March 27th, 2012


Planes On The Beach

When I informed Howard that for his birthday treat we were going to an aviation-themed hotel in Picardy, he received the news with equanimity.

Our destination was Le Crotoy, a little way down the coast from Le Touquet and an important site in aviation history. René and Gaston Caudron, brothers and pioneers, flew their experimental aircraft along the beach, and after the First World War a school for pilots was established. Hopefuls travelled from all over the world to gain certification; there was a delegation from China, and Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to hold a pilot's licence, came from Texas to pick up her brevet in 1921. (We learned all this from the Caudron museum in nearby Rue.)

The hotel, Les Aviateurs, was all I'd hoped for. Each of the bedrooms was named after a French pilot; we got the Adrienne Bolland room. I had not previously heard of her, but she was the first woman to fly across the Andes. The dining-room was decorated with photos and models of aeroplanes, and some of the tables had biplane mosaic tops while another featured the cover of The Blue Lotus. The hotel bar and some of the tables were original fixtures from the pilots' club, and were over 100 years old. What stories they could have told!