By Jack Peat, TLE Editor
If you have 15 minutes to spare, France is a real treat for a spot of lunch.
A quick hop over the channel in a Luxury turboprop King Air B200 and you can grab a bite to eat in the playground of rich Parisians.
The golden beaches, stunning architecture and gastronomic eateries offer ample excuse to take the short leap onto the continent. And thanks to a new hospitality package from Lyddair, fine wine, delectable restaurants and local markets are all within touching distance.
We arrived at Lydd Airport early Saturday morning just as the sun threatened to break through the morning cloud. In the departures lounge, bacon sandwiches and Champagne awaited as we relaxed pre-flight. I admired the fleet of aircraft parked outside the terminal before we were greeted by our captain who guided us through a short security briefing before escorting us to the aircraft.
For those unaccustomed to private jet-setting (I exclude myself, of course) our pilot James explained procedure before departure. We would be flying at a low altitude throughout the 15 minute trip, taking in views of the English coast before skirting the windswept channel and descending in Le Touquet Airport.
The 10-seater aircraft took to the air with ease, turning sharply before setting out on course for the French coast as we kicked back and admired the shimmering ocean a short distance below.
Le Touquet Airport is home to a romantic, old fashioned terminal that retains a touch of class from a time when air travel was the preserve of the rich and famous. On arrival, a host from the airport escorts us through the terminal building and in to a taxi. The driver gives us a brief history of the town as we rush through the narrow roads, lined by trees and lush holiday homes.
Host to four stages of the Tour de France, the town is home to a population of 5,000 in the winter but 80,000 during the summer. Villas, Hotels and a covered market are among the attractions along with a racecourse and golf course on the outside of town.
Its appeal to leisure seekers becomes immediately evident. Restaurants line the high street and a wealth of fashion outlets straddle the streets. Art shops are also prominent, along with the large independent market for which the town is famed.
We dined at the grand Westminster Hotel, enjoying a wonderful continental buffet of seafood, meats, salads and traditional French pastries for dessert. The buffet was evidently seasonal and very much in keeping with a town’s gastronomic heritage. The market is open until early in the afternoon before street stores open offering locally sourced seafood, charcuterie and dairy produce. For those looking to take advantage of extra hand luggage allowance, there is a surplus of wine stores offering the best from Bordeaux to Burgundy at a remarkable price.
A must-see for daytrippers is the lighthouse that overlooks the town and the Canches estuary. The 58 metre high tower consists of a gruelling ascent of 274 steps, but the view from the gallery is well worth the laborious climb. On a clear day you can admire the Bay of Canche, the Normandy cliffs and the wooded dunes of the southern Opal Coast. The museum at the base of the lighthouse offers an insight in to the town’s history, including poigant accounts from the World War.
The return leg to Britain was welcome after a long day spent exploring and indulging in the town’s delights. My empty rucksack was now filled with French treats and as we crossed the channel under the last of the day’s sun I felt as though it was an age since we departed this morning.
Hospitality packages include return transfers from anywhere in the South East to Lydd Airport, Champagne reception, flight in your own private plane and return transfers to Le Touquet town priced from less than £222 per person based on nine people travelling in a Piper Chieftain.
To book your trip, visit http://www.lyddair.com/corporate-hospitality—new.html.