Tuesday, 1 May 2007

My favourite service station

Let's face it, most service stations are a dead loss. 1960s formica tables or gleaming 21st century chrome, they're all the same, wherever you are - logoland, plasticland, nowheresville.

But the Baie de la Somme service station on the A16 motorway in France is different.

First, it's architecturally not a bad design, with a long, low building of wooden slats and glass, along a rectangular pool which gives on to the Somme marshes. That's refreshing. So is the selection of food on sale inside, which includes jars of salicorne - pickled samphire - and local preserves.
But secondly, it has a belvedere - a stumpy tower which gives a fine view of the marshes. If you're lucky you'll see a plume of smoke  from the little steam train to Le Crotoy.

And in the basement of the tower is a marvellous diorama, a slideshow which shows you the sights and sounds of an entire day, from morning to dusk, in the bay.  Let the sounds of the waves, the seagulls' cries and the shingle on the beach lull you into relaxation - before you head off down the A16 again. It never fails to refresh me on the long drive down from the ferry port at Calais or Boulogne to Rouen.

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