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Le Touquet

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Beach of Le Touquet
Beach of Le Touquet
Coat of arms of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Location of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Map
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is located in France
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is located in Hauts-de-France
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage
Coordinates: 50°31′07″N 1°35′42″E / 50.5186°N 1.595000°E / 50.5186; 1.595000
CountryFrance
RegionHauts-de-France
DepartmentPas-de-Calais
ArrondissementMontreuil
CantonÉtaples
IntercommunalityCA Deux Baies en Montreuillois
Government
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Daniel Fasquelle[1][2] (LR)
Area
1
15.31 km2 (5.91 sq mi)
Population
 (2021)[3]
4,213
 • Density280/km2 (710/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Touquettois (masculine)
Touquettoise (feminine)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
62826 /62520
Elevation0–42 m (0–138 ft)
(avg. 5 m or 16 ft)
Websitelestouquettois.fr (administrative), letouquet.com (tourism-related)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (French pronunciation: [lə tukɛ paʁi plaʒ], Picard: Ech Toutchet-Paris-Plache), commonly referred to as Le Touquet (/lə tʊk/), is a commune near Étaples, in the Pas-de-Calais department, northern France. It has a permanent population of 4,213 (2021),[4] but it welcomes up to 250,000 people during the summer,[5] so the population at any given time during high season in summer swells to about 30,000.[6] Located on the Opal Coast of the English Channel at the estuary of the river Canche, the commune is one of the most renowned seaside resorts in France, with a wide range of sports and leisure activities.

The name 'Le Touquet' has been attested since the mid-18th century to designate the cape next to which the town was built. Alphonse Daloz [fr], a public notary in Paris, then bought the land on the cape, planted a forest and built a small palace there, and in 1882 founded the seaside resort as Paris-Plage. Ten years later, John Whitley, an English businessman, saw a lucrative opportunity to build a resort for (mostly) English and French elites. His first endeavour, 'Mayville', failed as the company behind it announced bankruptcy, but on the second try, Whitley bought the coveted land and launched a construction boom in the village. This rapid expansion contributed to the government's creation of a separate commune in 1912. Numerous prestigious hotels were built, and at its peak of prosperity in the Roaring Twenties, the resort boasted the biggest casino in France by revenue, the Royal Picardy, an ultra-luxury hotel with a sparkling water swimming pool, and hundreds of villas. The bustling town had good transport connections thanks to a tram line [fr] and a narrow-gauge train line to Étaples [fr], and, since 1936, a dedicated airport. Great Depression dealt some problems to the resort but it still remained popular with the British upper class. World War II, however, did not spare the settlement and brought destruction as the Germans deployed about 100,000 mines and the Allies bombarded the resort in 1944. After World War II, the upper class mostly fled to the French Riviera, and property was bought up by well-off locals.

A number of unique villas still evoke the seaside architecture of the interwar period, even if most of it was lost due to destruction during World War II. 21 buildings in the commune are protected as historical monuments. Le Touquet also has extensive natural heritage protection because of its dunes and the unique nature of the Canche estuary. This, together with its initial inception as an upper-class resort, which it still is to some extent, contributes to consistently high positions in quality-of-life rankings. Today, most of its permanent population is retired. President Emmanuel Macron's spouse, Brigitte, inherited a villa in the town; therefore, the presidential couple often spends time in Le Touquet and votes there.

Etymology

Touquet

There are two theories as to the meaning of the word 'Touquet'. The more prevalent explanation goes that the name derives from the Old French touquet, meaning 'bend' or 'corner'. Édouard Lévêque [fr] writes that in the Middle Ages, if a house was located around the corner, people would say it was located al touquet del rue, or, in modern French, au tournant de la rue. This logic was applied to this area because what is now the easternmost part of Le Touquet and the village of Trépied was where the land ended. The shore was in a form of a cape ('corner'), limited by the river Canche to the north and the English Channel to the west.[7][8] This interpretation found support in Flemish linguists analysing the names of the northern French coast.[9][10] In fact, the Dutch name for Le Touquet is Het Hoekske, 'The Corner'.[11] A 1982 publication about Le Touquet by a local scientific academy also agreed with this finding. The academy added it could be that the cape's name came from the fact that it is located on the extremity of Picardy.[12]

An alternative theory posits that Touquet is related to the words 'forest' and 'wood'. Auguste Longnon suggests that placenames like Le Touchet may have a link to Le Touquet. If that is true, Le Touquet's name derives from a word meaning 'ornamental wood'.[13] Albert Dauzat and Charles Rostaing also endorsed this hypothesis. Their proposed evolution of the toponym starts from La Touche (Tochia in 13th century) and Les Touches (Tuschiae in 14th century). Two steps then happened: first, an -ittum suffix was added, which gradually became -et; after that, the [ʃ] sound changed to a [k] sound, a common transition in Normandy and Picardy. In their opinion, the word ultimately derives from a pre-Latin form meaning 'grove' or 'wood reserve'.[14]

First mentions of the word Touquet in the area appear in the 18th century. A map by César-François Cassini de Thury recognises the area as Pointe du Touquet, 'Cape Le Touquet'.[15] A 1764 map by Jacques-Nicholas Bellin indicated that the name for the shoals of the river Canche was Banc du Touquet, 'Le Touquet sandbank'.[16] Ten years later, a hamlet of neighbouring Cucq was identified as Toucquet les Mauvaises Femmes (lit.'Toucquet Bad Women').[17]

Paris-Plage

While the origins of the name 'Touquet' are obscure, the 'Paris-Plage' part is easily traceable. On 29 April 1882, Alphonse Daloz [fr] created the first subdivision within the cape's area and called it Paris-Plage, following advice of the late Hippolyte de Villemessant, editor-in-chief of Le Figaro. In 1874, Villemessant wrote a letter that commended the qualities of then-empty beach of Touquet. He described it as 'more beautiful than that of Trouville' and that he wanted to make it an 'Arcachon of the North'. Both cities are renowned seaside resorts. Le Touquet, in his view, would resolve the 'Paris-on-Sea (Paris-Plage) problem' for the people living in Paris – in other words, that it would become the destination of choice for Parisians looking for a beach resort.[18][19] The French government first acknowledged the name in 1892 in an order of Prime Minister Émile Loubet and the minister of the interior.[20] The law of 28 March 1912, which separated Paris-Plage from Cucq into a separate commune, further recognised its existence.[21]

This part of the name fell into disuse in common speech, but it was the subject of a trademark dispute with Paris. The French capital decided to launch Paris-Plages (then Paris-Plage), an artificial beaches programme on the Seine, trademarked the name and then demanded that Le Touquet cease and desist from using the Paris-Plage part for commercial purposes. Le Touquet replied with its own trademark submission the following year.[22] In January 2008, Paris settled with Le Touquet, allowing the latter to retain its second part of the name unchanged.[23]

History

Before 1837

The earliest traces of human presence in the vicinity of Le Touquet are estimated to be 240,000 years ago, based on the age of stone tools left by nomads near what is today Étaples. These human ancestors tended to live near the coast of the English Channel or in the valleys of the Authie and the Canche. Agriculture arrived in the area around 5th millennium BCE. By about 2000 BCE, the Canche was an established route for traders on the British Isles to go deeper into the continent, as confirmed by numerous archaeological findings in the estuary.[24]

A significant Frankish trading post (emporium) known as Quentovic appeared in the early Middle Ages. Initially, there was speculation that the port was located on the sea, near Étaples or Le Touquet (for example, Lévêque argued that it was located north of what is today the village of Saint-Josse),[25] but excavations in 1970s and 1980s near La Calotterie proved that hypothesis unlikely.[26] The current location of Le Touquet was submerged under the English Channel, but sediments accumulated over centuries and pushed the coast to the west.[27] From 1168, the abbey of Saint-Josse [fr] owned the territories near Trépied and up to the sea, which was confirmed by documents from 1203 and 1624. Trépied was a fishing hamlet as well as a ferry station to cross the Canche.[28] Letters patent issued from the French king offered to plant beachgrass on the dunes to stabilise them.[29]

In 1791, during the French Revolution, the abbey of Saint-Josse was expropriated and its lands were nationalised.[30] The government then tried to sell the land, but Le Touquet's warrens were of little value, so when a local magistrate assessed the land's value in 1827, he found that it was still state property.[31] After the survey, the government offered to sell 1,500 ha (3,700 acres) in installments of 60 hectares, but had to wait until 1836 for the first offer.[8] That year, a Belgian buyer called Doms agreed to buy a total of 1,600 ha (4,000 acres) of land for 80,000 francs (c. €252000 in 2022), but the sale was annulled because he failed to pay the promised sum.[32] On the second try, the government found two new buyers, Alphonse Daloz [fr] and a Mr. Alyon, who agreed to buy the same land for 150,000 francs (c. €505000 in 2022). The deal was finalised on 25 April 1837.[33]

Preparing for the property boom

A black-and-white sketch of a small palace in the forest
Daloz's palace (1864), near what is today Place de l'Hermitage
Black-and-white sketch of a lighthouse
The first semaphore of Touquet (1839)

At the beginning, Daloz and Alyon decided to convert the land for livestock farming. They briefly raised some cattle and sheep, but the enterprise didn't break even, so just after a year, Mr. Alyon sold most of his land to Daloz and two other people, Mr. Marion and Mr. de Naurois. These two new co-owners went on to grow rye, sunroot and potato crops and created a new distillery, but they were still losing money. Thus, Alyon abandoned the area in 1847, while Marion and de Naurois ceded their plots in 1850 and 1855, respectively, to Daloz or his brother-in-law, Mr. Rigaud.[34]

A black-and-white photo of two old lighthouses
Two lighthouses built in 1852. Neither survived to this day - today's lighthouse [fr] is a replica

Daloz and Rigaud decided that agricultural use was no good for their land. They stabilised the dunes with beachgrass and decided to plant a forest instead. In 1780s, Nicolas Brémontier [fr] did just that in the Gironde for the same purpose, and his forest became the precursor to today's large Landes woods. It is likely that Daloz drew inspiration from that experiment.[35] The harsh winter of 1860/61 destroyed the saplings, so the two owners had to plant the trees again. Daloz was serious about keeping title to the land, so in 1864, he built a small palace.[36] He also put a lot of effort in the forest, but as an amateur silviculturist, he made some mistakes, such as not thinning his forest well or often enough or insisting on not touching any of his 'beautiful trees', whatever their condition.[35] That said, Daloz's efforts received significant praise in an 1875 booklet by a local agriculturist.[36] Visiting about the same time, Hippolyte de Villemessant, editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, was also impressed and coined the name 'Paris-Plage' for the future development, not least due to its fairly developed infrastructure.[37] In 1847, nearby Étaples was connected with Paris by railway. A semaphore on Cape Touquet was built eight years before that, and two lighthouses were inaugurated in 1852[38] to prevent ships from sinking in the treacherous shoals near Cape Le Touquet.[39]

Villemessant gathered a few of his friends and offered to buy the parcel from Daloz for a very high sum, but Villemessant's illness and subsequent death meant the idea never came to fruition. Daloz then approached a former notary, a Mr. Billiet, to buy 3 ha (7.4 acres) of land for 35,000 francs per hectare (c. €124000 in 2022) for development purposes, but then the owner of the lands backed out at the last minute as he refused to certify the cession at a notary's office. Daloz decided to develop the area himself.[40]

Beginnings of Paris-Plage

In 1880, Daloz contacted Raymond Lens, a local surveyor, who then made the initial design for the first subdivision. Construction was finished on 22 March 1882[41] and the first lots were inaugurated on 9 April.[42] Interest in the area appeared very quickly. Already in 1884, an entrepreneur from Boulogne launched a regular horsebus connection from Étaples to Paris-Plage.[43] Also in 1884, the first hotel, Hôtel Saint-Georges, appeared in Le Touquet, but it became a simple villa with the opening of the first of the big hotels of the resort, Le Grand-Hôtel, in 1887.[44] In the meantime, 1886 saw the launch of a dedicated newspaper for the community, Paris-Plage.[45]

A plan of a proposed settlement called Mayville
Charles Garnier's plan for Mayville in 1895. It would not come to fruition
A black-and-white sketch that shows how the settlement would look like
A photo simulation of Mayville based on Garnier's plan, 1895

In the early years of Paris-Plage, the Daloz family (Alphonse Daloz died in 1885) exercised full police powers over the new settlement, but the commune of Cucq would gradually become more active in its life, holding the first hearing about Paris-Plage in 1886. Five years later, a garde champêtre was dispatched to Paris-Plage, thus sidelining the founders' family.[46] On the infrastructure front, a macadam road to the settlement was unveiled in 1888, and a narrow-gauge tram line from Étaples [fr] was built in 1900.[47] Administratively, a local landlords' committee and a road commission were set up in 1889 and 1894 to manage the affairs of the settlement and fill the gaps where state administration did not reach yet.[48] The village expanded quite quickly: in 1894, it had 163 buildings; by the end of 1902, there were 355. This included, among others, three hotels, seven restaurants and cafés, two pharmacies, two bakeries producing local bread, three butchers, a liquor store, a hairdresser's salon, a photographic studio, two bookshops, two coal depots, a public bath, a school and a church.[49] By 1897, Le Touquet got its first casino, the Casino de la Plage.[50] Most of the original residents came from Amiens, later followed by residents of Pas-de-Calais and neighbouring departments.[51]

Mayville, an Anglo-French pleasaunce [sic]: its attractions and aims, a book advertising the grandiose plan of Mayville as proposed by John Whitley

An English investor, John Robinson Whitley, took note of the growth and saw a business opportunity as a developer. The new resort, which he named Mayville, was planned to be a 'meeting place' between wealthy Englishmen and Frenchmen with an emphasis on sports, but catering more to the British elites. The idea of a luxury resort itself was not new: Dieppe and particularly Deauville (next to Trouville), both in Normandy, were already developing in a rather similar way.[50] Nor was the idea for a resort for the British a novelty, because Boulogne had already been a well-established UK contact point for more than 50 years.[51] However, combining both in one place was a new feature in the area.

The Daloz were receptive to Whitley's buyout offer, but the price for the remaining 1,200 ha (3,000 acres) lot was too high for the English investor, so he decided to buy a smaller patch of land (3 km (1.9 mi) long and 500 m (1,600 ft) wide) to the south of the settlement. Charles Garnier, the architect behind the Paris Opera and the Monte Carlo Casino, offered to build luxury hotels and a wide range of sports facilities.[52] Another advantage would be its location halfway between London and Paris, as stressed in advertisements, but Mayville never materialised. The locals opposed the construction as they felt that the new development would marginalise Paris-Plage and would build the train station too far away. They also were afraid of the fact foreign capital was behind it. Then in 1898, Anglo-French relations soured due to the Fashoda Incident, so the concept of amicable meetings between the countries' aristocrats seemed to have lost relevance. Thus the Compagnie de Mayville Limited, which was to run the resort, announced bankruptcy.[52]

The Daloz announced their intent to sell their manor in August 1900 for 2.6 million francs (c. €11151000 in 2022), which would include the palace with its surroundings and about 1,120 ha (2,800 acres) of as-yet unsold land, but there was no one to buy it. They then lowered the price to 1.3 million francs (c. €5810000 in 2022) and then 900 thousand francs (c. €4065000 in 2022), to no avail. But after they offered thir estate for 600 thousand francs, a bidding war started that Whitley won, offering 870,500 francs (c. €3932000 in 2022) at an auction on 16 December 1902.[53] Whitley was short on funds and the cheque he gave to the notary would have bounced. But this being Saturday, Whitley had two days to find the money, which he did with the investment of Allen Stoneham. The cheque was honoured and thus Whitley got the land, which he transferred to Syndicate of Touquet Ltd., a dominant force in the village's development in the following decades.[52]

The peak years (1902-1940)

The two English investors quickly proceeded to implement their plans for a luxury sports resort. In 1903-1906, Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of modern Olympic Games, was appointed sports director of Paris-Plage.[54] During his tenure, he inaugurated the community's sports centre (champ des sports), featuring a running and cycling track, a cross country running course as well as facilities for fencing and lawn tennis.[55] In 1904, a horse racing course was opened,[56] and it held its first international competition in 1905. Still in 1904, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour inaugurated the first golf course; the first automobile race to Le Touquet - cars were still a relatively new invention in those days - was also held that year with 28 participants.[57] By 1911, Paris-Plage saw the first land sailors roam its beaches, and a year later, a motorboat race was held on the Canche estuary. This is not to mention other sports such as cricket, archery and greyhound racing.[57]

A black-and-white water with an entrance to the casino and Valroy water
Entrance to the casino and a distributor of Valroy water, as the municipality marketed it

For all the grand plans that Stoneham and Whitley envisaged, their ambitions were somewhat pared down by the involvement of French landscape architect Henry Martinet [fr]. He decreased the size of the resort so that it would bring more profit; the great railway station project was abandoned, as were the plans for oversized villas scattered in the forest.[58] In 1905, Le Touquet launched its own water distributiion service from a (still active) underground source located about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) north of Étaples, but plans to launch a mineral spa facility had to be postponed because of World War I and were then abandoned.[59] That said, the luxury resort was still developing rapidly. For a few examples, The Atlantic, one of the top hotels of Paris-Plage, opened its doors in 1904, followed by Golf Hotel in 1908.[58] In 1903, the old Daloz villa was converted into a concert hall, and that became Casino de la Forêt ten years later. That place still serves as a gambling facility, today known as Casino Barrière.[60] In the centre of the town, a new narrow-gauge tram line [fr] was unveiled in 1909, and an internal line servicing the golf club's customers opened the following year. In recognition of the fast development of the resort, a 1912 law formed the commune of Le Touquet-Paris-lage from a part of the commune of Cucq.[21]

Black-and-white photo of old ambulances next to a building
Canadian ambulances queuing up at Golf Hotel in 1915. The first Canadian soldiers who arrived on French soil were those who set up a military hospital in this building.[61]
A photo of some tombstones on a cemetery
The communal cemetery of Le Touquet has 142 graves of British soldiers in WWI (died November 1914 to April 1916), as well as some French and Italian ones[62]

The breakout of World War I in July 1914 changed Le Touquet from a seaside resort to a garrison. 6,000 Belgian refugees fleeing the Western Front settled in the commune, the municipal administration of the town of Ypres moved to Le Touquet,[63] while emptied hotels became Allied forces' military hospitals with a total capacity of 3,400 beds.[64] Some of psychiatrists there were instrumental in early research into post-traumatic stress disorder, as evidenced by the fact that Charles Myers first used the term shell shock in scientific literature in 1915, when he published a case study about three soldiers he was treating in a casino in Le Touquet.[65] Nearby Étaples housed an enormous military camp for training and dispatching soldiers directly to the frontlines. Even though enlisted soldiers could go out with the garrison's permission to that town, entry to Le Touquet, a much more tempting attraction, was allowed for officers only so that the low-ranked wouldn't spoil the recreation there. The bridge over the Canche had a British military police ('Red Caps') checkpoint to turn away those of low military rank, but many soldiers smuggled their way to Le Touquet on low tide and clandestinely used its facilities. When in September 1917, a New Zealander enlisted soldier was caught crossing the Canche from Le Touquet and threatened to be harshly punished, more than 1,000 soldiers stationed at Étaples, most from ANZAC, mutinied.[66] In an indirect way, the facilities which British soldiers saw in Le Touquet when recovering from wartime injuries encouraged them to return there once the war was over.[51]

Roaring Twenties were the time of highest prosperity for the settlement. Vigorous construction efforts continued and culminated in the construction of among the largest hotels in the settlement, Hotel Westminster (1924) and Hotel Royal Picardy (1929). The 500-room Royal Picardy was, as contemporary reviews had it, the 'biggest, most luxurious hotel in the world', and boasted a pool of sparkling water.[54] In the meantime, the new horse racecourse was unveiled in 1925.[56] A new post office building that was architecturally similar to a church standing there before opened its doors in 1927.[67] Four years later, the commune built a new swimming pool next to the beach with ample facilities and four trampolines.[68][69] Even though Le Touquet was a relatively small municipality, it was so rich that it covered all the expenses of building the new grandiose neo-Renaissance city hall (also opened in 1931) from one-year revenue from gambling taxes alone.[70] This was possible thanks to the fact that in 1927 and 1928, Le Touquet had the biggest casino in France by revenue (45 and 58 million francs, or c. €31 and €40 million in 2022 values, respectively).[71][72] Up to 90% of clients of the resort were British, most of them upper-class.[54]

The Great Depression dealt a blow to Le Touquet's fortunes. Rapid population growth that defined the booming settlement since the 1902 Whitley and Stoneham deal ground to a halt. Interest into real estate dwindled, new projects and expansions were abandoned, and casino revenues never returned to pre-crisis levels.[51] Despite this slowdown, Le Touquet was still doing relatively well as the tourists in Le Touquet were those who weren't particularly affected by the Great Depression and were among contemporary A-list celebrities, such as Noël Coward, the Prince of Wales (future Edward VIII) and Indian maharajas.[54] Ian Fleming, a British writer, was a frequent guest in pre-war Le Touquet. Jeremy Black[73] and Oliver Buckton[74] thus suggest that Royale-les-Eaux, a fictional town in the James Bond franchise that in some passages of the novels is shown as near Le Touquet, is in fact based on it.

A certain revival for the wider region came with the democratisation of leisure as the right to two-week paid leave was assured by the Matignon Agreements in 1936, but Le Touquet essentially remained an upper-class British resort.[51] The main investments of the 1930s were the market pavillion in the town centre (1932)[75] and an international airport that since its opening in 1936 has mostly served British customers.[76]

Wartime destruction

Photo of three German officers sitting at the table
Theo Osterkamp, Generalmajor of the German Luftwaffe (right), celebrating his birthday on 15 April 1941 with fellow officers Adolf Galland (left) and Werner Mölders in Le Touquet. Osterkamp was commanding German air squadrons stationed at the Côte d'Opale region.[77] The local headquarters of the Germans was located in the Royal Picardy.[54]
A photograph of a concrete military fortification element
German bunker (Blockhaus) south of Le Touquet, part of the Atlantic Wall

World War II started on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland, and Le Touquet again became a sanitary zone for the military. The city remained under French control for a very short time, as Germany launched an invasion of France on 10 May. The Royal Air Force squadron stationed in Le Touquet airport was destroyed, and by 15 May, residents of the resort started to flee.[78] Six days later, two German officers entered the mayoral office and took over the government.[64] There was little intrinsic military value for the seaside resort, but Nazi soldiers quickly introduced military occupation conditions anyway: curfew started at 21:00, all expatriate males had to report daily to the town hall, and Germans commandeered whatever real estate and vehicles they considered fit, without much possibility for legitimate owners' resistance.[79] On 21 July, the Germans ordered all enemy male population younger than 60 (essentially the British) to be interned. This included writer P. G. Wodehouse, who had been living in Le Touquet since 1934.[79][80] Jules Pouget, long-time mayor of Le Touquet and later senator, was arrested in May 1942 by the Gestapo for being an 'enemy for the Germans'.[81]

Le Touquet again became a de facto military garrison. Already in June 1940, 40,000 Wehrmacht soldiers occupied the town in anticipation of Operation Sea Lion, but the invasion of Great Britain never occurred.[82] Still, the German armed forces set up their local headquarters in the town, as did the National Socialist Motor Corps and the Organisation Todt. Many Belgian, Dutch and Danish workers were housed in Le Touquet to build the Atlantic Wall. As a result of works on this fortification, the town was sealed off from the sea by a 2.5 m (8.2 ft)-high reinforced concrete wall stretching from the Canche estuary and up to Atlantic Hotel at the southern end of the settlement; the ground floors and first floors of all buildings were walled up, and certain buildings, such as the bar near the swimming pool, were demolished.[83] By 1944, the beach was littered with Czech hedgehogs, Rommel's asparagus rigged with explosives, Belgian gates and thousands of landmines; the neighbouring Rue de Paris, the primary business street in pre-war Le Touquet, was also extremely hazardous due to its concentration of explosive devices.[83] Civilian life was heavily restricted: the military banned fishing in the area,[84] access to the beach was prohibited[85] and food rationing was introduced.[a]

The Allies also had some military plans for the area. In 1943, they launched Operation Starkey, a sham amphibious landing in the vicinity of Boulogne and Le Touquet, but it failed to reach the intended goal of diverting German soldiers from other fronts to northern France. A second diversion immediately preceding D-Day landings, known as Operation Glimmer, had disastrous effects on the city. Over 2,000 bombs were thrown on Le Touquet in June 1944, and at least 51 people, including mayor Jules Pentier, died during the bombings, as well as an unknown number of Organisation Todt labourers.[87] There were no casualties among children because they had been evacuated from the city in February 1944 to a somewhat safer region of Mayenne.[88] The bombardments caused the town dwellers to flee for their lives: while on 4 June, there were still 1,300 people left, the number dwindled to 350 on 9 June and just 5 on 13 June (3 gendarmes and two lighthouse keepers).[89] German defenses thinned over the summer as Allied forces advanced in northern France, until the Wehrmacht finally abandoned the city on 4 September, but not before blowing up the two lighthouses from 1852 and the bridge over the Canche at Étaples. The Canadian army liberated Le Touquet the same day.[87]

Demining activities in Le Touquet
video icon A 1945 newsreel showing the extent to which Le Touquet was mined, just after Liberation. Courtesy Institut national de l'audiovisuel
video icon A video from 2017 (France 3 Hauts-de-France) showing sappers neutralising and blowing up German explosives
video icon A news report from 2022 (TF1) about another demining operation

The consequences for the resort were dramatic. The Germans demolished the Atlantic Hotel in 1943 for construction materials.[90] During bombings, the Golf Hotel and the Hôtel des Anglais were destroyed beyond repair, while the Royal Picardy, the Grand-Hôtel and Hotel Hermitage were badly damaged and would eventually cease to be hotels. All villas were commandeered by the Germans for the duration of occupation, who caused losses in many of them, and many others suffered under Allied bombardings.[87] There are different estimates of the number of explosive devices that were left in Le Touquet, ranging from 92,745[64] through 106,745[88] and up to 137,950,[87][b] but all agree that Le Touquet became the most mined city in France.

Post-war reconstruction

A postcard with views on the seaside
The pre-war architecture on the seaside
A photo with high-rise buildings near a beach
gave way to standard high-rise apartment buildings
View on a luxury-looking building on a roundabout
Some buildings found second life, like Hotel Hermitage, when it was rebuilt as an apartment house (1968)
A black-and-white photo of some small tract houses
but others had to be demolished. In this case, motel houses were built in 1956 where Golf Hotel previously had stood.[91]

The first post-war years were dedicated to reconstruction and mine clearing. By Pentecost of 1945, Le Touquet's beach opened to visitors, the first in Northern France, but the demining proved taxing. 78 people died and 155 were injured while demining the town within 3 years of Liberation.[87][88] Many pre-war luxury buildings were destroyed. Out of the seven hors-classe hotels (see pictures above), Hotel Westminster remains the only pre-war luxury hotel still in existence (re-opened in 1946).[92] The original two lighthouses were blown up, so the commune ordered to create a replica [fr], unveiled in 1951.[93]

Post-war Le Touquet experienced a dramatic shift in tourism. Whereas pre-war Le Touquet was an upper-class resort with overwhelming British presence, by 1965, a survey found that the English were just 11% of all visitors and none of the owners - most of the visitors (59%) were from Pas-de-Calais or Nord departments and a quarter came from Greater Paris region. This was because after the war, the English sold most of their houses, including many who lost the upper-class status after the war; Parisians, who constituted much of the remainder of pre-war owners, also gave up on the properties in Le Touquet. These houses found eager buyers in locals, mainly relatively well-off lawyers, doctors and company directors from small towns and cities in the region.[94] Le Touquet was on low tourism development priority for the central government, which focused its efforts on the much warmer and sunnier resorts of the French Riviera instead. As that region already had had a notable presence of elites and was becoming more accessible with better transport, the high society increasingly chose spend their vacations on the Mediterranean coast rather than the English Channel.[51][95] This is why Le Touquet, while still relatively successful compared to other beach towns in the North, became more of a regional point of interest rather than a national or international attraction.[51][94] The echo of pre-war tourism trends remained in Hotel Westminster (and, to a lesser extent, three- and four-star hotels), whose customers still were rich British people arriving by plane.[94]

In response to market pressures, the relatively small pre-war villas (most of which were rebuilt) were replaced by high-rise apartment buildings on the sea shore. In 1961, the first large scale residence, consisting of nine storeys and 20 apartments, was built; several more then followed.[96] A 2004 report was very critical of such development, saying that this caused the sea-front to become 'denatured' and look like a 'giant parking'.[97] In total, by 2020, only 16% of residences that exist today were built before 1945.[98]

Meanwhile, the town, under the new leadership of Léonce Deprez, also saw a new strategy for the resort that was supposed to make Le Touquet an 'all-year round resort'. In 1974, Le Touquet opened a closed-air thalassotherapy institute.[99] An enduro motorcycle race, today known as Enduropale [fr], was first held in February 1975 with 286 participants.[100] A flea market of antique items was launched for autumn.[95] In the meantime, a vocational school for hotel-related occupations (lycée hotelier) was opened on the site of the Royal Picardy, whose reconstruction was deemed not feasible. This 1972 building was built to resemble a pine cone.[101] 1970s also saw Le Touquet buy numerous properties, including the horse racecourse, the tennis courts, the casino and the concert hall.[102]

A new push for the city's development came in the late 80s and early 90s with the construction of the Channel Tunnel. The French motorway network (A16 autoroute) reached the settlement in 1994, which gave easy access to the beaches for Parisians.[95] As for the English, they were increasingly going to France for shopping as exchange rates were favourable, but their share of ownership of houses remained low.[51] The commune increasingly became populated by retirees, which, as of 2014, constitute more than half of the population of Le Touquet.[5]

Geography

Le Touquet is squeezed between the left (south-western) bank of the estuary of the Canche river and the English Channel coast, in the western part of the Pas-de-Calais department in the north of France. It is in a coastal region that is frequently referred to as the 'Côte d'Opale' (Opal Coast), a name that evokes the iridescent reflections of the setting sun on the sea.[103] Le Touquet is also located in the northern part of a natural region called Marquenterre [fr].[104] On the other side of the Canche estuary is Étaples, a local transport hub and the nearest railway station. The other neighbour of Le Touquet is the commune of Cucq, to which the town belonged before 1912. That commune includes another resort called Stella-Plage, directly south of Le Touquet. Significant towns in the vicinity include Boulogne-sur-Mer (38 km (24 mi) to the north) and Calais (70 km (43 mi) in the same direction). Among larger cities, Lille is 140 km (87 mi) to the east and Paris, in part the commune's namesake, is 240 km (150 mi) to the south.

Landscape

A photo of seaside dunes
Dunes near Pointe du Touquet
A river estuary with several shoals exposed
The Canche estuary at low tide, as seen from Pointe du Touquet
A photo of seaside dunes
Dunes to the south of the town

Le Touquet has benefited from favourable dune creation conditions and accretion of sediments from the Canche to the southwestern bank, where it is located (in contrast to the opposite bank, which has been retreating).[c] The main vector of land accumulation today is the Banc du Pilori, a shoal to the north of Pointe du Touquet. That accumulation may sometimes cause problems because it makes the estuary shallow and forces the river to meander, with the potential to jeopardise commercial activity of the port of Étaples and Le Touquet's marina if unregulated.[105]

The Atlantic coast beach, stretching for more than 12 km (7.5 mi)[106] north to south, is almost fully covered by dunes stretching several hundred metres inland.[107] The Opal Coast has good conditions for their formation: winds predominantly blow from the west directly at the coast, the beaches and the bottom of the estuary are made of fine sand and psammophile plants are willing to colonize the areas, thus strengthening the dunes.[108] It was not always the case, as during the Little Ice Age, the few plants that set roots in the sand were unable to counter erosion due to storms, seawater flooding or sand being blewn off by wind. The exception was the stretch between Berck and Merlimont, which could sustain forests and so dunes existed there. Alphonse Daloz's planting of a forest near Cape Touquet had a large role in creating and stabilising dunes in Le Touquet, while also adding much recreation value to the future resort, in contrast to the warrens that were considered at best worthless and at worst a danger for nearby inhabitants.[35][d]

Le Touquet's dunes are in generally good condition. A 2001 study surveying a 3,015 m (3,297 yd)-long stretch of dunes found that on 62% of the length, the dunes were accumulating sediment beyond the margin of error; the areas where the balance was negative (8% of total study length) were located immediately near the station.[109] This is further proven by the position of German blockhouses built as part of the Atlantic Wall during World War II. When built, they were at the top of the dunes but they have since grown by several metres, obstructing the view of the sea for inland structures and leaving them below the most desirable point (at the dune's peak) for seaside military buildings.[110] Several factors cause concern for the integrity of the dunes, such as large tourist traffic[109] and the annual enduro race.[111]

Environmental protection

Map of environmentally protected areas in Le Touquet
Four ZNIEFF natural heritage areas span Le Touquet; they cover its dunes, its forests and both its marine and estuarial environment

Several authorities monitor the environment around Le Touquet. In 2005, the European Commission designated the estuary of the Canche river as a Natura 2000 site under the Birds Directive.[112][113] Since 2008, a wider site that covers the Canche, the Authie and the Somme estuaries, as well as the coastal waters, the dunes and the beaches between them, protects five distinct habitats under the Habitats Directive.[114] A land-based site created in 2002 (also under the Habitats Directive) includes, among others, the dunes in the south-western part of the commune;[115] some of those dunes were bought out in 1982 by the Conservatoire de littoral, a French government agency tasked with preserving coastal areas.[116]

On the national level, the Pointe du Touquet, at the northern extremity of the commune, is protected as a conservation area (site classé) for its dunes and the Banc du Pilori, as established by a ministerial order in 2001. Two years earlier, the Commission supérieure des sites, perspectives et paysages [fr], a central government body tasked with designating protected sites, advisedto create a conservation site at the Pointe du Touquet specifically to prevent new construction projects planned there.[117] Since 2012, the area is further protected by national legislation as Parc naturel marin des estuaires picards et de la mer d'Opale [fr], one of the eight French marine parks that, in this case, cover most of the eastern English Channel coast.[118] Le Touquet's area also presents particular interest from the geological perspective because, among the three 'Picardy-type' estuaries (that of the Canche, the Authie and the Somme), only the Canche's is not built-up and is allowed to develop on its own, which is why it is also monitored on this level.[119] According to the Coastal Scenic Evaluation System, which assesses scenic quality, this area is among the highest-ranked in Northern France.[120]

Climate

The weather station of Le Touquet was opened in 1947.[121] According to the 1991-2020 climate normal, the town has a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen classification: Cfb). In comparison to France as a whole, Le Touquet features a relatively cold, rainy and cloudy climate,[122][123] but average temperatures are warmer than in cities in the middle of the continents at the same latitude, such as Kyiv, Astana or Calgary. Winters are generally mild, humid and cloudy, and summers are warm, though by French standards they are rather cool. Average precipitation amount is rather uniform throughout the year, but there tends to be more significantly more rain in the last three months of the year. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 39.9 °C (103.8 °F) on 19 July 2022;[121] the coldest recorded conditions were on 8 January 1985.[124] Météo-France expects that by 2050, climate change will lead to increased temperatures in all seasons (particularly autumn), increased fire and heatwave risks, as well as some changes of precipitation patterns towards fewer days with stronger rain.[125]

Climate data for Le Touquet (Le Touquet – Côte d'Opale Airport), 1991−2020 normals, extremes 1951−present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.7
(62.1)
19.3
(66.7)
23.2
(73.8)
25.5
(77.9)
31.4
(88.5)
34.6
(94.3)
39.9
(103.8)
36.4
(97.5)
31.2
(88.2)
27.1
(80.8)
19.8
(67.6)
16.4
(61.5)
39.3
(102.7)
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.6
(45.7)
8.2
(46.8)
10.9
(51.6)
14.1
(57.4)
17.2
(63.0)
19.7
(67.5)
21.4
(70.5)
21.9
(71.4)
19.5
(67.1)
15.8
(60.4)
11.3
(52.3)
8.2
(46.8)
14.6
(58.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.1
(41.2)
5.3
(41.5)
7.5
(45.5)
9.9
(49.8)
13
(55)
15.6
(60.1)
17.6
(63.7)
18.0
(64.4)
15.6
(60.1)
12.4
(54.3)
8.4
(47.1)
5.7
(42.3)
11.2
(52.2)
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 2.6
(36.7)
2.4
(36.3)
4.0
(39.2)
5.6
(42.1)
8.7
(47.7)
11.6
(52.9)
13.8
(56.8)
14.0
(57.2)
11.6
(52.9)
9.0
(48.2)
5.6
(42.1)
3.1
(37.6)
7.7
(45.9)
Record low °C (°F) −19.1
(−2.4)
−18.2
(−0.8)
−8.9
(16.0)
−4.5
(23.9)
−2.2
(28.0)
−0.4
(31.3)
4.0
(39.2)
3.9
(39.0)
1.8
(35.2)
−3.8
(25.2)
−8.6
(16.5)
−11.6
(11.1)
−19.1
(−2.4)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 76.8
(3.02)
61.7
(2.43)
54.2
(2.13)
50.2
(1.98)
59.0
(2.32)
55.9
(2.20)
58.8
(2.31)
73.0
(2.87)
76.8
(3.02)
101.3
(3.99)
114.2
(4.50)
106.9
(4.21)
888.8
(34.99)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 13.1 10.8 10.1 9.0 9.5 8.9 8.2 10.1 10.4 13.1 14.4 14.6 132.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 61.8 78.4 132.8 189.6 209.8 220.4 225.1 205.1 161.2 110.6 62.7 52.5 1,710
Average ultraviolet index 1 1 3 4 6 6 6 6 4 2 1 1 3
Source 1: Météo France[124] (extremes, precipitation, sunshine)
Source 2: Weather Atlas[126] (UV index)
Climate data for Le Touquet (Le Touquet – Côte d'Opale Airport), 1961−1990 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 6.2
(43.2)
6.8
(44.2)
9.3
(48.7)
12.1
(53.8)
16.1
(61.0)
18.3
(64.9)
20.7
(69.3)
20.6
(69.1)
18.5
(65.3)
15.2
(59.4)
10.2
(50.4)
7.4
(45.3)
13.5
(56.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.4
(39.9)
4.3
(39.7)
6.7
(44.1)
8.8
(47.8)
12.9
(55.2)
15.6
(60.1)
17.7
(63.9)
17.4
(63.3)
15.2
(59.4)
12.3
(54.1)
7.8
(46.0)
5.5
(41.9)
10.7
(51.3)
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 2.5
(36.5)
1.8
(35.2)
4.2
(39.6)
5.5
(41.9)
9.7
(49.5)
12.8
(55.0)
14.7
(58.5)
14.1
(57.4)
11.9
(53.4)
9.5
(49.1)
5.4
(41.7)
3.6
(38.5)
8.0
(46.4)
Source: Infoclimat[127]

Demographics

Historical population of Le Touquet, within today's borders of the commune[e]
YearPop.±% p.a.
1881516—    
1886521+0.19%
1891586+2.38%
1896687+3.23%
1901780+2.57%
19061,140+7.89%
19111,692+8.22%
19212,595[f]+4.37%
19263,244+4.57%
19313,880+3.65%
19363,560−1.71%
19463,296[g]−0.77%
19543,625+1.20%
19624,064+1.44%
19684,403+1.34%
19755,370+2.88%
19825,204−0.45%
19905,596+0.91%
19995,299−0.60%
20065,438+0.37%
20114,538−3.55%
20164,244−1.33%
20214,213−0.15%
Source: INSEE[128] (all except 1946), Laboratoire de Démographie Historique - EHESS (1946)[129]

Data presented as of the 2020 census, unless otherwise noted.[h]

Le Touquet has 4,226 permanent and 301 temporary residents, yielding a total of 4,527 inhabitants,[98] but real population at any given moment may change significantly based on the number of holidaymakers in the town. The Cour des Comptes estimated in 2019 that the town regularly accepts about 250,000 visitors each year.[5] According to the 2022 data compiled by the commune, there were 950,000 night stays in the period from January to September of that year.[131] Therefore, as pre-COVID estimates show, at the peak of the season in late summer, the population may boom to about 35,000 people.[132]

Permanent population is very old, as 59.5% is older than 60, including 23.7% who are 75 or over.[98] This compares to just 27% of over-60s in the Pas-de-Calais department and 25.6% in Hauts-de-France.[133] There are also great differences in sex: 56% of the population is female, which may be attributable to longer life expectancy of women.[98] Because retirees constitute a very large part of the total population, the commune has issues with natural population change. It became negative in the 1980s and, with the birth rate falling, the rate of natural increase fell even more. Between 2014 and 2020, its average rate was -1.5% per annum. The decrease was offset somewhat by a positive migration balance (+0.9% per annum) in this period, but between 1990 and 2014, the commune also experienced a mild net population outflow.[98][134]

Le Touquet's household composition, just like its population pyramid, is also an outlier. Almost half of permanent residents live alone, and only 16.6% of households have any children (compared to 31.2% of one-person households in Pas-de-Calais and 40.5% households with children).[135] This means that the average household size is 1.69, significantly below the department average of 2.3 people.[136] As is typical for resorts in France, the majority of residences is secondary (not the primary place of living),[137] but the phenomenon is particularly strong in this city. For a population of only 4,527 people, there are 12,582 residences in the resort, of which 4 in 5 are secondary residences.[98] This is one of the highest rates in all of France and the highest in the region of Hauts-de-France.[138] Even though there are so many residences, the vacancy rate (1%) is negligible compared to about 8% in the department, region or metropolitan France.[134]

A median person in Le Touquet is notably richer than in the surrounding areas: annual disposable income reaches €30,130 per unit of consumption[i] in Le Touquet, compared to just over €20,000 in Pas-de-Calais department and the region of Hauts-de-France and €22,800 in metropolitan France. Poverty rates are also significantly lower: 10% in Le Touquet compared to 17-18% in the wider region.[134] However, according to the Cour des Comptes assessment, in 2014 the median annual household income as a whole (€23,967) did not stand out compared to surrounding areas.[5]

Government and politics

Local administrative entities

A relatively old man in a suit giving an interview
Daniel Fasquelle, mayor of Le Touquet, as pictured in 2013

As in other communes of France, citizens of the European Union who are on the electoral roll in Le Touquet elect its municipal council (conseil municipal). According to the Regional and Local Authorities Code and the Election Code,[140] Le Touquet has 27 municipal councillors (conseillers municipaux) elected for six-year terms on a proportional representation basis but with bonus seats for the majority list. That council then elects the mayor (maire), currently Daniel Fasquelle (LR), who is both head of the commune and of the municipal council for the same period of time. The current term started in 2020 and will finish in 2026.[1] Previous mayors include Léonce Deprez (1969-1995; 2001-2008)[141] and Jules Pouget (1934-1963, with several interruptions due to World War II). For local administration purposes, Le Touquet defines ten neighbourhoods with one or two trusted members called ambassadors, whose role is to be a relay between the municipal government and the neighbourhood. They may, though need not be, members of the municipal council.[142]

Le Touquet belongs to the Communauté d'agglomération des Deux Baies en Montreuillois (CA2BM), an intercommunality created in January 2017 with the seat in a small inland town of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Le Touquet sends four municipal councillors to the 82-members intercommunal council.[143] Statute enumerates its powers and responsibilities, of which among the more important ones are related to waste and water management, urban development and public transport.[144] Before that, Le Touquet was the headquarters of a looser Communauté de communes mer et terres d'Opale [fr], but a local government reform in 2015 forced the intercommunalities in Montreuil (which failed the minimum population threshold introduced by that reform), Le Touquet and Berck to be one bigger unit, by order of the prefect of Pas-de-Calais.[145] A unit called Agence d'attractivité en Opale-Canche-Authie is a tourist board for the local region, and is separate from CA2BM, but a Cour des Comptes report in 2020 found it to be in organisational chaos, not least because its precise role is unclear.[146]

Central government organs are not represented in Le Touquet. The subprefecture for Le Touquet is located in Montreuil-sur-Mer, about 18 km (11 mi) to the southeast, and the department's seat is in Arras, 100 km (62 mi) away. Courts with jurisdiction in the commune are scattered around the region: general courts (tribunal judiciaire) as well as commercial, labour courts and courts for minors are located in Boulogne-sur-Mer; Montreuil-sur-Mer has the justice of the peace court (tribunal de proximité) and the agricultural land court; the cour d'assises (the court deciding felony cases) is in Saint-Omer and the administrative court of the first instance is in the regional capital of Lille.[147]

For statistical purposes, Insee groups Le Touquet within the urban unit of Berck,[148] but at the same time defines Le Touquet as one of the centres of a local functional (metropolitan) area.[149]

Elections

Just like other communes, Le Touquet directly participates in departmental [fr], regional elections [fr] and those to the National Assembly and the European Parliament; according to the Electoral Code, 15 municipal councillors may additionally participate in an electoral college to choose senators.

Le Touquet is located in the canton of Étaples, which, just like any other French canton, elects one man and one woman to the departmental council (conseil départemental) for a six-year term. From 2021, these are Philippe Fait (RE) and Geneviève Margueritte, who sit in the right-leaning opposition group Groupe Union pour le Pas-de-Calais.[150] Since 2022, Philippe Fait is also a deputy to the National Assembly for the Pas-de-Calais's 4th constituency.[151] Before him, this district previously elected two of Le Touquet's mayors, Fasquelle (who as of January 2024 is treasurer of The Republicans party[152][153] and an Hauts-de-France regional councillor from 2021[154]) and Deprez. Jules Pouget, another mayor of Le Touquet, was elected senator to the Council of the Republic for one term (1948-1952) under the Fourth Republic.[155]

Le Touquet traditionally leans conservative, which contrasts with the neighboring town of Étaples.[156] The arrondissement of Montreuil-sur-Mer is on a long-term trend more right-wing than the department as a whole, and the canton of Étaples is the most conservative part of that arrondissement.[157] However, since Emmanuel Macron's election to the presidency in 2017, his native city of Amiens and Le Touquet became Macronist strongholds,[158] though right-leaning parties (except the far-right National Rally) still get relatively more support. President Macron has significant attachment to the city: he votes in Le Touquet and regularly spends time when not in Paris in the villa [fr] his wife inherited.[159][160]

Results

All results in the table are sorted by the share of vote in the whole constituency.

Presidential elections
2012 Presidential election
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
François HollandeSocialist Party51812.3792221.98
Nicolas Sarkozy (incumbent)Union for a Popular Movement2,53360.473,27378.02
Marine Le PenNational Front49811.89
Jean-Luc MélenchonLeft Front1503.58
François BayrouDemocratic Movement3488.31
Eva JolyEurope Ecology – The Greens461.10
Nicolas Dupont-AignanRepublic Arise501.19
Philippe PoutouNew Anticapitalist Party260.62
Nathalie ArthaudWorkers' Struggle130.31
Jacques CheminadeSolidarity and Progress70.17
Total4,189100.004,195100.00
Valid votes4,18999.124,19596.28
Invalid/blank votes370.881623.72
Total votes4,226100.004,357100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,29379.845,29682.27
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2017 Presidential election
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Emmanuel MacronLa République En Marche!1,29130.393,03481.08
Marine Le PenNational Front3839.0270818.92
François FillonThe Republicans2,15850.80
Jean-Luc MélenchonLa France Insoumise1934.54
Benoît HamonSocialist Party591.39
Nicolas Dupont-AignanDebout la France932.19
Jean LassalleRésistons!150.35
Philippe PoutouNew Anticapitalist Party200.47
François AsselineauPopular Republican Union200.47
Nathalie ArthaudWorkers' Struggle160.38
Jacques CheminadeSolidarity and Progress00.00
Total4,248100.003,742100.00
Valid votes4,24899.043,74290.47
Invalid votes190.44992.39
Blank votes220.512957.13
Total votes4,289100.004,136100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,20882.355,20879.42
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2022 Presidential election
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Emmanuel Macron (incumbent)La République En Marche!2,31555.783,21778.43
Marine Le PenNational Rally44310.6788521.57
Jean-Luc MélenchonLa France Insoumise1623.90
Éric ZemmourReconquête48111.59
Valérie PécresseThe Republicans46911.30
Yannick JadotEurope Ecology – The Greens711.71
Jean LassalleRésistons!711.71
Fabien RousselFrench Communist Party350.84
Nicolas Dupont-AignanDebout la France551.33
Anne HidalgoSocialist Party200.48
Philippe PoutouNew Anticapitalist Party140.34
Nathalie ArthaudLutte Ouvrière140.34
Total4,150100.004,102100.00
Valid votes4,15099.024,10294.89
Invalid votes200.48621.43
Blank votes210.501593.68
Total votes4,191100.004,323100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,34278.455,34080.96
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2012 election to the National Assembly for the Pas-de-Calais's 4th constituency
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Daniel Fasquelle (incumbent)Union for a Popular Movement2,29368.802,55077.82
Vincent LenaSocialist Party53516.0572722.18
Francis LeroyNational Front34410.32
Laurence SauvageLeft Front260.78
Alexandre PoiretEurope Ecology – The Greens471.41
Laurent WeillMiscellaneous right290.87
Patrick MacquetFar left100.30
Odette Goulois-LampinMiscellaneous right351.05
Pierre FiquetIndependent140.42
Armelle Gayant DeprezFar left00.00
Total3,333100.003,277100.00
Valid votes3,33398.383,27796.67
Invalid/blank votes551.621133.33
Total votes3,388100.003,390100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,29763.965,29564.02
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2017 election to the National Assembly for the Pas-de-Calais's 4th constituency
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Daniel Fasquelle (incumbent)The Republicans1,38040.891,72550.42
Thibaut Guilluy [fr]La République En Marche!1,69250.131,69649.58
Benoît DolleNational Front1604.74
Anaïs AlliotLa France Insoumise481.42
Blandine DrainSocialist Party381.13
Stéphane Sieczkowski-SamierMiscellaneous right150.44
Martine MinneEurope Ecology – The Greens200.59
Patrick MacquetFar left40.12
Gwendoline JoosIndependent150.44
Estelle GacquiereFar left30.09
Total3,375100.003,421100.00
Valid votes3,37598.713,42197.16
Invalid votes140.41361.02
Blank votes300.88641.82
Total votes3,419100.003,521100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,19865.785,19867.74
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2022 election to the National Assembly for the Pas-de-Calais's 4th constituency
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Philippe FaitRenaissance1,82156.712,60181.64
Françoise VanpeeneNational Rally1855.7658518.36
Mary BonvoisinThe Republicans75923.64
Blandine DrainNew Ecological and Social People's Union1253.89
David SergentReconquête2066.42
Evelyne AmeyeEurope Ecology – The Greens571.78
Dominique HericourtFar right210.65
Mervyn HoffFar left100.31
Jean-Michel AndreauSovereign Right240.75
Karen DelattreFar left30.09
Total3,211100.003,186100.00
Valid votes3,21198.653,18696.96
Invalid votes140.43361.10
Blank votes300.92641.95
Total votes3,255100.003,286100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,19862.625,19863.22
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Elections to the European Parliament - party lists receiving no votes are not shown
2009 European Parliament election for the constituency of North-West France
PartyVotes%
UMP - LC - LGM (EPP)1,44357.44
Socialist List (PES)1425.65
Greens - RPS (Greens-EFA)1827.25
National Front (NI)1475.85
MoDem (ALDE)1425.65
Left Front (GUE/NGL)120.48
Miscellaneous right (leader: Frédéric Nihous)953.78
Independent list (leader: Bernard Frau)532.11
Miscellaneous right (leader: Thierry Grégoire)26210.43
Far left list (leader: Eric Pecqueur)160.64
Far right list (leader: Carl Lang)150.60
Independent list (leader: Jacques Borie)30.12
Total2,512100.00
Valid votes2,51298.09
Invalid/blank votes491.91
Total votes2,561100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,53946.24
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2014 European Parliament election for the constituency of North-West France
PartyVotes%
National Front (NI)48718.29
Union for a Popular Movement (EPP)1,13942.79
Union of the Left (France) (PES)1435.37
UDI - MoDem (ALDE)41515.59
Europe Ecology (Greens-EFA)973.64
Left Front list (GUE/NGL)271.01
Debout la France1214.55
New Deal371.39
Lutte Ouvrière100.38
Nous Citoyens1194.47
Citizens for None of the Above240.90
For the Europe of Workers and People20.08
Force vie Nord-Ouest20.08
Europe Citoyenne100.38
Popular Republican Union170.64
Pirate Party70.26
Europe–Democracy–Esperanto10.04
European Federalist Party20.08
Radicalement Citoyen20.08
Total2,662100.00
Valid votes2,66298.30
Invalid votes210.78
Blank votes250.92
Total votes2,708100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,19852.10
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2019 European Parliament eleciton (country-wide constituency)
PartyVotes%
National Rally (NI)37211.84
Renaissance (ALDE)1,55449.46
Europe Ecology (Greens-EFA)1916.08
Union of the Right and the Centre (EPP)67221.39
La France Insoumise (GUE/NGL)361.15
Socialist Party-led List (PES)672.13
Debout la France642.04
For a People's Europe, Not Money's Europe90.29
Génération.s190.60
Animalist Party551.75
The Europeans471.50
Lutte Ouvrière40.13
The Patriots100.32
Together for Frexit150.48
The Yellow Alliance30.10
Ecology Emergency170.54
The Forgotten of Europe (ACPLI)10.03
European Federalist Party20.06
Europe–Democracy–Esperanto10.03
Reconquest List [fr]20.06
Allons enfants10.03
Total3,142100.00
Valid votes3,14296.89
Invalid votes1013.11
Blank votes00.00
Total votes3,243100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,17062.73
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Elections to local government councils
2015 elections to the Regional Council of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, sorted by results in the Pas-de-Calais department[j]
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Xavier BertrandThe Republicans1,79070.032,60176.73
Marine Le PenNational Rally1857.2478923.27
Pierre de SaintignonSocialist Party31012.13
Fabien RousselFrench Communist Party230.90
Sandrine RousseauEurope Ecology – The Greens622.43
Jean-Philippe TanguyDebout la France793.09
Eric PecqueurFar left110.43
Sylvain BlondelMiscellaneous right783.05
Eric MascaroIndependent180.70
Total2,556100.003,390100.00
Valid votes2,55697.823,39096.47
Invalid votes210.80471.34
Blank votes361.38772.19
Total votes2,613100.003,514100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,28049.495,28066.55
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2021 elections to the Regional Council of Hauts-de-France, sorted by results in the Pas-de-Calais department[j]
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Xavier BertrandThe Republicans1,25355.491,76080.37
Sébastien ChenuNational Rally28612.6728513.01
Karima DelliEurope Ecology – The Greens - Socialist Party843.721456.62
Laurent PietraszewskiUnion of Centre58926.09
Eric PecqueurFar left200.89
José ÉvrardSovereign Right190.84
Audric AlexandreIndependent70.31
Total2,258100.002,190100.00
Valid votes2,25897.412,19095.13
Invalid votes361.55682.95
Blank votes241.04441.91
Total votes2,318100.002,302100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,15145.005,15144.69
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2015 departmental elections - Canton of Étaples
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Philippe Fait and Geneviève MargueritteMiscellaneous right (Union of the right [fr])1,54760.191,88676.89
Élise Filliette and Francis LeroyNational Rally56021.7956723.11
Fanny Benoît and Stéphane SagnierUnion of the left25910.08
Jean-Paul Hagneré and Brigitte Siodmak-PeronIndependent2047.94
Total2,570100.002,453100.00
Valid votes2,57096.222,45393.27
Invalid votes371.39642.43
Blank votes642.401134.30
Total votes2,671100.002,630100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,24450.935,24350.16
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2021 departmental elections - Canton of Étaples
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%Votes%
Philippe Fait and Geneviève Margueritte (incumbents)Miscellaneous right (Union of the right [fr])1,55971.481,88086.24
Aurélie Baillet and Guillaume DelplanqueNational Rally34815.9630013.76
Ingrid Dewost and François EmmerlinckMiscellaneous left27412.56
Total2,181100.002,180100.00
Valid votes2,18195.832,18095.70
Invalid votes371.63512.24
Blank votes582.55472.06
Total votes2,276100.002,278100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,15144.195,15144.22
Source: Ministry of the Interior
2020 municipal elections
CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Votes%SeatsVotes%Seats
Daniel Fasquelle (incumbent)Miscellaneous right (The Republicans)1,09138.2801,88053.1221
Olivier Lebreuilly[k]La République En Marche!81228.490
Juliette Bernard[k]Miscellaneous centre[l]65422.9501,65946.886
Hervé PierreMiscellaneous right29310.280
Total2,850100.0003,539100.0027
Valid votes2,85098.113,53997.92
Invalid votes371.27381.05
Blank votes180.62371.02
Total votes2,905100.003,614100.00
Registered voters/turnout5,26355.205,23669.02
Source: Ministry of the Interior

Sister cities

Le Touquet participates in international town twinning; its partners are:[162]

Economy

Almost entire economy of Le Touquet revolves around tourism, but revenues coming from it allow the commune to punch way above what would be typical of the commune of its size. According to the assessment of the Cour des Comptes, even though Le Touquet has about 4,200 people, its budget size would normally have been expected of a commune of 30,000.[5] In 2011-2021, annual communal expenditures oscillated around €31-36 million, with revenues slightly higher, beating the €40 million mark in 2017 and 2019 (for communes between 3,500 and 5,000 people, the average budget is just €4 million). Le Touquet's debt, at €16.4 million in 2021, is much higher than average, but also the commune's budget surplus would allow it to repay it in 3.5 years, faster than the average of 4.5 years.[163] Even though a 2023 law allowed Le Touquet to levy a surcharge on secondary residences, it chose not to.[164]

The commune's workforce activity statistics are not typical for France. In 2020, 51.6% of the population was retired and another 15.2% were not economically active, but the commune's companies and institutions still provided 3,790 jobs.[98] Due to heavy tourism influence, almost 90% of companies in Le Touquet are in the service sector, much higher than the French average of 65%.[134] This may lead to problems when typical tourism patterns are disrupted. For example, when the Enduropale [fr] motor race was cancelled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs who were preparing to host an estimated 300,000 visitors that the event normally brings found their efforts were in vain and missed out on about €5 million the tourists bring to the local economy during this event.[165] On the other hand, 2022 and 2023 proved to be bumper years, the former because it was when the economy emerged from COVID-19 (950,000 night stays in the town)[131] and the latter for the region as a whole due to particularly strong presence of foreign tourists from neighbouring countries.[166]

Historically (before World War II), Le Touquet boasted an enormous tourism accommodation capacity, reaching 3,800 rooms, among which 1,000 in luxury hotels.[94] By 1965, the hotel capacity shrank to 1,540 rooms,[94] and so did the number of hotels: it fell from 123 in 1929 to 48 in 1961 and further to only 15 in 2011.[167] Still, as of 1 January 2023, the commune's tourist capacity is fairly large: the commune has 20 hotels with 1,041 rooms, 205 camping pitches and 449 beds in two apartment hotels.[98] There is also an estimated 1,300 homestay beds (offered through platforms such as Airbnb or Booking), whose registration is mandatory with the mayoral office of the commune for hotel tax collection purposes.[168] In 2023, the commune unveiled plans to build a 90-room social housing complex for students and seasonal workers and as well as accommodation for the Republican Guards to deter illegal immigration, but the time of completion is yet to be announced.[169]

Architecture and urbanism

A villa in winter with pines
Villa Nirvana [fr] (1910), one of the buildings in the forest area of Le Touquet
A lake with modern detached houses nearby
Mayvillages development from the 1970s around a lake

Le Touquet can be divided into three broad areas, each with different architecture and socioeconomic status (with relatively little social mobility between them). According to Valérie Deldrève of INRAE [fr] Nouvelle Aquitaine-Bordeaux, these are the city centre, the forest and the dunes. The city centre is located in the northwestern part of the commune. It features a concrete promenade and the beach. Some of the area in the northern part of the city centre is occupied by social housing, where 600 tenants, mostly local government employees, live. The area used to be occupied by a warehouse and a communal landfill. To the city centre's east is the forest area, which consists of villas, some as old as the town itself, whose owners are mostly upper-class (company executives, members of liberal professions and retirees who used to be either of those) and for whom the house is a secondary residence. The dunes, in the southern part of the commune, are the site of numerous post-war subdivisions (Mayvillage, West Green, Whitley) catering to the ambitions of upper-middle class owners, but further development there was halted due to concerns about the impact on the dunes.[6]

The older buildings in Le Touquet are among the most prominent examples of the so-called "Anglo-Norman" architectural style, a mixture of that typically used elsewhere in Northern France with Anglo-Saxon influences. An example of this fusion is the city hall building, which on top of this style also adds a belfry and a carillon, design elements typical for similar older structures in Picardy and Flanders.[170] The whole area of the commune has been covered as a notable heritage site (site patrimonial remarquable [fr]) or by similar designations since 2005.[171]

Le Touquet has also been recognized for its abundance of greenery. The town's assessment in the Concours des villes et villages fleuris shows the maximum grade of four flowers.[172] Within that competition, Le Touquet received the grand prix in 2006[173] and the Prix National de l'Arbre (National Tree Award) in 2007, a special award of that organisation.[174] In 2022, the French minister of culture also granted a label of "Remarkable Garden" to a route in the centre of the city and near the conference hall.[175] In 2023, Le Touquet was recognized as a commune friendly for dogs via the "Toutourisme" label.[176] Because of these various factors, as well as abundant infrastructure, Ville de rêve, a French startup that attempts to numerically estimate the quality of life in each commune of France based on public data, gave Le Touquet the grade of 77.9/100, the highest in the department and 199th out of 34,990 in France.[177][178] According to another rating published in cooperation with Le Journal du Dimanche, Le Touquet is on 1796th position out of 34,808 and 29th among 890 communes assessed in the department.[179][180] These high ratings, and the fact Le Touquet is a seaside resort, create a lot of interest in its real estate, which winds its prices to very high values. In June 2023, a square metre in Le Touquet cost €8,384, more than double the average in Hauts-de-France region and only slightly below the average prices in Paris.[181] By March 2024, average values crossed the €10,000 per square metre mark, higher than any other city in the department.[182]

Leisure and heritage

Sport

Motorsports

Bikers race past spectators in sand
Enduropale, an enduro beach race, is the principal sports event in Le Touquet in winter (here, the 2022 edition is shown)

Every year in February, an off-road motorcycle and quad beach race called Enduropale (formerly Enduro du Touquet) is held on Le Touquet's beach.[111] It was started in 1975 on the initiative of Mayor Léonce Deprez and Thierry Sabine, the creator of the Dakar Rally, with 286 participants.[183] The event was a success as spectator count ballooned to 250,000 to 300,000 by the end of the 20th century[111] and to 500,000 people in late 2010s.[184] The event was cancelled twice: in 1991 because of the Gulf War and in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic;[185] it also had to change its formula in 2006 to avoid damaging the dunes,[50] in part because of an administrative court ruling that retroactively declared the 2002 edition illegal because the prefect never gave an exemption from a total traffic ban that covered the protected dune zone.[186] However, the event's popularity proved resilient and beat records in post-COVID editions, with 500,000 spectators in 2022 and 600,000 guests in 2023, including 350,000 on the second day of the event alone.[187] Around 1,100 to 1,300 motorcycles and about 350 quad bikes, driven by more than 2,000 contestants, participate in this race.[184] When the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme announced its new Sand Race World Cup in 2023, Enduropale was included as the first race of the championship in 2023[188] and in 2024.[189]

Every year in February, an off-road motorcycle and quad beach race called Enduropale (formerly Enduro du Touquet) is held on Le Touquet's beach.[111] It was started in 1975 on the initiative of Mayor Léonce Deprez and Thierry Sabine, the creator of the Dakar Rally, with 286 participants.[190] The event was a success as spectator count ballooned to 250,000 to 300,000 by the end of the 20th century[111] and to 500,000 people in late 2010s.[184] The event was cancelled twice: in 1991 because of the Gulf War and in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic;[185] it also had to change its formula in 2006 to avoid damaging the dunes,[50] in part because of an administrative court ruling that retroactively declared the 2002 edition illegal because the prefect never gave an exemption from a total traffic ban that covered the protected dune zone.[186] However, the event's popularity proved resilient and beat records in post-COVID editions, with 500,000 spectators in 2022 and 600,000 guests in 2023, including 350,000 on the second day of the event alone.[191] Around 1,100 to 1,300 motorcycles and about 350 quad bikes, driven by more than 2,000 contestants, participate in this race.[184] When the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme announced its new Sand Race World Cup in 2023, Enduropale was included as the first race of the championship in 2023[188] and in 2024.[192]

Le Touquet also has some automobile racing significance. After the Doullens-Le Touquet race in 1904, the Automobile Club of France held an international meeting in this town in July 1911, followed by a race of elegance and tourism cars.[57] Today (mostly French) rally racers participate in the Rallye of Le Touquet [fr] (in its 64th edition in 2024), which covers most of the department of Pas-de-Calais.

Tennis

Entrance to a building that says "Centre Tennistique Pierre de Coubertin"
Le Touquet’s municipal tennis club
A clay tennis court with spectator seats around it
The central clay court

Le Touquet was part of a wider trend in pre-WWI France to create tennis facilities near the sea. Because of the town's specifics as an upscale resort, even though it was a sport, it was first and foremost intended to be a fashionable and leasurely activity for upper-class guests.[193] Indeed, outdoor activities like tennis and golf were so fashionable that in mid-1920s they inspired a whole new haute couture trend of style sportive and even emulations for those who didn't actually do sports but wanted to look sporty (while also wearing items that would normally interfere with these activities, such as jewellery or high-heeled shoes).[194]

The Cercle Internationale du Touquet, organized by Stoneham, Coubertin as well as Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia and some French aristocrats, contributed greatly to the development of the sport. Thanks to their efforts, by early 1910s, Le Touquet hosted international tennis championships, which included the 1913 edition, one of the first wins in Suzanne Lenglen's career.[50] The Jean Borotra Cup [fr], part of the Junior Davis Cup competition, is held since 1972 and determines winner nations in the under-16 category.[195]

Starting from a humble three courts in 1904, the tennis complex expanded to 11 courts by 1912 and to 30 courts at the dawn of World War II. A special tennis club building was unveiled in 1923.[196] Today, the tennis complex offers 21 clay courts (including 3 with lights), 5 covered hardcourts, 3 padel courts and a central court for with a tribune for 900 spectators, as well as a swimming pool.[197] It is designated as one of the preparation sites for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, together with nearby field hockey and soccer premises, where Le Touquet AC plays.[198]

Golf

A view on a golf course with some trees and sand banks seen. A putt area is seen to the left, behind the tree
Part of one of Le Touquet's three golf courses
A grey new building, with a golf course in the background
New golf clubhouse in Le Touquet, as photographed in 2016

When Lord Balfour inaugurated the first 18-hole golf course in 1904, Le Touquet's golf development was unique for two reasons: first, most of the golf courses operated in the South of France (Biarritz, Pau, Cannes etc.) and not around or north of Paris; second, unlike in the southern golf courses, where individual players promoted the course by word of mouth, the company developing the resort took that job. It also built the Golf Hotel (opened 1908).[58] That golf course proved a success, so many more appeared on the northern coast of France to accommodate increasing demand of English elites. Wimereux, just north of Boulogne, opened its own facilities three years later, and Le Touquet had to expand with a second 9-hole course in 1910.[199] The premises further expanded to the current size of 45 holes by 1931, and were still owned by the British until the end of the century. In 1992, the Bell family, who purchased the golf courses from Touquet Syndicate Ltd., sold them to the "Open Golf Club", a company with French owners.[200]

Le Touquet currently has three golf courses: two 18-hole courses, La Forêt (the oldest one; par 71, SSS 71, 5,827 m (6,372 yd)) and La Mer (built in 1931 in the sand dunes; par 72, SSS 75.5, 6,407 m (7,007 yd)); and a 9-hole course called Le Manoir (par 35, SSS 35, 2,817 m (3,081 yd)).[201] The La Mer course is fairly well-regarded among golf players: in one assessment of the best courses in Continental Europe, this course was 59th and 12th in France.[202]

Horse racing

A photogrph of horse stables
Le Touquet's equestrian facility near the racecourse

The English developers who bought the resort's land were enthusiasts of horse racing and betting, and knowing that these sports were also the domain of the high society whose tastes they were catering to, they put much effort into its development.[50] The Cercle Internationale du Touquet, composed of aristocrats, happily assisted in these efforts.[56] First competitions were already held in 1904 on a communal pasture called Nœud Vincent, next to the tennis courts, followed by the first international tournament (for both men and women) the following year.[57] Until 1925, this place would serve as a makeshift racecourse for sports like steeplechase and polo. Even when the permanent location in an "Anglo-Norman" style was opened and before the outbreak of WWII, Englishmen participated in a sport called "drags", i.e. riding a horse with a pack of hounds as if they were going hunting.[56]

In 1971, Le Touquet and its partners built an equestrian centre, which was expanded in 2000s to create a €2.4 million equestrian park that combined the centre, show jumping courses and the 1925 racecourse into one, and further enhanced in 2011 with 300 permanent and 450 temporary horseboxes. Le Touquet was the back base for the French equestrian team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London,[50] and is also one of the training bases for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.[203] The Le Touquet horse racecourse is among the most important in the region of Hauts-de-France[204] and is among the few in France that is listed in the national heritage list.[205]

Water and beach sports

Aqualud [fr], a former water park (photo from 2010) opened in the place of the swimming pool. Note the tower to the left side of the image

Despite Le Touquet being a seaside resort, at first sea activities ran somewhat in the background in relation to other sports. For the upper-class clientele, sea baths alone were not enough as they were taken for granted, so resorts competed with each other for the most expansive offer of other leisure or entertainment opportunities.[50] Still, many events happened on the beach as well. A beach club was opened in 1927, but just like elsewhere in pre-war France, the main goal was not as much participation in sports but its members' health.[206] A swimming pool (1931), 66 m (217 ft) long and 25 m (82 ft) wide with depth varying from 60 cm (2.0 ft) to 5 m (16 ft), could accommodate up to 3,500 guests on its tribunes and included such features as four diving trampolines up to 10 m (33 ft) above the ground, purified seawater heated to 30 °C (86 °F), more than 500 cabins with footbaths, a massaging hot tub, a beauty salon, a laundry service, a restaurant, a cafe, a teahouse and a leisure room as well as a beach games room and a large parking.[68] The pool was badly damaged during World War II, but was restored to service in 1950 and stayed in the pre-war configuration until 1985, when rising maintenance costs prompted the commune to convert the area to a water park.[69] Aqualud, as it was known, closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has never since reopened its doors.[207] The commune intends to demolish it and has signed an statement of intent of sell the land to a developer who will build a luxury hotel called "The Dune".[208]

Land sailors on the beach of Le Touquet

In the post-war years, Le Touquet became particularly well-known thanks to land sailing.[209] Le Touquet's beach is well-suited for this kind of sport, as it is very long, straight and is not interrupted by any sort of obstacle.[210] In 1909, Louis Blériot started testing his improvised devices near his villa in Hardelot and then commercialised the production of these vehicles under the name of aéroplages. Henri Demoury, a miller in the Aisne, discovered the sport while on the Flemish coast and quickly switched to renting out land sail equipment and engineering some of his own, first starting in nearby Merlimont. After World War II, Demoury moved to Le Touquet, opened a workshop for land yachts and, in 1956, launched the first land sailing club in France (Blériot Club), which in 2018 counted 180 members in its ranks and had 130 land yachts. Its longtime director (1995-2013) was Bertrand Lambert [fr], who set the record for the highest speed on land sails while driving on sand (151.55 km/h (94.17 mph) in Berck), was a three-time world champion in the discipline and served as president of the French Land Sailing Federation (FFCV) for seven years.[211] Le Touquet held three international competitions in land sailing: the 3rd edition of the European Land Yachting Championship in 1965 and, in 2006, the 43rd European Championship and 10th World Championship (co-hosted with the town of Gravelines).[212]

Since about 1955, most of Northern France, including Le Touquet, became interested in beach volleyball, so the town's club frequently participated in regional competitions.[206] Since 2010, the local beach volleyball club holds games for the Série A, the highest national tournament in France in the discipline, and in 2019 it hosted the national cup. It is one of 16 preparation bases in France for the 2024 Olympics.[213]

Cycling

Tour de France race on 8 July 2014

Le Touquet has been host to four stages of the Tour de France. The resort first hosted a stage during the 1971 Tour de France, as the finish for Stage 6b, from Amiens, on 2 July. Following this, the resort hosted Stage 3 of the 1976 Tour de France, on 27 June. This was a 37 km (23 mi) individual time trial which both started and finished at the resort. The following day, Le Touquet was the departure point for the fourth stage, to Bornem in Belgium. The 2014 Tour de France began Stage 4 at Le Touquet on 8 July, with the stage taking a 163.5 km (101.6 mi) route to Lille Métropole.[214] Because the town hosted the cycling race, Le Touquet is eligible to promote itself with a "Bicycle City" (Ville à Vélo) label by Tour de France (one of 133 municipalities in the world). The jury found in 2021 and 2023 that the commune had a structured policy of promoting bicycle usage, awarding it with two bicycles out of four.[215][216] According to another assessment, the Baromètre des villes cyclables [fr], a national survey of bicycle usage and safety, Le Touquet's grade in 2021 on the scale from 1 to 6 (higher is better; averaged to 3.50) was 4.22 ("favourable conditions"), the third-best result in the Hauts-de-France region among 115 rated communes.[217]

Cuisine

Ratte, a variety of potatoes, with a ruler for size comparison
Rattes du Touquet

Despite its small size, Le Touquet has some distinctive local cuisine specialties. One is the ratte du Touquet [fr], a local type of ratte potatoes which are named after the town because André Hennuyer, a gardener from Le Touquet, helped revive the cultivation of that variety in 1960s (the variety was trademarked in 1986). Grown in the oceanic climate of Northern France around the town's general area, rattes have low yields and are prone to disease and frost, which was why they had previously fallen out of favour with the farmers.[218] However, this variety is prized for its characteristic nutty flavour (for that reason they notably featured in Joël Robuchon's puréed potatoes recipe).[219]

Another local invention was a fish soup prepared by Serge Pérard. Pérard says that during German occupation, he bought some leftovers from a fish market in Boulogne and prepared a crude soup out of them, and then used some of the initial broth for refinement with herbs and onions and repeated the cycle until he opened the first seafood restaurant in Le Touquet in 1963, when he introduced his final formulation, with sea molluscs and saffron, to the public. The dish proved so popular that by 1970, Pérard was bottling 3,000 soup jars per day, and had to open a new purpose-built production facility in 1991 to cater to growing demand.[84] Another relatively known invention comes from a chocolatier called Au Chat Bleu, which as of 2023 had four locations: Le Touquet (the first restaurant, opened 1912), Paris, Lille and Quimper. The restaurant's specialty is the "chat bleu", a praline mousse sandwiched between two layers of nougatine.[220]

Cultural institutions

Despite its size, Le Touquet has several cultural institutions. Among the oldest is the Société académique du Touquet-Paris-Plage, which since 1906 collects and stores objects of historical interest concerning the city.[221] The city museum opened in 1932 on the initiative of the academic society and had to close during World War II. It only reopened in 1963 as museum's collections were retrieved from the city hall's hiding place behind a wall. In 1989, the institution moved to a larger space, Villa Wayside, where it is located today.[222] The museum primarily is an art gallery specialising in paintings coming from artists who lived in the Étaples art colony that existed before World War I (e.g. Henri Le Sidaner, Eugène Chigot, Frits Thaulow, Myron G. Barlow and Iso Rae), but it also houses collections from regional artists and those who were part of the School of Paris.[223] The Ministry of Culture awarded the museum the label of "Musée de France", which is awarded to major museums in the country.[222]

The commune also has a public library, with 35,000 titles and 250 CDs and DVDs available.[224] As of August 2022, it had about 1,600 users.[225] In the interwar period, there were as many as five cinemas in Le Touquet,[226] but there is only one today: Les 3 As, with five auditoriums. One of the other cinemas (Select), with one 400-seat auditorium, was converted to Casino Partouche and a nightclub.[227]

Infrastructure

Education

The first school in Le Touquet was opened in 1888, which was managed privately by a Mr. Delacroix and was not free; children from poor families had to walk to Cucq to attend class in a communal school, which most did not. In 1893, the Daloz family granted a free parcel of land for the commune to build a school there; first classes, for 37 students, started in 1897.[228] By 1905, the residents petitioned the commune to split the coeducational school into one for boys and the other for girls, so the commune opened a boys-only school in 1908 (today the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry elementary school), and changed the first communal school into that for girls. By 1910, the two schools already had 110 children aged two to five, so the commune inaugurated a kindergarten two years later. All three facilities used a common canteen, which was rebuilt in 1978 to house six more classes. There were also two private schools, one for girls in the villa Ave Maria, which opened in 1915, and the other opened by a Catholic parish in 1922. Its existence was interrupted by the death of the abbot in 1947 and so it only reopened in 1955.[229] As of 2024, Le Touquet has three primary schools:[m] a communal kindergarten built in 1912, the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry elementary school (206 pupils), also a communal establishment, as well as a private Catholic elementary school (174 pupils).[230]

In 1972, construction finished at the so-called education campus (cité éducative) where the Royal Picardy hotel had previously stood. It hosted the brand-new hospitality trade school (lycée hôtelier) and the lower secondary school (collège), The trade school, managed by the region of Hauts-de-France, got several improvements in 2000s, including six model guest rooms from two to four stars and a new kitchen practice.[231] The trade school also has boarding rooms and possibility to pursue post-secondary studies in the hospitality field.[230] In 2024, 232 admission requests were submitted for 72 places for first-year students.[232] The cone-shaped premises are protected as an architectural monument since 2004.[233]

The department manages the Collège Maxence Van der Meersch, which moved out of the trade school to a new dedicated building near the airport in 2007.[234] All of Le Touquet's schools are under the administrative supervision of the academy of Lille, which covers the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais departments.[230]

Transport

Rail

Historically, Le Touquet had very good rail service thanks to local rail lines that served the coast between the Canche and the Authie and a connector to the main railway line. The trunk line between Paris and Boulogne, with the station at nearby Étaples, was opened in 1847.[38] As Le Touquet rapidly expanded, some investors started sensing a business opportunity in carrying passengers to the new resort. The first request for a railway concession came in 1892 to build a "tramway",[n] but the investor had to back out in 1895 because they had problems with buying out land, choosing the power source (horses or electricity) and because the bridge over the Canche river was too narrow to accommodate the new line.[236] The new investor, the Société du Tramway d'Étaples à Paris-Plage (EP), which grouped investors under the leadership of Banque Adam [fr], a local financial institution, quickly resolved these problems and so a new metre-gauge electrified train line was inaugurated on 15 July 1900.[237] Another concessionary, Société du Chemin de Fer de Berck-Plage à Paris-Plage (BP), followed suit with a non-electrified metre-gauge line that reached the outskirts of Le Touquet in 1910 and the city centre in 1912.[238] There were also two 600 mm gauge tram lines, one being a circular line in the city center and the other that was only transporting passengers at the golfcourse; both were built by the developers of Le Touquet and opened around 1910, but in a murky legal environment that does not allow much study of their history.[236][239]

The BP line had many problems during its existence: during WWI, the French Army commandeered the railway line and ordered its disassembly for military needs;[240] when reassembled, the line suffered heavy losses as it was only used seasonally and it did not connect to other railways.[238] In mid-1920s, rival companies launched bus connections to Merlimont and Stella-Plage, sealing its fate. The line was closed in September 1927, and in 1929 disappeared from official registers.[240] The tram lines closed in 1925.[241] EP, on the other hand, was doing fairly well. At the beginning, the tram made 12 to 18 daily connections between Étaples and Le Touquet, but by the 1920s there were up to 32 services, which at times allowed a once-per-half-an-hour train schedule.[239] As World War II was approaching, the tram connection was gradually being replaced by buses during off-peak hours, but it was the German invasion of France that finished the railway, as repairing the damages the assault brought was not economically viable.[236] In the post-war years, the SNCF built a spur line to Le Touquet airport to allow passengers travelling from London to Paris a seamless change from an airplane to the train using the Silver Arrow route, but that line was abandoned when the connection was no longer economically viable.[242]

There are no longer any railway lines within the boundaries of Le Touquet; the closest station is in Étaples. It is mostly served by regional trains to Calais, Amiens and Arras (TER Hauts-de-France), but there are some TGV connections to Paris via Calais-Fréthun and Lille-Europe.[243]

Road

The main roads leading to Le Touquet are the A16 motorway (exit 26), which was opened in 1994 and connects Le Touquet with Paris and Calais,[95] and the D939, or the old Route nationale 39 [fr], which crosses the whole department through Montreuil towards Arras and Cambrai. The commune lies on the EuroVelo Route 4.[244]

Public transport is organized by the CA2BM agglomeration. The commune is served by bus lines 1A, 1B (towards Berck and Étaples) and the so-called navette (shuttle bus) that overlays the lines between the Étaples railway station and Le Touquet.[245] As of 2024, bus fares do not differ by distance, with €1 per ride paid upon boarding.[246]

Airport

Le Touquet's airport first opened its doors in 1936, mostly to cater to British tourists. In the opening year, 1700 planes carrying 4600 passengers landed in Le Touquet, and the traffic doubled the following year. With the rising interest just before WWII, Le Touquet opened a new flight to the Netherlands in 1938.[76] In the post-war years, the Silver City Airways operated a scheduled "car ferry" service from Gatwick that could carry up to 12 passengers and two small cars, expanded to 20 passengers and three cars in 1953. It was scrapped in 1967.[247] In the meantime (1956), the SNCF, the British Rail and a French aviation company launched an intermodal (rail and air) connection between London and Paris called Silver Arrow. It allowed travel times between Paris and London to be cut to just over 4 hours while also keeping the price relatively affordable, but by the 1970s it was no longer profitable, so it was cancelled in 1980.[242] When Lydd Airport was opened in 1955, passengers started also flying from there.[248] LyddAir, the only company now serving the British airport, stopped offering scheduled connections to Le Touquet in November 2018; since then, only charter flights go to the resort.[249] The airport has bike and car rental services.[250]

In August 2023, the airport was named after Queen Elizabeth II, which her son, Charles III, approved. By this gesture, the mayor's office wanted to "pay tribute to the Great Queen and her uncle [Edward VIII] who was in love with France and to recognise the most British of the French resorts".[251]

Security and emergency services

The very first police appeared on the streets in 1891 with the commune of Cucq authorising a garde champêtre for the new hamlet, and in 1896, when a regular police officer was sent to the settlement.[252] Since 2021, the commune maintains its own municipal police force that supplements the efforts of the national police.[253] As of 2022, these are 15 policemen supported by gardes champêtres, municipal road patrollers [fr] and policemen watching CCTV footage, for a total of 35 police personnel.[254] In September 2023, the Ministry of the Interior announced that policemen, who are headquartered in the town hall, would get an enlarged police station in the old gendarmerie building for €6 million, and that ten gendarmes with horses would arrive in summer of 2024 for immigration enforcement purposes.[255] Construction work is expected to start in mid-2026.[256]

At the beginning of the settlement's existence, the firefighters were dispatched from Étaples, but a series of fires in wooden villas forced the local landlords to invest in a fire pump, which they bought in 1901.[257] By 1908, the municiapl council voted to create an 18-strong firefighter subunit stationed in Cucq, which was expanded in 1912 to 40 firefighters; it became an independent unit in 1927. The premises in Le Touquet were built in 1935, and then opened in another place in 1957. Just after WWII, the firefighter unit had 60 people and 11 vehicles. In 2001, Le Touquet's fire station was closed, and emergency services are dispatched from Étaples.[258]

The oldest clinic in Le Touquet in existence is called Les Drags. Opened in 1954, this private establishment can handle 85 patients.[259] A public practice was opened in July 2023, with 20 cabinets and 37 doctors, including six internists, 19 specialists and twelve nurses.[260][261] The nearest public hospital, the Centre hospitalier de l'arrondissement de Montreuil (CHAM), is located in Rang-du-Fliers, 17 km (11 mi) to the south-east, and can serve 900 patients.[262] A thalassotherapy institute, which aims at helping cure illnesses by bathing in seawater, was opened in June 1974, and two hotels flanking the establishment were completed later (a Novotel today housing 149 rooms and an Ibis with 91 rooms).[263]

Water and waste management

Le Touquet's sewage flows to the local treatment plant located in the commune of Cucq. It also treats waste that comes from Étaples and Merlimont. Opened in the early 1980s, the premises have undergone extensive modernisation in 2007-2009 that cost €11.5 million.[264] Veolia provides water distribution services for the commune under a contract it signed with the city, thus prices are not set by the CA2BM agglomeration, as is the case for most other communes within its boundaries, but are subject to individual negotiation.[265]

Media

Le Touquet is covered by the La Voix du Nord, a regional newspaper for northern France that is owned by Groupe Rossel, a Belgian company that also publishes the Belgian daily Le Soir. La Voix du Nord has a local edition for the Montreuil region.[266] Les Échos du Touquet is a local weekly newspaper covering the area closest to the city, with a readership of about 2,000.[267] The title belongs to the Nord Littoral [fr] group, which in turn is a subsidiary of La Voix du Nord.[268]

Regional television also reaches Le Touquet. The public broadcaster, France Télévisions, covers Le Touquet in its regional channel, France 3 Nord-Pas-de-Calais. BFM TV, a private television channel, broadcasts news of the region through BFM Grand Littoral.[269] From 2011 to 2014, Opal Coast residents could watch Opal'TV [fr], but its unprofitability led to its quick closure, bankruptcy, and later acquisition by Wéo, a subsidiary of La Voix du Nord.[270]

Notes

  1. ^ In December 1942, the food ration was as follows:
    • 250 g (8.8 oz) of bread per day; 14 L (8.8 imp fl oz; 8.5 US fl oz) of milk for children and the elderly per day and 34 L (26 imp fl oz; 25 US fl oz) of milk for infants
    • 180 g (6.3 oz) of meat per week
    • 10 kg (22 lb) of potatoes, 3 L (110 imp fl oz; 100 US fl oz) of wine, 675 g (23.8 oz) of sugar and 250 g (8.8 oz) of butter per month[86]
  2. ^ Despite the different estimates, Saitzek and Saudemont give about the same proportions as to where the mines were located. More than half of the mines were found in the dunes, the airport or the horse racecourse, about 35% were located in the city proper, and about 1 in 8 mines were found inside buildings
  3. ^ As the maps of the French Géoportail demonstrate, in 1758, the shore roughly followed Boulevard Daloz. By 1835, the shore advanced two blocks to Rue de Metz and the place where the airport is located was mostly submerged. In 1888, almost all of Le Touquet, except for the seaside promenade, were already land. The Pointe du Touquet still moves towards the northwest
  4. ^ For a detailed analysis of the plant species in the forest, see Dehay, Charles; Géhu, Jean Marie (1964). "La forêt du Touquet. Evolution d'une forêt anthropique". Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France (in French). 111 (sup2): 131–145. Bibcode:1964BSBF..111S.131D. doi:10.1080/00378941.1964.10838421. ISSN 0037-8941.
  5. ^ This dataset compiles numbers calculated according to three different methodologies (see Population without double counting for details). Up to 1954, population was counted on a total basis (any people within the commune, whether residing temporarily or permanently. From 1954 to 1999, the method was population without double counting, which counted soldiers and students temporarily living in the commune as residents of the commune they came from. From 2006, the population is the municipal population, which only counts people who reside permanently in that commune; all temporary residents are assigned to communes they came from.
  6. ^ No numbers for 1916 due to World War I
  7. ^ No numbers for 1941 due to World War II and post-war reconstruction - per annum percentages may mislead
  8. ^ In communes having fewer than 10,000 people, the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques, the French statistical agency, conducts a census every five years on a rotating schedule. Le Touquet's newest census data come from 2020; the next edition for the commune will be published in 2026.[130] The one-year delay was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic because there was no census in 2021.[4]
  9. ^ INSEE's definition of a consumption unit is defined as follows: 1 unit of consumption for the first adult in the household; 0.5 units for each following person in the household 14 or over and 0.3 units for children under 14.[139]
  10. ^ a b The person mentioned in the candidate column is the leader of that list)
  11. ^ a b Despite gaining the second place in the first round, Lebreuilly decided to form a coalition with Bernard and Pierre to oppose Fasquelle in the second round. Because it was led by Juliette Bernard, it was her and not Lebreuilly who advanced to the second round[161]
  12. ^ Second-round affiliation - was labelled "miscellaneous right" in the first round
  13. ^ In France, the term "primary school" (école primaire) includes both the école maternelle (kindergarten) and école élémentaire, which would be known as "primary school" in many Commonwealth varieties of English
  14. ^ In late 19th century usage, the word "tramway" in France could mean trams in a modern sense (urban rail transit on public streets) but it was also used for branch lines of local importance.[235] The word "tramway" here refers to the latter meaning.

References

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  244. ^ "Le réseau de pistes cyclables". Communauté d'Agglomération des 2 Baies en Montreuillois. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
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  248. ^ Edwards, Richard; Edwards, Peter J. (24 October 2012). Heroes and Landmarks of British Aviation: From Airships to the Jet Age. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-78303-494-9.
  249. ^ Sipinski, Dominik (5 November 2018). "UK's Lyddair ends scheduled operations". ch-aviation. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  250. ^ "Se déplacer". Aéroport Le Touquet Côte d'Opale (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2024.
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  253. ^ Vaillant, Frédéric (4 January 2021). "La police municipale du Touquet est désormais opérationnelle". La Voix du Nord (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2024.
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  256. ^ Steeland, Cécile Legrand (16 April 2024). "Le déménagement du commissariat du Touquet, ça n'est pas pour tout de suite". La Voix du Nord (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  257. ^ Lévêque 1905, p. 210-219.
  258. ^ Société académique du Touquet-Paris-Plage 2011, p. 104.
  259. ^ Société académique du Touquet-Paris-Plage 2011, p. 156.
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  262. ^ "Chiffres clés". Centre hospitalier de l'arrondissement de Montreuil. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
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Books and monographs

  • Lévêque, Édouard (1905). Histoire de Paris-Plage et du Touquet: souvenirs et impressions. Montreuil: Charles Delambre.
  • Quételart, M (1931). L'architecture au Touquet. Abbeville: Editions M. Popinot.
  • Chauvet, Jean; Béal, C; Holuigne, F (1982). Le Touquet-Paris-Plage à l'aube de son nouveau siècle 1882 - 1982. Éditions Flandres-Artois-Côte d'Opale.
  • Boivin, Martine; Boivin, Daniel; de Geeter, Édith; de Geeter, Yves (1987). Paris-Plage en cartes postales anciennes. Le Touquet.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • de Geeter, Edith; de Geeter, Yves (1987). Images du Touquet-Paris-Plage.
  • Klein, Richard; Delaunay, Dominique, eds. (1994). Le Touquet Paris-Plage: la Côte d'Opale des années trente. Paris: Institut Français d'Architecture. ISBN 978-2-909283-12-8.
  • Tomczak, Anne (2000). Les années si folles de Paris-Plage. La Voix du Nord.
  • Holl, Philippe; Flahaut, Patrick (2007). La seconde guerre mondiale au Touquet (in French). Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire: Éditions Alan Sutton. ISBN 978-2-84910-692-1.
  • Paradis, Thierry (2008). Le Touquet occupé 1940-1944. Bonchamp-les-Laval: Barnéoud.
  • Saudemont, Patrick (2011). Les 100 ans du Touquet-Paris-Plage. Michel Lafon.
  • Société académique du Touquet-Paris-Plage (2011). 1912-2012: Un siècle d'histoires. Le Touquet-Paris-Plage: Éditions Henry.
  • Saitzek, Gaëtan (2017). "La reconstruction du Touquet Paris-Plage". In Chélini, Michel-Pierre; Roger, Philippe (eds.). Reconstruire le Nord – Pas-de-Calais après la Seconde Guerre mondiale (1944-1958) (in French). Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion. pp. 267–280. ISBN 978-2-7574-2795-8. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  • Trentesaux, Alain; Daburon, Anaïs; Bot, Sophie Le; Maurin, Caroline; Michard, Bertrand; Minguet, Mathilde; Roche, Amélie; Simplet, Laure; Vancraenenbroeck, Vincent (February 2018), "Données sédimentologiques", Dynamique et évolution du littoral – Fascicule 1, Synthèse des connaissances de la frontière belge à la pointe du Hourdel, Connaissances, Cerema, retrieved 1 December 2023

Further reading

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Le Touquet
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