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Visiting Bray-Dunes, France: Abstract Emotions of Tides, Sand, Dunes, Sea, Sky, and a Troubled Past Exploding

Updated on January 7, 2019
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Bray-Dunes beach, looking towards Dunkirk (Nord, France)
Bray-Dunes beach, looking towards Dunkirk (Nord, France) | Source

The semblance of abstraction made intensely real

Bray-Dunes (1) in the extreme north of Metropolitan France is almost a surreal place.

This is for a number of reasons.

Here, dunes and sand, tides and sea, sky and memories of a troubled past all come together.

Going back some hundreds of years, this northernmost part of France's coastline was not even part of France. In the 20th century, it was the scene of grim conflicts: the Western Front ended here in World War One; and in World War Two what was referred to as the Evacuation of Dunkirk was actually carried out substantially along the flat, sandy beaches seen in the photo, above, taken at Bray-Dunes, looking towards Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque).

This blustery sea resort almost upon the border with Belgium gives the semblance of abstraction made intensely real by the cold winds, by the fact of changed invisible boundaries, by the stark memories of coastal warfare, by the sand and dunes and the continual sequence of high and low tides. All these elements seem to be in a state of flux, competing with each other, never definitively.

Those who love artificial stimulation and crowded, Mediterranean beaches will perhaps think Bray-Dunes boring.

Personally I find the place absorbing, troubling, even. It offers an alternative, North Sea (French: Mer du Nord) perspective on France's northern coast which usually conjures images of the English Channel (French: La Manche).

It is as if at Bray-Dunes so many elements of abstract art are combining to explode onto the temporal landscape.

December 4, 2018


(1) See also municipal website (in French):

Bray-Dunes | Source

Also worth seeing

Also worth seeing

In Bray-Dunes itself, the parish church has artifacts relating to the former fishing industry based in the town.

Calmeynbos , Adinkerke , Belgium (distance: 5.8 kilometres) is a wooded nature reserve in a locality which saw much action during both World Wars 1 and 2.


How to get there: A number of North American airlines fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, and the French SNCF railroad links Paris with nearby Dunkirk. But the nearest large international airport to Bray-Dunes is Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National). Belgian rail links exist between Brussels and nearby De Panne. Car hire is available in Paris, Dunkirk, Brussels and elsewhere. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Sunset at Bray-Dunes
Sunset at Bray-Dunes | Source

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