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Review: Christmas at Nausicaa sea life centre in Boulogne-sur-mer in France

Take a trip across the Channel to sample some French festive fare and learn about the world's oceans and wildlife. Here's what you can find on a trip to Nausicaa in northern France, as Isabelle Miller found out.

It's easy to forget that France is Britain's closest neighbour, and for Kent, it's right on our doorstep.

Boulogne-sur-mer is known for its sea life centre, Nausicaa, which is the largest in Europe and is only half an hour away from Calais.

Beach next to NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5832100)
Beach next to NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5832100)

It may seem odd to visit a sea life centre at Christmas, but Boulogne-sur-mer has more to offer underneath the cobbled streets of its Old Town. Its familiar to that of Canterbury, but the Cathedral it lies next to is also home to a crypt full of historic treasures that's worth seeing any time of the year.

Relics from the 12th to the 19th century, including parts of Roman buildings, ancient Egyptian artefacts or paintings from when the crypt first came to be.

Inside The Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral
Inside The Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral

The Christmas market at Old Town this weekend, from Friday, December 14 to Sunday, December 16, and if its illuminations and quaint gift shops are anything to go by, it will be a delightful trip.

It's only a ten minute walk from the town centre and the major fishing port it's known for, home to an amazing fish market if you’re early enough.

An overnight trip is the best way to explore the coastal town so that you can visit the sea-life centre that tourists from all over the world come to visit, boasting a million visitors a year.

It has 10,000 square metres of space and 1,200 species that live amongst 17 million litres of water that they get from the Channel when they renew 2% of it per day.

The sea life centre is located on a sandy stretch of coastline, the Côte d'Opale, which is picturesque even if there's a forecasted December storm.

The aquarium is a fun day out for children and adults, it immerses you into a world that you can’t imagine, but luckily, scientists have helped to create it for you, so your imagination can turn into knowledge of the sea.

Nausicaa has three main exhibitions, their newest is called ‘Journey on the High Seas’ where a hybrid of virtual reality and sea-life come together with a glass tunnel and a huge tank that’s 60 metres long, 35 metres wide and 8 metres deep. You can see fish of all kinds including jellyfish, sharks and manta rays.

Jellyfish at NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5830973)
Jellyfish at NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5830973)
Manta ray at Nausicaa sea life centre
Manta ray at Nausicaa sea life centre

Their second exhibition is about how mankind relies on the sea and what effect that has on our shores and Islands. You can see a vast amount of coral, tropical fish, sharks, jellyfish, several island reptiles and tortoises.

It’s said that by 2020 two thirds of people will be 60km away from a coast. Nausicaa wants to highlight why it’s important to save the ocean and live sustainably for those already affected by the sea making their homes smaller, such as the Maldives and Seychelles.

The final exhibition is based around the sea lions they have, but you can see African penguins, crocodiles and a simulation of scientists and fisherman on their boats.

Alexis Rosenfield at NAUSICAA in Boulogne-sur-mer (5830967)
Alexis Rosenfield at NAUSICAA in Boulogne-sur-mer (5830967)
Penguins at NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5830981)
Penguins at NAUSICAA sea-life centre (5830981)

You can see the five sea lions train several times throughout the day when they’re taught how to recognise shapes and build a relationship with the keeper, so that any medical checks can be done without any anesthesia, but rather willingly by the animal.

A lot of attention is put into the way the animals live, the tanks are changed according to the time of year, so it’s as much like living in the wild as possible. This includes the temperature and at what time males or females are introduced so that the animals can mate in the right season.

You can visit Nausicaa from 24€ for adults and 18€ for children.

You can get a ferry in an hour and a half, DFDS do return for around £45 with duty free on the ferry or the Eurotunnel can get you to Calais in 35 minutes for around £60 overnight but gets more expensive if you want to stay longer.

CHRISTMAS

Feel festive among the sea life creatures as Christmas has come to the area. The Christmas lights are up and the town is decorated for the season.

Pick up some gifts you couldn't get in the UK with a visit to the Christmas market
Pick up some gifts you couldn't get in the UK with a visit to the Christmas market

This weekend, from Friday, December 14 to Sunday, December 16, the Christmas market will be on in Boulogne sur Mer so you can browse festive French stalls and pick up some special one-off gifts you wouldn't get in the UK.

DETAILS

You can visit Nausicaa from 24€ for adults and 18€ for children. Find out more at nausicaa.co.uk

You can get a ferry in an hour and a half, DFDS do return trips for around £45 with duty free on the ferry or the Eurotunnel can get you to Calais in 35 minutes for around £60 overnight but gets more expensive if you want to stay longer.

To book your trip visit dfdsseaways.co.uk and eurotunnel.com/uk/home/


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