Time to discover Cassel in Hauts de France

Cassel is a little jewel of a village, 3 hours from Paris or 30 minutes by car from Lille. Among the Flanders hills and the fields of hops, you’ll walk, talk and above all take delight in our great regional foods and beverages. The focus is unashamedly on conviviality, fine living and strengthening friendships. All the good stuff!

Taste the local beers

Fruity, finely bitter or floral. Aromas of hazelnut, toasted bread or dark chocolate... these local beers (External link) are works of art! Welcome to the roots of beer: plunge into the atmosphere of the estaminets (small cafés/shops also serving alcohol and food), micro-breweries and hop farms which nestle between the barley fields. Daniel Thiriez, brewer in Esquelbecq, (brasseriethiriez.com (External link) ), is a happy man. “Responsible consumers will be delighted by our quality, authenticity, local ties and traceability.” You’ll spot some of these hop fields at the crossroads of the Méteren and Mont des Cats routes in particular.
But first let’s have a look at the abbey. In the shop (abbaye-montdescats.fr (External link) ) you’ll be spoilt for choice among the plethora of cheeses produced by the Trappist monks – with beer, Flamay or dessert varieties available. So, so good

Cassel, T'Kasteelhof estaminet©Isabelle D'Hulst - Tourist Office of Heart of Flanders
Cassel, T'Kasteelhof estaminet ©Isabelle D'Hulst - Tourist Office of Heart of Flanders

After this welcome refreshment, you can then set off across the Flanders Hills. To orient yourself, follow the network of walking routes, which are indicated via red signs along the way. It’s impossible to get lost! Starting from the Mont des Cats, the network links Mont de Boeschèpe and Mont Kokereel a dozen or so kilometres away (about a 3-hour walk). Hiking trails lead off from tarmac roads. Walk at your own leisurely pace. After a long hour’s walk, stop off at La Maison commune de Boeschèpe [Boeschèpe Communal House] opposite the church, to quench your thirst or have a bite to eat. Go to Café Rando© [Hiking Café], great for recharging walkers’ batteries.

A little further along you will be greeted by the Ondankmeulen, the “mill of ingratitude” whose great sails arch over the sky of Flanders. Keep on going and soon you have arrived at the gourmet village of Godewaersvelde. Behind the the doors of Calibou & Co, another Café Rando© you will find hearty soups, the freshest of sandwiches and a delightful bookstore in the middle of a tearoom.

Estminet in Old Lille © CRT Hauts-de-France AS FLAMENT
Estminet in Old Lille © CRT Hauts-de-France _ AS FLAMENT

Savour the local specialities

In the centre of the village, you’ll find the King of the Potje Vleesch (www.auroidupotjevleesch.fr (External link) ), a former butcher’s shop which has become an estaminet. Here you will discover a potje (Potjevleesch, a dish featuring a kind of terrine), a traditional dish par excellence, and be able to slip local products and local beers into your backpack. Then back to the Mont des Cats, unless you prefer pushing on to Terdeghem (10 km away).
The beauty of its doll-like houses with colourful shutters and its flower-filled gardens will not disappoint. Now it’s time to hit Cassel (another 5 km), voted France’s Favourite Village in 2018. Cassel is the embodiment of the art de vivre, with names of streets and houses in Vlaamse (Flemish), the Flemish Récollets Garden (see below), the museum of Flemish art from the 15th century to the present day, Flemish flags flying in the wind, and the iconic Estaminet Flamand © Kasteelhof with a great view of the plain below. On Mont Cassel, the exoticism can also be savoured...

Cassel - Mont des Récollets farm ©CRT Hauts-de-France Bruno Solat
Cassel - Mont des Récollets farm © CRT Hauts-de-France (External link) _ Bruno Solat

The Mont des Récollets garden

This garden is neither English nor French. The Mont des Récollets garden is Flemish-inspired and is truly unique. To design it, its owner (the landscape architect Emmanuel de Quillacq) was inspired by Flemish Renaissance painting, in both reality and imagination. Brueghel is of course featured, as are the albums of Croÿ, the beguinages [an architectural complex created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in the community without taking vows or retiring from the world] and their thousands of bulbs, and the Flemish “bocage” hedgerow landscape, brimming with hawthorn and blackthorn trees.

Landscapes and corridors of lush greenery. A pond and a Flemish farm. Topiaries pruned into spheres or lozenges. The poet-gardener has painted a picture exuding serenity, poetry and dreams. One and a half hectares dotted with surprises, joyfully playing with height and colour, shrubs and flowers. A charming secret garden where you can gaze in wonder, rest, be inspired or contemplate the meandering Flanders plain on the horizon. Ah, the serenity…

Useful info

Tourist Office Destination
Cœur de Flandres,
20 Grand’ Place, Cassel
coeurdeflandre.fr

What to do

Musée de Flandre
26 Grand’ Place
F- Cassel

World War II Heritage site

La Plaine au Bois
Memorial & Museum
A commemoration of a forgotten massacre of 80 British soldiers during Operation Dynamo.
9 place Bergerot
Esquelbecq

Staying over

In Berthen, in the network of cycle routes, La Garonde with the ‘Accueil Vélo’ (bikes welcome) label, is a charming guest house with a view of the Mont des Cats abbey.
447 chemin du Mont
des Cats, Berthen

Chatellerie du Schoebeque

A 4-star hotel in an
18th-century house with
panoramic views and a spa
www.chatellerie-de-schoebeque.com
32 rue du Maréchal Foch
F-Cassel

Cassel restaurants

The Kasteelhof
8 rue Saint-Nicolas
F- Cassel

L’Estaminet du Centre

offers various local specialities
and craft beers along with
its home-brewed beer.
11 rue de Steenvoorde,
Godewaersvelde

Het Kerk Hoek

A Estaminet Flamand© with brick decor - an authentic beer bar where you can also enjoy dishes made with beer.
43 place Saint-Martin,
Terdeghem

Shopping

In an 18th century Flemish farmhouse, La Ferme du Veld, a homewares shop in a bric-a-brac and country spirit.
4 route de Steenvoorde,
Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel

Rosselle Antiquités

An Ali Baba cave for antiques enthusiasts and also featuring a café.
rosselle.biz
69 route de l’Europe,
Oost-Cappel

Article written by French Weekend Breaks
www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk/cassel-restaurants-france-food-drink-hiking (External link)

More information on Hauts de France:

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