France is the world’s favourite tourist destination and luckily for Brits, the chance to enjoy a taste of the real thing is just on the doorstep.
Nip across the Channel and within just a few miles of Calais port you’ll discover all that is great about France – glorious gastronomy, wonderful wine, picturesque villages, fabulous fromageries and magnificent markets.
In northern France you’ll find lots of unique, sometimes unusual, brilliant activities and attractions that will enthral the whole family.
1. All aboard for a step back in time
Take a steam train or diesel train ride around the Baie de la Somme, one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
Board a steam or diesel train at St Valery-sur-Somme, a lovely little town with Belle Epoque houses, a pretty port, buggy friendly walks, quirky little cafés and restaurants and a medieval walled town.Ride around the bay calling in at lovely, vintage looking towns and seaside resorts for a superlative day out.
A steam train festival is held every three years, the next one will be 2019, when it comes round, hop on board for this cracking opportunity to join in the fun. Details: www.fetevapeur
Approximately 1 hr 20 mins from Calais Port.
2. Absolutely amazing Hidden Temple show makes it’s European Debut in Calais
23-26 June 2016: “The Hidden Temple” show will be performed for the first time in Europe. It will take place in Calais over four days and you’ll see a giant mechanical spider and horse-dragon breathing fire. These are huge poetic machines made from several tonnes of metal and wood, created by Francois Delarozier of the Ile des Machines, Nantes. Parading around the town, they will definitely wow all who see them and fire the imaginations of children of all ages. The show will take place during the day with additional special night time performances on Friday 24 and Saturday 25. Details: Long-ma.calais.fr
3. Finding Nemo and Dory – the real thing
Who can forget Finding Nemo, the cute Disney film that turned clownfish into stars. Disney is to release a follow up in July 2016 – Finding Dory, a chatty blue surgeon fish. At NAUSICAA, the French National Sea Centre, there’s no need for cartoons as the real thing, sure to thrill families, can be seen in the tropical lagoon. Details: Nausicaa.co.uk
Approximately 30 minutes from Calais Port
4. For your Bucket (and spade) List
The Opal Coast takes its name from the pure light that sometimes has a slight blue tinge like a precious opal.
Take your pick of fabulous seaside resorts such as swanky Le Touquet Paris-Plage, a favourite with Parisians, (as Brighton is to London) or authentic and tranquil, like Hardelot (above). Miles and miles of golden sands, hidden inlets, rocky outlets where you can fish for shrimp and mussels and enjoy the fresh sea air.
Take the D940 coastal road from Calais to Boulogne to discover little fishing villages, pretty seaside resorts, museums, wonderful cafés and restaurants and a true taste of France.
5. Awesome Activities
Horse riding, cycling, sand-yachting, aerial tree climbing, mini golf, boating, there’s a whole lot on offer to suit everyone. At OpalAventure have a forest adventure, there are courses for toddlers upwards and dare devils will love the exciting night time zip line escapades! Horse riding along the beach and in the dunes can be enjoyed at Le Touquet and Hardelot, sand yachting at Le Touquet is invigorating and thrilling and in St Omer, take a boat ride on the canals and discover the incredible array of wild life. Book at the tourist office for horse riding at Le Touquet.
6. Historic Towns
Boulogne-sur-Mer is where you’ll find a beautifully preserved old town and the Basilica Notre Dame which has the biggest crypt in France (dating back to Roman times). Cobbled stone streets, ancient buildings, a chateau museum, quirky shops and fab restaurants – and don’t miss the UNESCO listed Belfry where you’ll see cannon balls fired on the town by King Henry VIII.
Afterwards pop down rue de Lille for a tasty crepe or bon bons from the vintage sweet shop. Down the hill, just off Place Dalton where a fab market takes place on a Saturday morning, you’ll find one of the best cheese shops of northern France – Philippe Olivier – just follow your nose!
(approximately 30 minutes from Calais Port)
Or head to Montreuil-sur-Mer, a picture-perfect ancient town that has the label “Famille Plus”, meaning its family friendly, especially in the restaurants. Go in July or August to watch the townspeople dress up for a show stopping performance of Les Miserables on the ramparts, in homage of Victor Hugo’s famous story, inspired by his visit to this town.
7. If it’s raining…
There’s no need to let rain spoil play here with a ton of different things to do. There are more museums in northern France than any other region outside of Ile de France (Paris).
Dress up as a medieval knight or princess at Guines Museum, site of a Viking tower and the location for the famous “Cloth of Gold” meeting between Henry VIII and Francis 1.
Check out the Calais lace museum – everyone will love the exquisite costumes on show.
Head to Louvre Lens with many artworks from the Louvre, Paris.