January 6, 2016

Spend your half term break exploring Saint-Omer’s historical gems. © openroads.com

I always say, “it’s never too early to start planning your next holiday”. I say this because research and planning are an important part of organising a holiday the whole family will love, especially when you’re organising a short getaway where time is limited. Half term is a prime example of this. And with February half term just around the corner, it’s about time you started planning your half term holiday. To help you out, I’ve selected a few of my favourite destinations in France, all of which are less than two hour’s drive from Calais, so you can spend more time holidaying and less time getting there!

1. Saint-Omer

Average time from Calais: 40 minutes

If you want to do as little travelling as possible, Saint-Omer is a great choice. This historic city is full of beautiful old buildings, magnificent squares and plenty to keep you busy over the half term break. There’s the Museum of the Hotel Sandelin, showcasing local art, ceramics and historical objects, the gothic-style Cathedral and the ruins of the abbey of Saint Bertin. A short drive out of town is the Ponds Romelaëre nature reserve, a particular favourite of mine.

2. Le Touquet

Average time from Calais: 1 hour

While most people visit this seaside town during the summer months, my family and I actually prefer it at the tail end of winter, as it’s far less busy. As with Saint-Omer, there are lots of old buildings to explore in the town centre, as well as a number of fun activities which are just a short car journey away. We love driving out to the equestrian centre for an afternoon of horse-riding, and sometimes I can sneak away for a quick round of golf!

 Horse riding and pony riding is a fun family activity
Horse riding and pony riding is a fun family activity. © popofatticus

3. Béthune

Average time from Calais: 1 hour, 10 minutes

To the east of Calais, just over an hour’s drive away, is Béthune. Known for its spectacular Belfry, Béthune is an architectural delight, with beautiful buildings found on almost every street corner. As well as the eye-catching Belfry, the main square features buildings from a range of eras, creating an amazing scene. My family and I often wander the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, before popping into a café for a French hot chocolate.

 Enjoy a delicious cup of hot chocolate in Béthune
Enjoy a delicious cup of hot chocolate in Béthune. © christopher cornelius

4. Douai

Average time from Calais: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Just like many of northern France’s towns and cities, Douai has a rich history, which can be seen in its spectacular monuments, historic sights and breath taking buildings. One of the best (and most fun!) ways to see the city is by boat. The river Scarpe runs directly through Douai, and various tour operators offer boat rides. It’s great for young children who may struggle with walking long distances – when we went several years ago, my kids loved it.

 Discover Douai by boat
Discover Douai by boat. © isamiga76

5. Saint-Quentin

Average time from Calais: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A little less than two hours’ drive from Calais is Saint-Quentin. This is a fantastic place to visit when there’s a chill in the air, as there are plenty of museums to explore. While the Antoine Lecuyer Museum and the Matisse Family House are favourites of mine, the kids prefer the Butterfly Museum. Here you can see approximately 600,000 beautiful specimens, alongside various amphibians and a mammoth tusk! Afterwards, if you can brave the cold, take a stroll in the Parc d'Isle Jacques Braconnier wildlife reserve.

Plan ahead for your half term break…

...with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. It only takes 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, and from there you can reach any destinations in mainland Europe.

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