Home News Europe's largest aquarium Nausicaa is just across the Channel in Boulogne-sur-Mer

Europe's largest aquarium Nausicaa is just across the Channel in Boulogne-sur-Mer

I BLAME Jaws. When could it look like normal people and a malfunctioning piece of fiberglass could pass for a great white, we went shark crazy – and have not looked back since.
How else can we explain six Sharknado films? (Yes, that's a franchise about a tornado of sharks.)
Jonathan ALEXANDRE Located in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Nausicaa, the French National Sea Center, is Europe's largest aquariumBut the real thing is just a short hop across the Channel, around 30 minutes' drive from Calais to the busy port of Boulogne-sur- Mer.
Nausicaa, the French National Sea Center, is Europe's largest aquarium.
Thousands of tropical fish, manta rays and, yes, sharks.
But that barely scratches the surface – or below the surface – of what you see there.
Jonathan ALEXANDRE Kids wants to be amazed by the quantity and variety of everything on show. You could have fun with them at Thorpe Park
The new tank is impressive. It is 65ft wide and 16ft high, and took a month to fill. As a veteran of many such outings, I have never seen anything like it.
Nor did the kids: Ten-year-old Miles and Ava were entranced by the quantity and variety of everything on show.
They have seen each other – the touch tank with the smaller rays, glass tunnel (still more sharks), penguins and sea lions and clown fish gigantic piscine extravaganza.
Marine conservation is the overarching theme, but it is never rammed down your throat.
Alamy The aquarium houses thousands of tropical fish, manta rays and, yes, sharksYou can even have a nice lunch in one of the cafes. Being French, they take this very seriously.
Naturally, there is a good selection of wine.
We arrived early and stayed virtually every day, but opted for a picnic on the beach instead.
Fries and mayonnaise from the chip outside, plus a couple of cans of Belgian beer.
Alamy There's more to Nausicaa than just sharks but they are impressive What could be more continental? Well, a number of things, all of which are within reach of the Opal Coast.
Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer – the bit of the skip as we race towards the beaches of Brittany or the Med.
When taking the car, it's all very easy. You're straight off the ferry and make the short drive south, stopping off on the way at Les Deux Caps if you like.
The Caps are two chunky bits of headland, the closest part of France to Britain, and on a clear day you can see Dover's White Cliffs.
We stayed at the lovely B & B, Le Prince GourmandWe could not wait for you to return to our B & B, the lovely Le Prince Gourmand on the rolling green hills a few miles inland.
Being so close to England was never far away.
No, not the unseemly scrap over the scallops in the Channel, but the twin dreams of the last century.
The military cemeteries of northern France are sobering reminder of a time when we really did have something to fight about.
Alamy In Boulogne's Old Town you'll find cobbled streets surrounded by impressive medieval wallsBoulogne Eastern Cemetery contains more than 4,378 Commonwealth burials alone.
At Terlincthun there are another 3,873. It did not matter how many was memorials you see.
Around here are many and all are deeply moving.
It takes a lot to lift the spirits afterwards and the bracing coastline and sandy beaches do the trick.
Alamy There is plenty of great places to eat and drink in the Old City tooWimereux is a delightful resort on a golden sandy beach, like a slice of Cornwall in France.
Further on, the old center of Boulogne-sur-Mer is a treat, a maze of cobbled streets surrounded by impressive medieval walls.
Stop off here for more fries, with a pot of moules and a glass of wine for little more than a tenner.
Fish laid the foundations for this under-survey region of France, now more than ever with Nausicaa looming large.
WEEK into one suitcase BEER NECESSITIES Disneyland finally serving alcohol and Star Wars cocktails are on the menu SEA-CRET FLOOR IT There are SECRET decks on cruise ships – How to Reach Themselves SillY Can you see why this woman in First Class is being mocked for her Insta photo ?
Hollywood Hunk and his Wife by Instagram princess.
And the shark would be a terrifying CGI masterpiece.
But at least you would not need a bigger boat – just the ferry to Calais then drive down the Opal Coast.
GO: BOULOGNE
GETTING THERE / STAYING THERE: DFDS and P & O Ferries sail Dover-Calais from £ 35 return.
Lake aferry.co.uk. B & B at the nearby Prince Gourmand is from £ 94 per night. Lake prince-gourmand.fr.
OUT AND ABOUT: Adult entry to Nausicaa is from £ 22 (under 12s, £ 16). Lake nausicaa.co.uk.
FIND OUT MORE: See pas-de-calais-tourisme.com.

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