THE town of Licques in northern France is not a great place to be at the moment... if you are a turkey.

Not that anywhere's a great place to be this time of year for our black feathered friends. But Licques is the country's top producers of the poultry that has become our favourite Christmas dinner dish.

Turkey's were first introduced to the town - about 30 minutes drive from Calais - by the Spanish in the Seventeenth century. Over the years Liques poultry, including guinea fowls and chickens, has become the acclaimed choice for gastronauts. Look for the red label.

Every third weekend in December in the small town, some of the 300 turkey producers drive the condemned birds through the streets during its Fête de la Dinde, before being slaughtered, albeit in state-of the art abbatoirs.

The town also produces a potent liqueur, the Licquoise, which is offered to visitors in tastings before the turkey procession takes place. The birds are herded through the town on the Sunday morning, in front of the the town's VIPs.

Throughout the weekend, there is also a regional food market and a dinner-dance.

Christmas shopping in Calais is a joy. There's always a great buzz about the town in the run up to the festivities. The streets are decorated with Christmas trees and the main streets are lined with craft stalls.

Many tourists head for the huge Cite Europe shopping centre on the outskirts of the town. Apart from the 147 shops and 20 restaurants, this year visitors can enjoy a frozen lake where children can fish for presents, or have fun in a labyrinth of snow or ride on a tobogganing track.

Next door is Marques Avenue - a complex of 60 shops selling designer goods at discounts of up to 40 per cent.

If you don't want to go to the out of town hypermarkets, the new Four Boulevards shopping centre in the town has a choice of 50 shops. But for me, the joy of shopping in Calais is wandering arond the two country style markets in Place A'rmes and Place Crevecoeur, which both open twice a week (Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings).

Local farmers bring their fresh vegetables into town for sale with leeks, spinach, beans, potatoes and chicory up to half the price of their UK equivalents.

If you're after some smoked salmon for a Christmas starter, check out the 100-year-old family business of Emile Fournier and son in Rue Mouron - they smoke all the fish themselves. Alternatively, fresh fish is landed and sold straight off the quay opposite the Holiday Inn.

My favourite shop is Le Terroir in Rue des Fontinettes run by my gastro chum Michel Morvan. His knowledge of wine is only matched by the size of his cellar, while his adjoining shop sells a dazzling array of fresh meats, pates and terrines - again ideal for Christmas starters.

If you have room for cheese after your Christmas lunch visit La Maison du Fromage opposite the Place d'Armes for a mouthwatering selection of locally produced cheeses.

If, like me, you like a glass of beer, and want somethng a little different to Stella, there is a new brew in Calais called Les Bourgeouises de Calais produced by Anglophile Jerome Pont.

The beer commemorates the incidence in 1347 when six burghers of Calais famously surrendered to the English king Edward III during the Hundred Years War.

Their statute, by Rodin, stands outside the town hall and the beer comes in three styles - light, amber and dark - with 75cl bottles costing just under three euros.

Shoppers looking for a great meal in Calais should look no further than Le Channel restaurant, opposite the port. It's the best in town although there are plenty of other good alternatives.

Check out for a list of great value restaurants.

If you decide to stay overnight, there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels. will give you details.

And getting there couldn't be easier. P&O has frequent crossings with fares which allow you to take a car and up to nine passengers for £25 each way for up to a five day stay.

Day trips, including the car are from £9 each way No wonder they are being gobbled up!