save time! You Poms probably don't need to worry as much .
Lydd service was excellent by the way - in and out quickly, quick interview with police and immigration on this occasion as it goes, aircraft fuelled to tabs for us while we got on with business inside - easy peasey!
I remember staying at the Thalassa many years ago during a pre-Christmas half term booze cruise.
We bought a stack of seriously smelly cheese which stank the room out.
'Er indoors suggested we leave it on the window sill outside overnight.
Brisk wind/heavy seas overnight meant the whole cheese stache was full of sand in the morning:
Primum non nocere..
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