Hop in your car and take the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais for a day-trip to the pretty village of Cassel in French Flanders.
The village of Cassel in France’s Nord department region with its cobbled streets, quiet atmosphere and traditional Flemish buildings feels like a romantic relic of a bygone era.
Though it was originally created by the Romans on top of a prominent hill (Mont Cassel) overlooking the lush rolling pastures of French Flanders, the rulers of Flanders picked up the pieces after the demise of the Roman Empire and the Flemish influence is still evident.
Though many a holiday-maker has driven or worse – bypassed altogether – Cassel on their way to Lille or Paris, we offer two fantastic reasons to stop and stare.
Musée de Flandre
Musée de Flandre (Flanders Museum) is located in a stunning 17th century Flemish building on the main street of Cassel, with foundations dating back to the medieval period.
You will find some of the finest Flemish artworks and paintings in the world here. Currently they are hosting a special exhibition of Fêtes et Kermesses au temps des Brueghel until July 14th (€6 adult entry).
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (also spelt “Brueghel”) is renowned for his Dutch and Flemish Renaissance paintings. Many of them feature imaginative, joyful and sometimes barmy renditions of parties and celebrations. Sadly his own works are not here but you can see them in The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. However, the good news is that works based on his paintings are here in abundance.
Eleven room showcase these and as well as artworks created by his two sons, Jan I and Pieter II. Most of the paintings depict the poorest of society, and they provide an important social commentary on life in the Renaissance period.
More than 100 paintings and engravings depict fairs, weddings and other community events that took place in 16th and 17th centuries, some with incredibly funny and strange depictions. Almost every painting contains a stupidly-dressed “fool”, who is a visual representation of excess and naughtiness. Men projectile vomit after glugging too much mead, couples embrace passionately behind trees and brawlers throw punches with gay abandon.