The day after the museum disaster (everyone looked suspiciously at me afterwards – although even I wouldn’t go to such lengths to get out of a WWII bunker tour), we went for a drive to the beach and then a wander round a nearby village, Cassel. Cassel is perched on top of a hilltop and its claim to fame is that it's the very hill that the Grand Old Duke of York marched his 10,000 men up and down.
And it was there on the hilltop that we stumbled upon the shop of dreams - Alice-in-Wonderland, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Narnia all rolled into one.
For once, my usually very vocal Little Bean was too overwhelmed with excitement to make a squeak. The two mammas and babes wandered euphorically through the piles of treasures trying to pick out just one toy each to fit in our already overloaded cars on the return journey (bearing in mind we had already purchased vast quantities of cheese and wine to bring back with us).
The husbands got a bit bored after the toy cars had been thoroughly examined and tested – they were already in a bit of a foul mood having had an unsatisfactory trip across the border to a Belgian monastery to buy beer – the monks’ stash was sold out so we’d left empty-handed.
But they needn't have worried. Dangling from the ceiling, in amongst the hanging mobiles and hand-painted mini aeroplanes, was a wooden sign reading...Biere (for the non-French speakers that means 'beer').
An arrow pointed down a cobbly set of stairs, which our husbands raced down as quickly as if their mother-in-laws were in hot pursuit.
It was a little grotto of beer-lover’s paradise, piled floor to ceiling with specialist French and Belgian beers and cidres. Mr Bean was like a kid in a sweet shop. Or a husband in a beer shop.
So, not only did this er… toyshop provide for both little people as well as their hops-loving parentals, but upstairs, behind a pile of train sets I discovered my own personal paradise, a gourmet coffee bean selection and a mouthwatering display of chocolate truffles. At this stage, if there’d been a stable of unicorns behind the coffee display I wouldn’t have blinked an eyelid. I kept expecting someone to pop out like a jack in the box, shouting 'Carlsberg don't do toyshops but if we did...'
Safe to say the shop did well out of us. We finally settled on a the most hilarious duck for Little Bean, mostly because she became apoplectic whenever it started flapping its silly feet, and treated ourselves to a few goodies too.
Take note Mothercare, ELC and ToysRUs, this is how toyshops should be run. Now get cracking. Before Carlsberg beats you to it.
*Circus toys are actually from this website but it's exactly the kind of thing the shop sold. I was too much in awe to even think of whipping out my camera at the time.