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Great places for a holiday not far from Calais

Water mill over a river in Vernon, Normandy

I’m often asked for recommendations on where to visit in France and one question constantly pops up. Where’s a great place to take a holiday not far from Calais?

I may be a little biased as I live in the beautiful Seven Valleys, Pas de Calais, just one hour from Calais port. And I think there’s nowhere better! We have magnificent historic towns, fabulous seaside towns and beaches, wonderful countryside – and all less than an hour from Calais. But if you want to go just a little further afield, but not spend hours and hours in the car, here are three places that are all less than 2.5 hours drive from the port. And all are fabulous for a holiday…

Champagne

View over Champagne vineyardsIt’s just a two and a half hour drive from Calais to Reims, the capital of Champagne. The region has three departments – Marne, Haute-Marne and Aube – and in all them you’ll find vineyards that produce the area’s most famous product – Champagne. It’s surprisingly not a major tourist destination despite its many charms. You’ll find an uncrowded area with no really big cities, Reims – the biggest city has less than 200,000 inhabitants. There is glorious countryside of forests, lakes, rivers and vineyards. There are historic towns like lovely Langres where the famous cheese comes from, Epernay – home to Moet et Chandon and Hautvillers, where monk Dom Perignon ‘made’ Champagne. The countryside is peppered with pretty villages, beautiful castles are plentiful and of course there’s wine tourism with loads of Champagne Domaines offering tastings and tours.

There’s much more to Champagne than Champagne and it’s an ideal place to take a break if you love fizz, nature, history and culture…

Normandy

Port of Honfleur, Normandy
Not much more than two hours will bring you from Calais to Normandy’s capital, Rouen. The city has recently been named UNESCO City of Gastronomy and that’s a good hint as to why a holiday here is just perfect for food lovers. Cider, cheese (Camembert anyone?) and the freshest seafood. Plus seaside towns, historic cities, Mont-Saint-Michel, Monet’s garden, Honfleur, world class museums, the Bayeux tapestry and beautiful countryside villages… There’s something to delight everyone in Normandy.

There are five departments: Calvados, Eure and Seine-Maritime lie on the coast, Manche, Orne are inland. Wherever you go you’ll find art, culture and history by the bucket load. And of course great food. Plus gorgeous half-timbered houses. And more. You’ll never run out of things to do and see in Normandy.

Aisne, Picardy

Conde Castle, Aisne

Picardy’s departments Somme, Oise and Aisne are all very different from each other and each is well worth a visit. The regional capital Amiens is home to a glorious Gothic cathedral and medieval floating gardens that take your breath away they are so beautiful. The Somme is famous for its battlefield tourism. It’s also home to the Somme Bay, classified one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Oise is home to the magnificent Castle of Chantilly.

Aisne has a secret – it is the only place in France where Champagne is produced, outside of Champagne. It’s a department of history and culture with medieval Laon – once the home of Kings, capital of the region and the former capital of France. The department is sleepy in places, and there is bucolic countryside dotted with vineyards, forests and rivers. But it’s also home to heritage sites, castles, gorgeous gardens and Chemin des Dames. There are historic towns like Soissons, Saint-Quentin and Villers-Cotterets where writer Alexander Dumas was born. It takes just 2 hours, 20 minutes to drive from Calais to Laon. Find out more about Aisne at jaimelaisne.com 

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