I want to give Au Voilier Bleu (A Blue Sailboat - I think?) a special mention on lovelittleshops.com as I've been visiting this cute little retro 'beach' shop in Pas-de-Calais with my family for over 15 years. During every stay at my mum in law's holiday home, in the charming French seaside town of Wimereux, we've always paid at least one visit to Au Voilier Bleu. When the kids were young, our first trip to the shop was usually to browse, the second and sometimes third to purchase.
Every year we'd observe that each of the windows had almost identical displays of seaside and nautical themed souvenirs ranging from peculiar frogs to lighthouses. They were segmented accordingly and never cluttered. Each had a handwritten price tag. This year's display was exactly the same.
As you enter the shop you face a large table usually piled high with breakables eg. Wimereux branded ashtrays or ceramic kitchen sponge holders. There's a walkway either side with a stationery area at the back of the shop. The traditional wooden counter with the till is on the left. This area used to be difficult to negotiate with toddlers if you wanted to access the stationery section to the rear. Pushchairs always stayed outside.
This year I bought our third 'bat and ball' beach set from the shop to add to the two sets left behind in the shed back home.
What's particularly special about this little shop is the owner. He reminds me of the shopkeeper from the cult 1970s Mr Benn series - a quiet, softly spoken and gracious gentleman but without the fez hat! Occasionally he stands in the shop doorway and watches the world go by.
Wimereux has gone more upmarket over the years. Several new, smart beach shops are now trading on the thriving high street.
It's great to have more choice but sadly our favourite little shop in Wimereux is now for sale. I hope whoever buys Au Voilier Bleu retains its unique charm, lets children browse for as long as they wish and continues to offer them that special little Wimereux souvenir for just a few holiday euro.
A couple of years ago my daughter's dust covered Au Voilier Bleu novelties suddenly disappeared into a 'box for the loft'. Now random nail varnish bottles, make-up and study books clutter her bedroom shelves. Perhaps the sale of Au Voilier Bleu symbolises the end of an era for our family too. But this rare, almost fictional, independent seaside gem must stay intact for future generations to enjoy. Let's hope Au Voilier Bleu never sails away...
Many Brits head straight to the South of France from Calais for their hols. Okay, the weather in Wimereux is similiar to the UK but we've loved visiting this seaside town on the Opal Coast for many years. There's loads of things to do and great eateries too. I'd particularly recommend Hotel Atlantic, Hotel Speranza and the JFK bar/restaurant on the seafront.
There's also a fab bar/bistro called Les Bains de Minuit on Rue Carnot.
Have you got a favourite shop you'd like me to mention on lovelittleshops.com? Get in touch!