Explore French Countryside
Escape to the country and discover the diversity of France.
Beyond the cafes, iconic towers and romance of Paris lies the diverse and breath-taking French countryside. Whether you want to sit atop the cliffs of Normandy, hike the Alps or roam around the Loire Valley it's all within reach of Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais terminal. This guide will lead you through some of the best options available to you.
The Normandy Coast
Claude Monet and the Impressionist painters drew inspiration for much of their work from the region of Normandy in northern France. Follow their trail and you'll discover the reality of these beautiful seascapes for yourself. There are 360-miles of dramatic coastline to explore including the World War II landing beaches and the imposing cliffs of the Côte d'Albâtre.
Three hours' drive west of Calais (along the A16 and A28) you'll find the little town of Etretat. Here, the surrounding white chalk cliffs mirror those across the Channel. The battered rocks have formed arches, needles and tunnels perfect for walkers to explore, photographers to snap and nature lovers to ponder.
Etretat's pebbly beach is flanked by the rock formations of Falaise d'Aval and Falaise d'Amont. Both can be reached by climbing the steps and following the cliff paths at either end of the beach. On the cliff top itself, you can fish out your camera and capture the picturesque Notre-Dame de la Garde Chapel against a stunning backdrop.
The Loire Valley
If you're looking for serenity, consider an escape to the Loire Valley, often called 'The Garden of France. Vineyards are scattered along the length of the Loire valley, giving them varying climates and soil. These changing environments strongly influence the characteristics of Loire wines, and French wines have long been identified by appellations or place of origin (even down to the village) rather than grape variety. You can embark on a vineyard tour and learn to distinguish the floral aromas of Savennières from the fruity Vouvray.
If you're the green-fingered type then a visit to Chaumont-sur-Loire is a must. From mid-June to mid-October the International Festival of Gardens is held here, giving visitors the opportunity to marvel at unique garden design and innovation. The theme changes each year and verges on the fantastical, so expect to wander through green fairylands, mini jungles or some other marvellous landscape. Permanent features such as the Valley of the Mists and Wild Iron Pathway should keep the kids entertained and you're free to take along your own picnic.
Be sure to call at the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire which towers over the Loire River. The castle has a long and varied history (dating 10th-19th century). This includes a complete rebuild after being torched by Louis XI in response to its owner's participation in the anti-royal revolt and the addition of some luxurious stables ordered in 1877 by the wealthy Broglie family. Amongst the mass of chateaux to visit is Chambord, the largest castle in the Loire region and a shining example of French Renaissance architecture.
Chaumont-sur-Loire is 5 hours and 15 minutes' drive from Calais along the A16 and A10.
On the polar end of the scale are the French Alps. Mont Blanc islocated on the border of France and Italy and is the highest mountain in the Alps. You can hike the mountain trails, put on your skis and skim the slopes or even tour the glaciers.
For an adrenaline-fuelled cycle ride, the Chamonix Valley has some excellent mountain-bike and downhill trails to navigate. There are options to cycle through villages and hamlets or take the lifts at stops from Le Tour, Vallorcine and Les Houches to starting points for those exhilarating descents. And, before you set off, remember to take in the awe-inspiring views.
Chamonix and Mont Blanc massif is an exciting place for children to discover the great outdoors too. Kids can sign up for the joys of snow sports with a beginner's course. A family trip not to be missed is a ride up on the funicular Montenvers railway. Reaching Montenvers station, you'll be able to peer over a rocky edge at the famous Mer de Glace glacier. Hop on the cable car from the station down to the glacier where a manmade ice grotto, featuring a collection of impressive ice sculptures, awaits exploration (closed during the winter). Take a peek inside the Glaciorium and you'll learn all about the evolution of glaciers with its interactive exhibitions.
Neighbouring Les Houches is a family-friendly group of hamlets surrounded by Alpine meadows and forests. Families will feel comfortable with the slopes here and you can get off-the-beaten-track with a spot of snowshoeing through winter forests or snowy peaks.
At 550 miles from Calais, the Chamonix valley is approximatelyan 8-9 hourdrive which will take you past amazing Alpine scenery. There are several car parking options in Chamonix town centre.
Whatever you're preferred vista, France has so much to offer. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle makes your Channel crossing simple so you can concentrate on your bigger adventure from Calais.
Getting there and around
All the options above are reachable by car from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais Terminal (see paragraphs above for details) so you can pick your destination based on how adventurous you are feeling.