A short hop to paradise
Andy enjoys the view from the Ibis Hotel on Le Touquet beach.
Why was I, a committed aero-phobe, boarding a light aircraft for an early morning trip to France?
I’m anxious enough about travelling on the big birds let alone the fun-sized fledglings.
It seemed such a good idea at the time.
A two-day trip to Le Touquet, long- favoured holiday destination of Parisians (who know a thing or two about style) staying at the Ibis hotel, a budget chain with a regal location.
My weekend was courtesy of Lyddair, and my courier for this nervy hop across the Channel was an executive class, five-seater Piper Chieftain.
We’d be climbing to 1,000ft and flight time was a mercifully measly 15 minutes.
I figured we’d be up and down in the time it took to sit through two complete listens of the Beatles’ Hey Jude.
My nervous flyer status had been flagged up to James, our pilot, who invited me to join him “up front” to help put my fears to flight.
Fortified by two pints of airport Guinness, I took the co-pilot’s seat and held tight.
Andy prepares for take off from Lydd Airport with pilot, James.
These tiny beasts make a hell of a din, but as we journeyed smoothly between cloud and sea, I could suddenly think of no finer way to travel.
Thanks James and thank-you Dr Guinness.
Le Touquet airport, like Lydd, is about the size of your average car showroom.
There to meet us was our taxi driver, Nick.
As we passed mansion after magnificently manicured mansion towards the hotel, our unofficial guide gave us his perky, potted history of his delightful-looking town.
He told us its population rises from 5,000 to 60,000 in summer and houses some rarefied residents.
Nervous flyer Andy "enjoying" his flight across the Channel.
“Zee zat lady zere?” he said, gesturing to a well-heeled cyclist, “her family discovered ze Norton computer virus.”
He also told us he’d had “Serr Alane Shuugerr” in the back of his cab when the Apprentice overlord flew over for a recent lunch date.
If I’m ever in the market for a full-time driver, Nick…you’re hired.
The Ibis is a basic three-star hotel, but position-wise, it’s off the scale.
Step over the ground floor balcony and you’re ankle-deep in sand - the golden stuff stretches for miles.
Town is a 10-minute stroll away and Saturday is market day with stalls selling clothes and a multitude of mouth-watering fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.
To escape the browsing hordes my wife and I sought refuge at one of the resort’s 300-odd bars and restaurants.
Le Touquet will charm your socks off, but if you’re not careful, it’ll woo your wallet, too.
A light bite for two in a pavement café set us back a tasty 30 euros (about £25).
We returned beachside to toast a sunset spectacular enough to leave Ibiza long in the shade.
The honeyed serenity made it hard to imagine Blighty’s candy floss, kiss-me-quick promenade was little more than a stone’s skim away across the water.
When the new day dawned, it was time for Thalassa, the hotel’s seawater spa.
It left us both mentally and physically replenished, and so utterly relaxed, we could’ve floated home there and then on bedded bliss.
When it was time to return to Kent, Nick saw us back to the airport with more of his fact-filled patter.
“Zee zat ‘ouse zere? Zat is where Bolero was composed,” he announced, before humming an impromptu (and perhaps more rustic) version of the 85-year-old orchestral classic.
The perfect note on which to end a perfect weekend.
. Lyddair runs weekend flights to Le Touquet from the end of March to the middle of October, plus Fridays during peak season (July and August).
. An adult return costs £149.94, children aged two to 12, £138.54, infants aged two and under, £55.90. Visit www.lyddair.com.
. Weekend room rates at the Ibis Hotel, Le Touquet start from about £94. Visit www.ibis.com/gb/booking.
. We enjoyed evening dinner at the Perard, a highly-recommended restaurant in rue de Metz which served a stunning selection of freshly-caught fish dishes and didn’t disappoint.
.We also visited the Westminster, Le Touquet’s premier hotel in Avenue du Verger, where we enjoyed a delicious Sunday afternoon buffet and dessert for a total cost of 58 euros.