Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Jonathan Ramael
MALO-LES-BAINS
Sun, Sea and Incentives across the French Border

 

By Jonathan Ramael

 

Malo Malo Malo

 

On the wide, sandy beaches of the French North Sea coast, just fifteen minutes by car from the Belgian border, lies Dunkirk’s seaside resort. Malo-les-Bains was founded by ship owner (and pirate’s son) Gaspard Malo in the 1900’s. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century it turned into a luxury resort for the rich and famous of nearby Lille. Hundreds of magnificent belle époque villas were built to suit their needs. A lot of them are still standing tall today. This is kind of a miracle, since Dunkirk (apart from being France’s third largest harbor) is mostly known for the aptly named Battle of Dunkirk during the start of World War II. While the allied forces retreated for evacuation to Great Britain, inhabitants had to endure four full days of vicious bombardments. Malo-les-Bains, miraculously stayed virtually unharmed, allowing us to stroll through its streets a mere 72 years later, admiring the architectural creativity of the good old days.

 

A cheap but worthy alternative to the Belgian coast

MaloIf you walk the seaside promenade in Malo-les-Bains, it feels like you could just as well be at the Belgian coast. There are some important differences though. The most obvious distinction is the view: there still is one. In a moment of rationalism, the French decided not to ruin their entire coastline by putting a massive Berlin wall of ugly, concrete apartment buildings next to it. They wisely chose to keep the pretty, old buildings that were already there. If you feel sporty and decide to walk all the way to nearby De Panne, you’ll even notice that the buildings just disappear after a while, leaving 700 ha of unspoiled, protected dunes to explore.

nother very pleasant difference is the average price you’ll pay. In Dunkirk, you can easily enjoy a pot of mussels with fries for about € 10. This sum will double as soon as you cross the border again. Parking is even cheaper, meaning it’s totally free. Even in the middle of summer, you’ll be able to park your car as close as 200m from the sea without thinking about refilling the meter all day long. Needless to say: a lot of Belgian day tourists are beginning to see the advantages of driving half an hour more for their day at the beach.

 

The Dunkirk Kursaal: fit for the largest events

MaloDunkirk is a valuable MICE destination, capable of hosting very large events. The origin of Malo-les-Bain’s biggest event hall is somewhat strange. They just bought the venue standing in Ostend, dismantled it there and transferred it to Dunkirk for a complete re-erection. In 2002, they decided to fully renovate and enlarge the existing structure, leading it into the 21th century. Now the Kursaal has a total useable surface area of 15,000 m2, divided into a theatre for up to 6,000 people, an auditorium that can seat 500, several seminar rooms and a huge exhibition hall. The renovation project was finished in 2005, giving Dunkirk one of France’s only event venues with a seaside view. www.dunkerquekursaal.com

 

The Dunkirk Casino: the safest bet


Malo Malo

 

Malo-les-Bains is well known for its casino, located 100m from the Kursaal (it even used to be part of it, before the renovation) next to the beach. This modern venue looks exactly like you would expect a casino to look: it has over 200 shiny slot machines and colorful one-armed bandits, but also a wonderfully decorated “classic room”, where you can play poker, roulette, blackjack or craps in style. Workshops on these games can be organized for incentive groups. There’s more to this venue than gambling though: it is an excellent and luxurious event location as well. Three big reception spaces can accommodate a maximum of 500 people. The classic Hollywood-style theatre can seat over 300. Two quality restaurants and a bar are available too. Special lunch or dinner formulas can be booked for groups, combining a three course dinner with some playtime in the casino (including free chips). For example: for € 30, you’ll get a visit to the casino, a three course dinner including drinks and coffee + €10 worth of chips to try to get rich on the slot machines. For more info, check: http://dunkerque.groupetranchant.com. Are you feeling lucky? You should be!

 

Malo Malo

 

 

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