Britain’s 2014 May Bank Holiday weekend - enjoy an early taste of the summer holidays.
Whether you're looking to spend time with your family, take a break for two or go on a road trip with friends, this guide will help you find some of the best options available for a perfect Bank Holiday break.
A beach break
This year the Bank Holiday falls on 4th May, and with the weather on the turn from spring to summer, there's no better time to break out your swimming costume, dust off your bucket and spade, and head for a day on the beach.
The French north coast boasts miles of fine sandy beaches with enough room for everybody to relax and enjoy themselves without having to wade through crowds of other sunbathers.
The Opal Coast, or Côte d'Opale, stretches 65 miles west from Calais to Le Crotoy. Along this stretch of coastline you'll find natural beauty, traditional seaside resorts and a variety of beachside activities for those looking for something a bit more energetic.
Less than an hour from Calais, is the secluded beach resort of Neufchâtel-Hardelot, near Le Touquet, where you can escape the crowds, indulge in a spot of golf, relax on the miles of unspoiled sandy beach, or even speed along them on a sand yacht. Whilst there, you can also take a trip into town to sample some of the region's specialty fresh seafood dishes.
If you like your coastline a little more wild and rugged, look further west along the Côte d'Albâtre. The area's towering white chalk cliffs harbour a variety of rare coastal wildlife, and has been designated a protected area by the European Union. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy scenic cliff-top walks, which offer breathtaking views across the Channel, and the opportunity to spot several species of rare seabirds which nest there.
City Getaways in France & Belgium
Some of France and Belgium's most exciting and interesting cities are just a short drive from Calais, allowing you to make the most of your time during the Bank Holiday weekend.
The ancient city of Rouen allows visitors a direct link back into French history. Explore the narrow streets of the town centre, lined with overhanging wooden-beamed house, or step inside the 4th Century cathedral, with its mixture of architecture from across the ages, and allow yourself to be transported back in time.
Rouen is a hotbed of culture, with numerous galleries, museums and performance spaces, so there's always something to see. Here are just a few of the options available over the May Bank Holiday weekend:
- National Museum of Education – 300 dolls. This exhibition features figures created by artist Marie-Jeanne Nouvellon since 1978, reflecting society's changing attitudes to women in the 20th Century.
- Maison de l'Architecture de Haute-Normandie – Houses of Architects. Take a look inside the houses of the people who design houses. A fascinating insight into the world of architecture.
- Parc du Château du Taillis – VE Day Commemorations. Throughout the weekend join historical re-enactment specialists, who will be recreating US, French, English and German army camps in these extensive chateaux grounds, to celebrate Victory in Europe Day (May 8).
Whether you want to catch an event, or just explore Rouen at your own pace, the city is less than two-and-a-half hour's drive from Calais, so you'll have plenty of time for whatever you're looking for.
Find a Hotel in Rouen
This famously beautiful Belgian city, just over an hour's drive from Calais, is an attractive maze of historic buildings and canals, with plenty for you to explore.
Bruges is not the place if you are on a strict diet – if the multiple chocolatiers selling the finest Belgian truffles aren't enough to tempt you then the steins of refreshing regional beers surely will be. These two delicious indulgences are so popular in Bruges that the city has museums dedicated to both of them; The Brewery De Halve Maan takes you through the entire brewing process, from hops to bottle, and the entrance price even includes a sample of the wares; Similarly, the Choco-Story Museum explores the production of a variety of cocoa-based treats and there are plenty of opportunities for tastings along the way.
Find a hotel in Bruges
May is a busy month in Bruges and visitors over the bank holiday weekend should keep an eye open for one of the many regular street markets selling local produce throughout the city. Other highlights for the Bank Holiday include:
- Boudewijn Seapark – a mixture of a theme park and an aquarium, the attraction can be found a short drive outside Bruges. The theme park opens for the Summer season in April and makes for a great family day out, with rollercoasters, fairground rides and regular dolphin and sealion shows to entertain all.
- Diamond Polishing – Find some glitz and glamour in Bruges's Diamond Museum and witness this unique daily display showing how to add some sparkle to the world's most expensive stones.
- The Belfry – climb the 366 steps, one for every day of this leap year, to reach an impressive view over Bruges and the surrounding countryside. This is one attraction not to be missed.
Sample some local cider
Heading south-west along the coast from Calais lies the sleepy village of Cambremer. Centred around a picturesque manor house and surrounded by rolling countryside, this settlement marks the beginning of the world-famous Normandy Cider Route.
Stretching out over 40km of idyllic northern French countryside, this well-signposted route takes in several of the top cider-producing farms and orchards in the country. The May Bank Holiday is one of the best times to visit, as you can enjoy the beautiful spectacle of row-upon-row of apple blossoms, while sampling the sweet refreshing drink produced by the apples.
Take your pick from restaurants and cafes along the route, where you can also find delicious regional dishes to accompany your drink, and follow the signs marked with an apple along the route until you return to the start. The route may seem short, but there are more than enough distractions to make it last the long weekend, just remember to always have a dedicated driver, and to enjoy these fine ciders responsibly.
With France just 35 minutes away on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, why not make the most of your Bank Holiday weekend with a trip to France?