Discover Normandy in Spring

Post image

Spring is a beautiful time of year in France, no matter where you are.  The sun has risen from its wintertime hibernation, the flowers are beginning to bloom and the scent of summer is in the air. If you’re looking for some springtime holiday inspiration, Normandy, on France’s northern coast, has lovely beaches, diverse towns and famous attractions – including Mont-Saint-Michel and the Bayeux Tapestry – Normandy is top of our list this spring. Here are a few reasons why. Festival of New Circus Forms: SPRING When: from mid-March to early April Drive from Calais: various locations in Normandy / appro. 3hrs If you like your entertainment to be a little left field, make sure you book tickets to at least one performance from the Festival of New Circus Forms. Taking place at locations throughout Normandy, the festival showcases all kinds of unique acts, and is mixture of circus acrobatics, art, music, dance and theatre. Come prepared to be blown away. Black Pudding Festival When: every third weekend of March Drive from Calais: 366.5km / under 4hrs Sample Mortagne-au-Perche culinary speciality; le Boudin noir. Every year, Mortagne-au-Perche – a small town in the Orne Department of Normandy – hosts a celebration of Boudin (that’s black pudding to you and me). Often regarded as the black pudding capital, Mortagne-au-Perche’s festival includes cooking demonstrations and eating contests, while the main event is a competition to find the best black pudding in the world. Delicious! Tulip Festival When: every April Drive from Calais: 343.4km / under 3hrs 45mins Admire the colours of more than 30,000 bulbs, narcissuses and grape hyacinths at Château de Vendeuvre. Set in the gardens of one of Normandy’s most beautiful castles, Château de Vendeuvre, the annual tulip festival showcases over 100 varieties of tulips, alongside narcissuses and grape hyacinths, amassing to around 30,000 individual flowers. Stroll through the spectacular gardens, amongst the colourful flowers, soaking up the springtime sunshine. Once you’re finished in the gardens, explore the château and its museum. Easter Festival/Deauville Music Festival When: mid to late April Drive from Calais: 292.5km / under 3hrs 15mins The Easter Festival takes place in the seaside town, Deauville. Running for over 20 years, the Deauville Music Festival (or Easter Festival, as it is also known) offers a jam-packed programme of spectacular classical music that’s guaranteed to impress. From Mozart violin concertos to Schumann quartets, the festival is a delight for the ears, and a must for the musically inclined. Don’t miss out, book your tickets today. Whelk Festival When: late April Drive from Calais: 460.3km / under 4hrs 45mins Enjoy delicious seafood at Pirou. Situated as it is – on France’s north coast – Normandy is abundant with fresh seafood and shellfish all year round. If you’re after a springtime seafood fix, make your way to Pirou for its annual Whelk Festival. Browse the many stalls, where you can sample all kinds of locally-caught seafood, and grab a seat at the open-air concert on Sunday. It’s a great day out for the family. Plan your spring getaway with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes and you’ll be Normandy within a few short hours. Book your tickets with us in advance to get the best price.

New year, new things to do in Belgium

Post image

As the year changes over, we all start to look forward to more experiences, and discovering new places. Did you know that incredible, quirky destinations are just a stone’s throw away, in Belgium? Vlooybergtoren, Tielt-Winge Drive from Calais: 252km / 2h 40m The amazing engineering that created Vlooybergtoren is reason enough to visit. Credit: Stokkestijn In the town of Tielt-Winge, there sits Vlooybergtoren, a staircase that needs to be seen to be believed. Designed by Close to the Bone, a Belgian engineering firm, Vlooybergtoren is a staircase that leads to nowhere, and demonstrates the incredible things physics and engineering can achieve. The 33ft high staircase is completely unsupported, only staying upright because of the heavy base, the only part of the structure that touches the ground. The weight of the base anchors it so that even in the strongest winds, the staircase won’t topple over. The tower is also fitted with ‘vibration dampeners’ that prevent it from shaking when people climb to the top. You might ask yourself, why is the staircase here? Incredible though it is, why would you climb it? The staircase actually sits on the same location as an old viewing tower, which burnt down (this is why Vlooybergtoren is metal, and therefore fire-proof). The view from the top of the staircase is incredible, and looks out for miles over the Belgian landscape, including the ‘fairy tale forest’ , Kabouterbos. Jacques Chocolate Museum, Liege Drive from Calais: 296km / 3h Find out more about Belgium chocolate, and take home as much as you can carry. It wouldn’t be a trip to Belgium if chocolate didn’t feature in some way. And what could be better than a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory type of experience? In the annexe of the Jacques Chocolate Factory, you’ll find the chocolate museum. Jacques is one of Belgium’s most popular chocolate brands, so learning about this iconic brand is a great way to discover more about this chocolate-loving country. The factory shop is, naturally, filled to the brim with delicious Jacques chocolate, and all for a lot less than in the supermarkets. Thank goodness you drove there, so you can take back as many sweet treats as you want! C-Mine, Genk Drive from Calais: 292km / 3h Discover amazing art and culture at these old mines. Credit: Karen Baijens Diving into the cultural hub of Belgium is easier than you think when you visit C-Mine in Genk. The town was a hub for artists, and was known for its natural beauty, as well as three large mining sites, known as C-Mine. The mines were eventually closed in the late ‘80s, but that didn’t mean the vast place was put to waste. Instead it is now an exciting space where designers and artists exhibit, including revolutionary minds like Tim Burton. C-Mine also hosts film screenings and music performances alongside the art exhibits, so make sure you check the upcoming events before you visit. If you are just as interested in mining as you are in the arts, then make sure you check out their exhibition on the mining history of Genk. Are you surprised about the amount of different activities you can get up to in Belgium? It’s easy for you to take to the road and explore this amazing country, it’s only 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais. Make sure you book your tickets with us in advance to get the best price. Top image Credit: BriYYZ

Driving to Bouillon

Post image

Located next to the rich greenery of the Ardennes, Bouillon is the perfect place for all outdoor lovers. Walking through the luscious green forests during the day, then relaxing with a local beer at one of the vibrant bars at night. This is the place to come if you want to leave feeling fresh and rejuvenated. What to see in Bouillon Bouillon Castle A must-visit is the ancient castle nestled in the Ardennes. The Ardennes is understandably one of the biggest draws to visiting Bouillon, being only a 40-minute drive from the centre town. However, it’s not just the forest-like wonderland that makes this area of Belgium so famous. A strong medieval history is present in Bouillon, which you can immerse yourself within when you visit Bouillon Castle. The history of this castle goes back over a thousand years, although first mentioned in 988 many believe that the castle was here long before this. In the 11th century it was inherited by Godfrey of Bouillon, a Frankish knight and leader of the first crusade. After his inheritance, it was passed around various members of nobility before its ruins were opened to the public. If you visit from March to October, daytime visitors will be treated to an incredible display from the swooping birds of prey. However, for a more spooky atmosphere you can visit in the evening for a torchlit tour. The crumbling grey rocks of the castle stand out beautifully against the jade hills and fields that surround it as well as the tranquil Semois River, a lovely place to enjoy a picnic during the winter months. Musée Ducal As Godfrey of Bouillon is so integral to the history of Bouillon, his life is covered extensively in Musée Ducal located just below the castle. The museum is spread out between two historic mansions, and is a must-visit if you want to learn more about the town and its influential residents. It’s not just Godfrey of Bouillon that takes up the exhibition space though, you can also see Islamic and Byzantine artefacts alongside maps from the 1600s. Godfrey of Bouillon is an inspirational figure in the town. Discovering the history of a city is the best way to really get to know it. With such detail in their collections, you can get an intricate look into what life would have been like back then for the people of Bouillon. The Semois Valley The Semois river is the beating heart of the Ardennes, and is one of the most popular attractions of Bouillon. Famous for the ethereal blue mist that rises from the water at dawn, it is an iconic feature of the town. Head to the river to relax on the banks on a warm afternoon, or following it on a brisk stroll. If you are more of an adventurer at heart, kayak through the water for some incredible holiday memories. A peaceful afternoon walking the Semois Valley is a perfect day. Where to eat in Bouillon Les Rempart This is a small, friendly restaurant favoured by the locals. Hearty Belgian dishes can be found on the menu, perfect if you have spent your day exploring the great outdoors. Many places in Bouillon close on Monday night, but Les Rempart stays open, so you won’t go hungry. Where to drink in Bouillon L’Estaminet Bright, cheerful and busy with locals, if you are looking for a bar away from the tourist traps, then this is the one for you. There is a small selection of local beers for you to try, giving you a proper Bouillon night out. Where to stay in Bouillon Ile de Faigneul As you will be staying in the vast beauty of the Ardennes, it would be a shame not to fully embrace the great outdoors and go camping. Ile de Faigneul is only 25 minutes from the centre of the town, where you will be surrounded by rolling hills, ancient trees and the tranquil fresh air that has made this area so desirable. Weather in Bouillon Bouillon’s weather varies drastically from summer to winter. In the sunny months, it can rise above 20°C, but in the winter, it can go below freezing. It can be quite rainy all year round, so no matter when you go make sure you bring your best waterproofs. Getting there and around: It’s only three and a half hours from the Calais terminal to the beauty of Bouillon. You take the A16 to the A25, E42 and E411. Then just continue on the N89 to Bouillon. You will find lots of free parking in the town, so no need to worry about having to park miles away from where you need to be.

Cosy up in France and Belgium this winter

Post image

We may be in the depths of winter, but there’s no need to hide away from wanderlust. It may be pretty chilly, but Europe still has lots of cosy wintry pursuits to warm up the start of your year. Don’t let a change of temperature stop you from planning your next road trip – there’s still plenty of heart-warming experiences to be found! Spa Town: Plombières-les-Bains, Alsace A stroll through the town of Plombières-les-Bains is almost as relaxing as their hot spring spas. Credit: alainalele. After the party-filled month of December, it’s a gentle start to the new year that you’ll want. Just a little recovery time to rejuvenate and start to feel more like the real you. And the perfect way to do this? A long dip in a thermal spa, of course! France is home to lots of thermal spas, but we’ve narrowed your search down to Plombières-les-Bains, in the Alsace region of France, just under a six-hour drive from Calais. For thousands of years, the town has been famous for its hot thermal springs, and visitors come from all over the world to plunge into the healing waters. If you make the journey here, you’ll be in good company – Napoléon III and the Dukes of Lorraine have all sought out the thermal spas. Let the hot water soothe away aches and pains, especially if you’ve been a little too enthusiastic on the dancefloor at the work Christmas party! The health benefits of thermal spas also increases circulation and reduces blood pressure, helping you to completely de-stress and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Plombières-les-Bains is a typically pretty French town, nestled in the middle of stunning hillside scenery. If you can drag yourself away from the thermal spas, then a day walking around the quaint town, stretching your newly healed muscles will do you the world of good. Stay warm when you ski: Avoriaz Glistening white snow, cosy log cabins and a mug of something hot and tasty- there’s nothing better. If you’re the kind of person who is more interested in bringing in the new year in a slightly more active way, then skiing is the choice for you. Wrap up warm against the cold (we recommend full 80s-style ski suits) and whizz down those mountains to your heart’s content. In the evening (and let’s be honest, afternoon too), it’s the resort bar where you will spend much of your time. But after a long day of skiing and socialising, it’s a dreamy, cosy chalet that you’ll be looking forward to. Imagine a cold, dark night where the sky is illuminated by stars, and you are all cuddled up in your chalet, warming by the roaring fire. In Avoriaz, eight hours from Calais, you can treat yourself to luxury wood panelled lodges with views of the snow-covered mountains. A horse drawn carriage: Bruges One of the dreamiest cities in Europe, Bruges is an ideal destination for a winter’s break. At all times of the year, Bruges is celebrated for its beauty. But there’s just something about it in the winter, with the medieval buildings bathed in an amber-orange glow from the street lights, and rooftops dusted with frost or snow that make it feel so magical. Of course, you could just wrap up against the elements and take a night time stroll through the town, but where is the fun in that? Instead, cuddle up with your loved ones on a horse-drawn carriage and see Bruges the way it was meant to be seen. The drivers have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Bruges, and act as great tour guides pointing out the historic and notable buildings that you’ll ride past. And seeing as it’s Bruges, you won’t be short of iconic spots to see. Are you feeling the urge to head to one of these destinations and get all wrapped up and cosy? Then you can be there quicker than you think when you travel with us. It’s only 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais. Make sure you book your tickets on our site to ensure the best price.

Best places to go in the New Year

Post image

Once Christmas and New Year have passed, you might find yourself feeling those winter blues. But with so many wonderful destinations in France, there are plenty of things to look forward to during January and beyond. The underground river of Labouiche Where in France? Ariège, Occitanie Drive from Calais: 1,047km / 9h 30m Visit the nearby Château de Foix Discovered purely by chance by a local doctor in 1908, the underground river of Labouiche, or the Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche as it is known locally, has been open to the public since 1938. It’s actually Europe’s longest navigable underground river that’s open to the public, so it’s really quite unique. You can take a tour along roughly 1.5km of the river in a barge that your guide will pull through caves and chambers by ropes hanging from the cavernous ceiling. The caves are 60m below the surface, so as you can imagine the geology surrounding the river is fascinating. On the tour, you’ll be guided through a labyrinth of varying landscapes, culminating in the beautiful waterfall Cascade Salette, plunging into a crystal clear turquoise pool. If you want to stay in the area, the nearby town of Foix is a charming choice. The beautiful 10th century Château de Foix dominates the town’s skyline, and houses a fascinating museum, dedicated to the history of the surrounding Ariège region. The tickets are inexpensive, and you can get discounts for students and families. In the winter months there are even further reductions, so make sure you check before visiting.

The ultimate ski checklist

Post image

Whether you’ve been skiing since before you could walk, or you’re planning your first foray onto the slopes, our ultimate ski checklist will have you covered. The ski season As far as Europe goes, the ski season doesn’t really kick off until December, but if you find yourself unable to wait that long, you can still hit the slopes in the early season during October and November. Generally, early season skiing is limited to glacier areas, and can be a bit hit-and-miss due to the unpredictability of the weather. If you do manage to get lucky with an early snow fall, however, you’ll benefit from much quieter slopes. It also tends to be cheaper in the early season, for both accommodation and lift passes. You may even be lucky enough to spot national ski teams in training, as they like to get out there as early as possible, and will drop everything for that first dumping of fresh powder. Tignes, France, is one of the best destinations for early season skiing Austria and Switzerland are best for early season skiing, as there are several resorts open from the beginning of October. In fact, in Austria, the glacier areas of Sölden and Stubai have been known to open as early as September, providing the conditions allow it. In France, Tignes is the only resort to open at the start of October, and is considered one of the most reliable areas for early snow. It’s suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, catering to everyone from beginners to experts in equal measure. From December, it’s a different story, with ski resorts all over Europe open for business, welcoming skiers and snowboarders right up until April, so there’s plenty of opportunity to carve up those slopes. What to pack When you go on any sort of trip, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and make a list of everything that you’ll need to pack. But when it comes to skiing, it’s even more vital. Ski clothing and equipment can be quite pricey, so you’ll kick yourself if you end up having to buy twice! Don’t forget that you can’t hire goggles at ski resorts Clothes Warm knitwear – layering is key, and natural fibres tend to be best Warm socks – bring more than you think you’ll need Base layers – it’s up to your preference of traditional thermals or modern layers Gloves, scarves and hats – remember it’s cold even when you’re not up a mountain Comfy shoes – there’s no need to exacerbate any blisters you might get from your boots Wellies – or other suitable waterproof footwear Slippers – for padding around your chalet Swimwear – in case you fancy a dip in a hot tub Smart-casual outfits – in case you fancy treating yourself to a nice dinner one evening Coat – you may not always want to wear your ski jacket Ski equipment Skis or snowboard – you’re not going to get very far without these! Ski poles – don’t forget to take them with you to and from the slopes Ski boots – make sure they fit properly, otherwise you’ll be incredibly uncomfortable Ski socks – at least three or four pairs Helmet – make sure you get it professionally fitted Goggles – you can’t rent these, so make sure you buy before you go Ski jacket – or any warm, waterproof and breathable jacket Salopettes – these should also be warm, waterproof and breathable Ski gloves – or mittens if you prefer Glove liners – for when it’s very cold Balaclava – essential for extremely cold conditions Neck warmer – the more layers the better, really It’s particularly important to be well prepared if you’re heading off piste Useful extras Backpack – for carrying all your essentials around Sun cream – you can easily get sunburn on your face and lips whilst skiing Lip balm with SPF – again, the sun can be strong, and the cold can chap your skin First-aid kit – make sure it’s well stocked with all the essentials Deep Heat – your aching muscles will thank you for this one Insurance papers – always keep your paperwork somewhere safe and accessible Passport photos – in case you need them for your lift pass Lift pass – check and check again that you have this on you Avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe – essential if you’re heading off piste Map and compass – so that you can always work out where you are Multitool knife – you never know when you might need a blade or tools Hand warmers – cold fingers make everything so much more difficult Ankle, knee or wrist supports – in case you need extra support or strain something Water – make sure you’re always well hydrated Snacks – for a little pick-me-up energy boost A general rule of thumb for skiing is that it’s always better to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared. With this checklist at your disposal, though, you should have absolutely everything you need to have the best skiing holiday ever. If you’d like more tips and packing inspiration, take a look at our video with Brogan Tate, in which she shares some of her favourite tricks, including packing cubes and a handy supply of sweets at all times!   If you’re already mentally packing your bags and loading up the car, don’t forget to book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best offers on fares.  

Europe’s favourite winter warmers

Post image

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a plate of hot food to warm you up. No matter where you are in Europe, you’re sure to find a local dish, more often than not with a hearty portion of butter or cheese involved, to warm the cockles. Tartiflette Where’s it from? Savoie, France Drive from Calais: Chambéry, the capital, is 866km / 7h 46m A delicious, indulgent tartiflette is just the thing after a day on the slopes! Originating from the Savoie region of the French Alps, Tartiflette is the perfect antidote to a day spent out in the cold walking up hills, or skiing down them. The main ingredient is sliced potatoes, which are combined with bacon lardons, sliced onion, garlic, butter, cream, and the star of the dish, copious amounts of reblochon cheese. As far as traditional dishes go, tartiflette is relatively modern, being developed in the 1980s in order to promote sales of reblochon cheese. It was inspired by the much older dish, péla, also from the Savoie region and very similarly made, but without the addition of cheese. Baeckeoffe Where’s it from? Alsace, France Drive from Calais: Strasbourg, the capital, is 621km / 5h 43m This Alsatian specialty dish is guaranteed winter warmer. Inspired by a traditional Jewish dish called Cholent or Hamin, the Alsatian dish Baeckeoffe is a typical French winter stew. It’s made with sliced potatoes and onions, beef, mutton and pork, marinated in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries, and then slowly cooked in the oven. You may also find carrots, leeks, thyme, parsley and garlic added for additional colour and flavour. Translated from the local dialect, the name Baeckeoffe means ‘baker’s oven’, and traditionally, that’s where this dish was cooked. In the local villages, people would take their casserole pots filled with meat, potatoes and vegetables to the local baker in the morning after all the bread for the day had been cooked. The baker would cover the pots with a bread dough lid and slowly cook them in the still-warm oven, and they’d then be collected later in the day for the families’ dinner. Raclette Where’s it from? Valais, Switzerland Drive from Calais: Sion, the capital, is 847km / 8h 12m Delicious melted raclette cheese is scraped on top of new potatoes. Raclette is the name of both the cheese and the dish it is used in. It originally comes from Switzerland in the Valais region, but its popularity has spread into France and it can also often be found at Christmas markets in the UK. The dish is made by melting half-wheels of raclette cheese under specially designed grills, which are then scraped (which is where it gets its name – the French for ‘scrape’ is ‘racler’) on top of piles of new potatoes, served with cornichons, little pickled onions, and charcuterie. It may only be in recent years that the dish has really risen in popularity, but it can actually be dated back to the 13th century. It is mentioned in medieval writings from convents in German area of Switzerland, and was commonly eaten by peasants, as it was low in cost, but high in nutritional value. Perfect for keeping out the cold! Gromperekichelcher Where’s it from? Luxembourg Drive from Calais: Luxembourg City, the capital, is 411km / 4h 5m The name ‘gromperekichelcher’ is certainly a bit of a mouthful, but it’s worth practicing your pronunciation if you’re planning a trip to Luxembourg this winter. The smell of these delicious potato fritters fills the air at winter markets throughout the little country, and it’s well worth joining the queue to find out what the fuss is all about. Gromperekichelcher is predominantly made with grated potatoes, mixed with finely sliced onions or shallots and parsley. Eggs and flour are then used to bind the potato mixture together before they’re shaped into patties and fried off. They’re quite similar to Switzerland’s famous potato röstis, which are another popular winter dish across Europe. Speculoos Where’s it from? Belgium or the Netherlands Drive from Calais: Hasselt in Belgium, famous for their Speculoos, is 280km / 3h Speculoos are the ultimate festively spiced biscuits. There is definitely a recurring theme across Europe when it comes to winter dishes, which seems to be the humble potato. But if you fancy something a little different that will sate your sweet tooth, then take a trip to Belgium, home to the delicious festive biscuit speculoos. They’re also equally popular in the Netherlands, where they are spelled speculaas, and there is much debate over where they actually come from. Whichever variety you choose to enjoy, they’re largely made the same way with a mixture of festive spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and anise. The town of Hasselt in Belgium, however, is famed for its special local version created by Antonie Deplée in 1870, which is a kind of almond ‘bread’. Has all this talk of food made you hungry to explore Europe and its best dishes? Book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.

The best Christmas markets

Post image

There’s a reason that there’s a song about Christmas being the most wonderful time of the year, and in Strasbourg it’s really not very hard to see why. We sent our friends Aimee and Craig from Kinging It on a festive adventure to the French town to discover why its Christmas market is one of the best loved in the country. The journey From Folkestone to Calais: 35 minutes It was an early start for Aimee and Craig, who drove down to Folkestone from Barry in Wales. But Aimee in particular didn’t mind, as long as it meant she didn’t have to worry about getting sea sick! Neither Aimee nor Craig had travelled with us before, so they were really excited to experience Le Shuttle for the first time – so much so that on their way home, they actually watched a documentary on how the Eurotunnel was constructed! There are lights strung up all around Strasbourg’s catherdral Strasbourg Christmas Market Where in France: Bas-Rhin, Grand Est Drive from Calais: 621km / 5h 30m Once Aimee and Craig arrive in Strasbourg and checked into their hotel, it was time to start exploring the town and its festive Christmas market! They set themselves a number of challenges to make the most of their time there. On their first evening in Strasbourg, the first challenge they set each other was to find the ugliest piece of Christmas clothing which the loser had to wear all night. The second challenge was to find the best cake or pastry, and guess how much the other person paid for theirs, with the winner getting to eat both treats! There are so many beautiful baubles for your tree The next day, the challenges continued, starting with a contest to find the best Christmas ornament under €10, and then the best Christmas tree topper for their family tree back home. You’ll have to watch the video to find out who wins, though! The Christmas market in Strasbourg is comes every year until the end of December, so there’s still time to visit if you’ve been inspired by the Kinging It video! If you like Strasbourg then you’ll love these Christmas markets! If you’re feeling all festive and want to visit a Christmas market in France, but won’t be able to make it to Strasbourg, there are plenty of other beautiful markets you can visit to do some Christmas shopping. Metz Christmas Market Where in France: Moselle, Grand Est Drive from Calais: 633km / 6h 30m Metz cathedral lit up at Christmas time The second most popular Christmas market in France after Strasbourg, the Christmas market in Metz is spread across the city in five different areas. You can shop for baubles and tree toppers, delicious festive treats and mulled wine, and unique Christmassy souvenirs. Reims Christmas Market Where in France: Marne, Grand Est Drive from Calais: 274km / 2h 20m The stunning cathedral in the centre of Reims is illuminated, adding to the festive glow and magic of the city at Christmas time. You’ll find all of the usual favourites at this Christmas market, such as classy glass decorations, garlands, chocolates, and steaming cups of mulled wine to keep the cold at bay. Licques Christmas Market Where in France: Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France Drive from Calais: 21km / 30m This has to be one of the more unusual Christmas markets in France, if not the whole of Europe. Every year there is the ‘Fête de la Dinde’, which is a live parade of turkeys through the town centre. The town also puts on an incredible food market where you can buy lots of festive treats to eat. You’ll find unique gifts for everyone at a Christmas market Bordeaux Christmas Market Where in France: Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 868km / 7h 40m If you happen to be further south in France, a trip to Bordeaux to visit their Christmas market is definitely in order. Enjoy a warming cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine as you browse the selection of unique gifts from over 150 exhibitors and vendors, which will ensure everyone on your Christmas list gets something special! There’s still time to pop across the Channel for a bit of Christmas shopping, and when you book your tickets in advance with us, you’re guaranteed the best price.

French Christmas traditions

Post image

France is only a short trip away across the Channel, but when it comes to Christmas, our traditions often seem miles apart. And depending on which part of France you’re in, you might find something other than turkey on your plate at Christmas dinner, and open presents on a different day entirely! Let the festivities commence Generally speaking, here in the UK Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December, and that’s when we all sit together and swap gifts. The only discrepancy tends to be whether your family opens their presents before or after Christmas dinner. Well, in North and North-Eastern France, children receive their presents much earlier in December on the 6th, which is St Nicholas’ Day. There is an old folklore story told in France about three little children who get lost and captured by a wicked butcher, Père Fouettard. Fortunately for the kids, St Nicholas rescues them, which is how he became the patron saint of children. And so, every year on the night before the 6th December, children leave out a boot or a shoe for St Nicholas who gives out gifts, sweets and gingerbread to all the good children, and Père Fouettard leaves the naughty ones lumps of coal. Children in France leave shoes or boots out for St Nicholas to fill with gifts Elsewhere in France, families exchange presents on Christmas Eve, which tends to be the biggest day of celebrations throughout Europe. Some families in France even wait until the 6th January, which is Epiphany or ‘Three Kings Day’, to give their gifts to each other. Why a shoe and not a stocking? The favourite British tradition of the Christmas stocking isn’t really a thing in France, as it’s replaced by children leaving out their shoes and boots for St Nicholas instead. Both traditions come from the same place, however. According to the story, St Nicholas threw gold coins or gold balls through the window or down the chimney (depending on the version of the story) of a needy family. They landed in the family’s shoes or stockings, and this now represented by chocolate coins in gold foil and oranges, respectively, which are traditional stocking fillers. Everyone’s favourite meal of the year Whether you’re a fan of sprouts or not, it’s safe to say that Christmas dinner is one of the best meals of the year. Not necessarily just for the food, but also because it’s a time when you get to sit down and enjoy spending time with your family and friends whom you might not get to see as often as you’d like. And in France, as with present-giving days, the big Christmas meal is often eaten on a different day, as well. Turkey is traditionally served stuffed with chestnuts in France The prevailing tradition in France is for everyone to sit down together and feast on the 24th December for a long, often luxurious meal called a réveillon. This tends to start in the evening, sometimes following a day of fasting, and goes on until midnight and beyond. As well as turkey served with chestnuts, you may also find lobster, snails, and oysters on the table, and for dessert, a Bûche de Noël, which is a chocolate yule log. All of this rich food is accompanied by fine wines and champagne for that little extra indulgence, and it’s traditional to sing carols and songs around the table. As you can imagine, Christmas dinner is a lively, merry affair in France! What else is served at Christmas dinner? In Provence, there is a delicious tradition of 13 desserts served at Christmas dinner, which represent Jesus and his 12 disciples. There is usually a mix of figs and dried fruit, as well as a traditional cake called the pompe à l’huile, which is bread-like in texture, and made with olive oil and flavoured with orange blossom. If you find the charm, or the fève in your slice of galettes des rois, you get the crown! Another festive cake eaten in France is the galette des rois, or cake of kings, which is enjoyed particularly at Epiphany on the 6th January. Made of puff pastry filled with frangipane or apples, a small charm or bean called a fève is hidden somewhere inside, and if you find it in your slice you are crowned king or queen for the day! Do you and your family fancy celebrating Christmas a little differently this year? Book your tickets with us early to get the best price on fares!

The best places in Belgium to take your pet

Post image

Here in the UK, it’s safe to say that we are a nation of pet lovers. So, it’s important to know that when we take our pets on holiday with us, we’re going somewhere equally welcoming to our cats and dogs. Fortunately, just over the Channel, Europe is full of pet lovers, too, and nowhere more so than Belgium. Enjoy dog-friendly beaches in Knokke-Heist Where in Belgium: West Flanders Drive from Calais: 1h 30m / 135km There’s plenty of open space for your dog to run free on the beach at Knokke-Heist If your pooch loves nothing more than diving into the sea in hot pursuit of their favourite tennis ball, or kicking up the sand behind them as they race down the beach, you’ll find yourself in luck in Belgium. Many of the beaches along the coast of the North Sea are open to your four-legged friend. Generally, during the off-season months from October to May, you’re welcome to bring your dog any time of day, but in the summer, it’s often restricted to morning and evening walks only. One of the best beaches along the coast is Knokke-Heist, where you’re not only allowed to visit at any point during the day between October and March, but the whole beach is leash-free! And as well as hours of fun on the beach for the dogs, the charming little seaside town has plenty to keep you and the rest of the family entertained. There are some particularly lovely little art galleries to wander around, as well as local boutiques and shops selling everything from high-end goods to novelty souvenirs. Walkies in the High Fens Where in Belgium: Liège Drive from Calais: 2h 50m / 296km Wooden boardwalks lead you through the beautiful marshes of the High Fens The Hautes Fagnes, or High Fens as we call them in English, are Belgium’s largest protected nature reserve. There are a number of trails and walks you can set out on for the day, varying in length and difficulty, however, you should check beforehand which areas you’re allowed to walk your dog. Environmentally, the High Fens are incredibly diverse, with the landscape ranging from dense woodland to beautiful heathland, via swampy peat bogs. Which route you choose will depend on your own levels of experience and fitness, as well as your dog’s! As you’d expect in any nature reserve, the High Fens are divided up into different zones in order to preserve the delicate ecosystems, so dogs aren’t allowed everywhere. The zones are always clearly marked, though, to help you. Zone D is forbidden to everyone, in Zone C only people accompanied by an authorised guide can enter, and in Zone B there are no dogs or bicycles allowed. That said, anywhere that isn’t specifically marked off is free to roam for you and your pooch. The High Fens offer a treasure trove of new scents and sights for your dog to explore, with an adventure just waiting to be sniffed out around every corner. A day out in Rivierenhof Park Where in Belgium: Antwerp Drive from Calais: 2h 5m / 204km Sterckshof castle looks particularly magical in the winter months credit: Torsade de Pointes  On a visit to Antwerp, you’ll no doubt notice that there is a distinct shortage of green space in the city centre. And although dogs are more than happy to pootle around town with you, and relax outside coffee shops, they really love nothing better than letting loose in a great big outdoor space. The good news for you and your pooch is that there are a couple of stunning public parks a little further out in the suburbs of Antwerp. One of the loveliest of which is Rivierenhof Park. Rivierenhof is the largest park in Antwerp, covering a massive 132 hectares, which for comparison is not much smaller than Hyde Park in London. That’s plenty of space for your pet to have a run around and stretch their legs. There are a number of canals running through the park, as well as a few larger ponds and a river, so watch out if your dog is a fan of swimming! As you and your dog explore the park, you’ll no doubt discover that it’s also home to a couple of castles. There’s the 16th-century Rivierenhof castle, which looks out over a pretty pond that stretches out in front of the grand house. And also Sterckshof castle, which is actually a 20th-century ‘replica’ of an older castle! Has all this talk of exploring the great outdoors got your pet’s tail wagging? Book your tickets with us to explore all that Belgium has to offer – and the earlier you book, the better your fare!

Drive to Leuven

Post image

Visiting Leuven It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Leuven so special, there are so many layers to this often (unjustly) overlooked city. The streets are lined with intricate, imposing gothic architecture and from September to June, the many bars and restaurants are full of students, taking time out from their studies at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. In fact, joyful student merriment has been a part of Leuven’s culture for hundreds of years- since 1425, to be exact, when the university was opened. Of course, Belgium is famous over the world for its beer, and Leuven wouldn’t be the quintessential Belgian city it is without a brewery. Theirs is the most famous of all; the Stella Artois brewery. If you only have a day to spend in Belgium, Leuven is one of the best places to visit. Everything that makes Belgium the vibrant, quirky, playful destination that it is can be found in the Gothic architecture studded streets. What to do in Leuven Stadhuis The Stadhuis is a must see when you come to Leuven- you’ll be missing out if you don’t marvel at its gothic architecture. A daily hazard of visiting Leuven, we feel we must warn you, is the risk of hurting your neck from craning to the sky to admire the Gothic archictecture. Of course, the buildings that you’re looking at are so breathtaking, you won’t mind or notice. One of the most famous (and therefore magnificent) examples of Leuven Gothic architecture is the Stadhuis. This detailed gold and black building has been the centre of politics in Leuven for over 600 years. The exterior is decorated with turrets and statues, interwoven in its elaborate design. Like the university, the Stadhuis has been a part of Leuven for generations, since its creation in the 15th century. You can learn more about the history of the Stadhuis and Leuven at the permanent exhibition inside. St-Pieterskerk Another must visit is the beautiful St-Pieterskerk, an ancient church that has stood the test of time. We aren’t the only ones who want to celebrate the architecture of Leuven. UNESCO World Heritage have listed the belfry of St-Pieterskerk on its coveted list. Once again, this is a building that has been in the heart of Leuven for many years. First built in 1425, people come from far and wide to admire the rood screen and pulpit, a staple of European churches from this era. The church is also home to Dieric Bouts’ masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper’. This is the only painting by Flemish primitive that is still on display in its original location. As you would have gathered, the history and culture of Leuven is still incredibly important to the locals, and everywhere you go, you will be enchanted by some part of Leuven’s history. M Van Museum One of the unique aspects of Leuven, is its mix of old and new. Despite it being an old town, the youthful, vibrant student feel has imbeded itself into the streets and buildings. Almost as a reflection of this, the M Van Museum displays works of art and artefacts from Leuven’s past and present. 15th century art sits with today’s modern pieces, in rooms as breathtaking as the art. The exhibition rooms are decorated with patterned wallpaper and rich oak floors and doors. Or they are more minimal with huge blank-canvas white walls, so all the attention is on the art. As with all museums worth their salt, M Van Museum always has fascinating art exhibits on, so make sure you check out what they are showing before you visit. Stella Artois Brewery When in Belgium, you drink beer. Belgian beer is one of the country’s most famous exports, and naturally they are very proud of their craft. Many towns and cities have at least one brewery, but Leuven is home to the daddy of them all: Stella Artois. The brewery is open for tours, where you can discover the history of Stella Artois, some of the secrets to its brewing process, and naturally enjoy a cold, frosty glass at the end of the tour. You never know, with all your new-found brewing knowledge, you might detect even more flavours to the beer. The famous ‘Fountain of Wisdom’, or ‘Fonske’, near the centre of town represents the students of Leuven. Where to Eat in Leuven University cities are the places to go to experience fun, quirky, and easy-on-the-wallet restaurants. Leuven has these by the bucket load, but one of the most popular is De Werf. The walls are covered with paint rollers and other decorating equipment, and the designers deliberately left rooms unfinished, to continue the theme. It’s not just the décor that has the building site theme. Food is served in lunchboxes, and colourful plastic plates- keep an eye out for the little jokes hidden in the menus. As this is popular with the university students, you will definitely experience a fun and lively atmosphere. Where to Drink in Leuven To a slightly chicer establishment now. Mattiz Is the kind of bar that looks like it was made for Instagram. This is a tapas and cocktail bar, where the food and drink are as photogenic as they are delicious. This is a great place to come at the start of the night, and tuck into a couple of plates of tapas so you’re ready to party into the early hours. If you go in summer, try to get a seat on the terrace that overlooks the town. Where to Stay in Leuven In a city like Leuven, where its history and energetic vibe makes it so special, the ideal way to experience it is to live like a local. Renting an apartment with Your House Apartments is the way to do that. Decorated so they won’t look out of place in a home décor magazine, you can stay in the large apartments with modern furnishings and all the amenities you want, including private on-site parking and free Wi-Fi. Weather in Leuven If you are planning on spending a few summer days in Leuven, you’re in luck, as the average temperature often reaches around 24°C during June to July. If it’s a winter break you’re after, you will need to wrap up warm to brace the lows of 0°C. But, Leuven is so beautiful, that the frost will only make it prettier. Getting there and around: Don’t be fooled by thinking crossing the border will make the drive longer. It’s only two and a half hours from our Calais terminal, and what luck- there are no tolls! Take the A16 to the E40, then leave on Exit 18-Herent from E314. After that, follow the N26a to Mathieu de Layensplein. There are plenty of places to park, with around ten car parks in the centre of town, and a little less on the outskirts. There is free parking but this tends to include a longer walk to the main points of interest, so it’s probably best to keep some Euros on you for the parking meter. Save money for parking and souvenirs by booking your tickets with us early- it’s the best way to get our best fares.

The best shopping destinations in France

Post image

When you think of shopping in France, you probably immediately think of Paris. It is true that the capital is up there as one of the world's greatest shopping cities, but there are plenty of other fabulous destinations to spend some cash and spoil yourself if you fancy a change of scene. Rue Sainte-Catherine Location: Bordeaux, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 8h 10m / 877km The Rue Sainte-Catherine is famous as one of the world’s best shopping streets. Photo by Alain Muller. Bordeaux's famous Rue Sainte-Catherine is often hailed as Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street at just over 1.2km in length. So, if you think of yourself as something of a serious shopper, then surely this street is up there on your list of personal shopping challenges. The main draws for shoppers visiting Bordeaux are the department store, Galeries Lafayette, and the shopping arcade, Galerie Bordelaise, built in 1834. You'll also find all the most popular high street shops along the Rue Sainte-Catherine, such as Zara and H&M, as well as lots of local French brands. Once you've exhausted all that the local shops have to offer, you might like to explore the rest of the city, half of which is actually UNESCO listed, making it the largest World Heritage site in a city. Head to the Miroir d'Eau, the world's largest 'reflecting pool', for an iconic holiday snap in front of the Palais de la Bourse. And whilst you're in town, you can't pass up the chance to try some of the world-renowned local wines. There's no better place to learn all about the wine-making process and culture than La Cité du Vin, which you can get to by tram on Line B, or drive to in your car as there is plenty parking nearby. Annecy Flea Market Location: Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 7h 30m / 837km Explore the market stalls around the canals in Annecy. On the last Saturday of the month, if you drive down to Annecy you'll be in for a treat, as this is when the town hosts their local flea market. This isn't your average flea market, as professional sellers and artisans travel from all over to sell their wares, including art, crafts, clothing, and plenty of curios and antiques. The stalls are set up all over town, lining the streets and canals, so the shopping experience is also something of a walking tour. Whether you're looking for vintage furniture, a one-of-a-kind piece of art, or even a pair of antique wooden skis, you're sure to find it here. All that shopping and bargain hunting is hungry work, so it's important to stay well-fed and watered. If the weather's mild enough (or not, if you don't mind the cold!), a picnic on the waterfront of Lac d'Annecy will be a meal you won't soon forget, as the crystal-clear waters offset by the backdrop of the Alps is a view sure to stay with you. If it does happen to be a little too chilly for you, there are plenty of great restaurants in town that serve delicious local food, and you can enjoy the views on a lake-side walk instead. Marché des Halles de Menton Location: Menton, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Drive from Calais: 11h 43m / 1,274km The colourful little town of Menton is as pretty as a picture. The Marché des Halles de Menton was built in 1898, and has been used as a market hall ever since. You'll find some sort of market here almost every day, except for Mondays, selling a variety of clothes, toys, flowers, and most famously, food. The local produce is truly incredible, and there are about 40 or so stands for you to browse and choose from, making it tricky to know where to start – but what a lovely predicament to find yourself in! If you're lucky enough to be staying in the local area and have access to a cooker, just imagine all the recipes you can try out with those fresh ingredients. But if you prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, you can always enjoy a meal at one of the many local restaurants. If you really feel like spoiling yourself, book a table overlooking the sea at two Michelin-starred Le Mirazur, which currently boasts fourth place in the world's best restaurant list. If your tastes are a little simpler, sample the homemade delights at Maison Martin et Fils, tucked away just behind the covered market. Wherever you dine, you're guaranteed a feast, and given Menton's location on the southern coast of France near the Italian border, the weather is always pretty mild. So, after dinner you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach to walk off your food and take in the views of the pretty paint-box town reflected in the calmly lapping waters. Have you got the urge to shop 'til you drop? When you book your tickets with us early you get the best price, which means more spending money!

Driving to Granville

Post image

Visiting Granville If you are dreaming of visiting Monaco, but wish it could just be moved north by a few hundred miles, you are in luck. The town of Granville, in the Manche region of France has been nicknamed 'the Monaco of the north', thanks to its coastal location, and rocky landscape. With a population of just over 13,000 this is a more intimate town to visit, but ideal if you are really looking to be engulfed in proper Northern French culture, and skip out on anything too touristy. What to See in Granville La Maison Dior La Maison Dior, home of Christian Dior is one of the most popular attractions in Granville. Credit: Philippe Fauvel. As Granville is the northern cousin to Monaco, of course the town is going to be adorned with sophisticated glamour. There's no name that drips with as much French sophistication as Christian Dior, so naturally Granville's history is tied with the iconic designer. Christian Dior, born in 1905, was raised in the seaside town of Granville. Being Christian Dior, of course he didn't fade into the background; he was raised in an incredible pink mansion, known as La Maison Dior that looked out over the crystal blue sea below. The mansion is now an intriguing museum, a must-visit for fashion connoisseurs, or anyone who is fascinated with the history of one of France's most famous figures. Monsieur Dior's mother, Madeline, was determined to have the blush-pink house as soon as she saw it, and spent many years carefully sculpting it to perfection, much like Christian would do years later with his elegant haute-couture creations. Christian was so fond of his childhood home and town, that Granville crept into his own creations. Light pinks and grey, the colours of his childhood can be seen in his classic designs, and he named a perfume after Granville, scented with notes of rosemary, pine and thyme. The house often hosts exhibits celebrating its eponymous founder, so check out what's on before you visit. Carnaval de Granville The annual carnival in Granville takes over the streets for five fun-packed days. One of Christian Dior's inspirations for his designs came from the annual Granville Carnival which is still celebrated to this day. In fact, this carnival is so legendary that it has been included in the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The celebrations last for five fun-packed days, leading up to Shrove Tuesday. The mayor hands the town's keys to the King of the Carnival, a paper maché figure, and the celebrations begin. The carnival is very important to the town, with 40 floats paraded through the streets. The floats can take as long as six months to create, and many members of the community join together to make the festivities as wonderful as the years that precede them. With its sea-facing location, cod fishing used to be one of the main industries of Granville, and the fishermen would leave the town around Shrove Tuesday to catch all those tasty fish, so the carnival was there last chance to celebrate before heading off on their mission. Granville Beaches The inviting and rich blue sea at Granville is not to be missed. Of course, a must-do in Granville is to spend a day (or two, or three…) at the sandy beaches that make up the coast of Granville. It was at the end of the 19th century that Granville became one of the more popular seaside resorts in France, and its popularity hasn't slowed down. If you love to swim in the salty, fresh sea water then don't worry about timing the tides. In the 1960s, a retention pool was created at the Donville-les-Bains part of the town. More of a sun-worshiping beach goer? The warm golden sand of Granville is the perfect place to lounge, get bronzed, and dig into your holiday read. The Upper Town If you can pull yourself from the beach, then the town is great place to spend the day. Not wanting to be outdone by larger French cities, Granville's Upper Town has many interesting and cultural places to stop by, perfect if you want to discover more of the history of Granville, and what makes it such a special place to visit. Dotted amongst the striking Upper Town homes are art galleries, museums and chic shops. The Richard Anacréon Modern Art Museum takes you on a journey through 20th century art, featuring works from Picasso, Derain and Claudel. If the proximity to the sea has got your mind racing about what might be swimming in the depths below, then a visit to the Le Roc des Harmonies, the Granville aquarium will answer all your marine questions. Where to Eat in Granville Granville's history and classic style is embedded into its streets and shops, and this is no truer than at Picorette, a delightful tea room and restaurant on Rue Saint Sauveur. Fresh, homemade meals, pots of tea and traditional French pastries are the order of the day, with a cheerful service to match. If you fall heavily in love with the food, you can buy some treats there to take home with you. Where to Drink in Granville   In a small town, you have the happy opportunity to become close with the locals. One of the best ways to do that is to visit smaller bars and pubs, and get chatting. Winnibelle is one of those tiny bars that has a welcoming feel. Go for the dry white wine, and mingle with the residents. Where to Stay in Granville In such a historical town, surely you would want to stay somewhere that is a part of the history. If that's you, then Hotel des Bains is the dreamiest place you can rest your head. It was built in 1881, right on the seaside. It is a quirky red and yellow building, with amazing views of the sea. You can also bring your pets with you!  Weather in Granville In June and July, the temperatures can reach up to around 22°C, with a low chance of rain, meaning that there will be plenty of beach days. In the winter time, pack your coat as it is quite chilly, at 4°C. Make sure that coat is waterproof, as it's likely you'll have to duck through some showers. Are you excited about seeing Dior's real life home, and wandering through this exquisite town? Book your tickets early with us to get the best fares. Getting there and around The fastest route from our Calais terminal to Granville is just over four hours, but this does include toll roads. You can avoid the tolls, but this will add an hour onto your journey. Take the A16 from our terminal, and continute to the A84, taking A28, A29 and A13. Then follow the D924 to Granville.

France’s spa towns

Post image

With our busy modern lifestyles, it's not surprising to feel tired and in need of rejuvenation from time to time – particularly towards the end of the year, as winter draws in. It's important to take some time out for yourself to relax and unwind, and there's no better place to do that than at one of France's many beautiful spa towns. Aix-les-Bains Location: Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 7h 45m / 866km The pretty town of Aix-les-Bain is nestled on the shore of France’s largest freshwater lake. Originally discovered for its natural thermal springs by the Romans, people have been flocking to Aix-les-Bains for well over a thousand years. The town's real heyday, however, was in the 19th century, when the British aristocracy descended en masse to 'take the waters' for their health. This brought in a lot of money to the area, and grand Belle Époque hotels were soon erected to cater to the wealthy holidaymakers, including Queen Victoria herself. These days, you can still enjoy the benefits of the sulphurous waters, which are supposedly good for all manner of respiratory ailments. There are a number of spas you can visit in the town, but the most well-known is the Thermes Chevalley. You can enjoy a range of treatments, including massages, or simply immerse yourself in the waters of one of the pools. There are pools located both inside and outside, the former of which is naturally tinted green, and is supposed to be particularly good for easing the symptoms of arthritis. It's worth noting that there is a strict dress code at the Thermes Chevalley spa for hygiene reasons, so make sure you check the specifics ahead of your visit and turn up well prepared. Vichy Location: Allier, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Drive from Calais: 6h 35m / 694km Take the waters at the Source des Célestins in Vichy. Vichy is undoubtedly one of France's most famous spa towns, known around the world as being the home to the premium skincare brand that uses the local waters in its formulations. Vichy was also first discovered by the Romans, but it wasn't until the 16th century that word really spread of the town's 'miraculous' waters. Later, in the 19th century, Napoleon III visited a number of times between 1861 and 1866, which really sparked Vichy's rise in popularity, attracting other celebrities of the time. There's still actually a festival held in his honour in the town every year during April, which is great fun and worth a visit alone! Although the splendour of the Belle Époque era has faded slightly, the town retains an air of elegance about it, best exhibited at the luxurious Vichy Célestins Spa Hôtel. The focus here is on all-round wellbeing, offering treatments for diabetes, metabolic imbalances, cellulite, and all sorts of aches and pains. There are also a number of beauty treatments to improve the quality, youth and purity of your skin, including water therapy, mud treatments, and massages. After you've indulged in a little R&R, as it were, take a stroll down to the Source des Célestins, to see where the hallowed water actually springs out of the ground. The water from this source is the most 'diluted', and is the only one that is relatively palatable to drink. A short walk on, call in at the art deco Hall des Sources where you can sample some of the other waters, if you're brave enough (our tip is to pinch your nose), some of which can only be taken if you have a specific prescription from your doctor! Dax Location: Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 9h 30m / 1,015km Visit the Fontaine Chaude monument in Dax. Those Romans certainly knew a thing or two about the benefits of thermal water, as the spa town of Dax was also first discovered by them. There is a monument, the Fontaine Chaude, on the site of the original Roman thermal baths, located in the centre of town at the aptly named Place de la Fontaine Chaude. The fountain was built between 1814 and 1818 in the style of Roman baths, but unfortunately you're not allowed to take a dip here. There are, however, no less than 15 thermal spas and a thermal hospital in the town where you can enjoy the waters and healing treatments that they offer, making Dax France's most popular spa town. Around 60,000 people visit each year specifically to take advantage of the spas, which specialise in aiding rheumatology and phlebology problems. One of the most popular treatments is the 'Dax Peloid', which is a type of therapeutic mud unique to the spa town that is kept at a constant temperature of 45°C. You can try it for yourself at the Domaine Thermal de Borda. It's reputed to be particularly beneficial if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Has all this talk of spas and pampering has got you longing for some you-time? Book your tickets with us early to get the best fares.

Stay warm this winter

Post image

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, you won't be the only one pining for the warm days of summer and dreaming of distant lands, most likely in the southern hemisphere. But you needn't set your sights quite so far away, when you can jump in the car and drive south for the winter. Aquitaine (or Nouvelle-Aquitaine) Region: South-West France Climate: expect averages of 12°C during the winter, and 27°C in the summer Drive from Calais: around 8 hours to the heart of the region                    What was once the region of Aquitaine is now known as Nouvelle-Aquitaine, since the administrative regions of France were reshuffled in January 2016, but as Shakespeare once said, what's in a name? The Aquitaine region has a long and colourful history, dating back thousands of years, making it a fascinating place to visit. And with its vibrant cities, dramatic Atlantic coastline, famous wine regions, and the breath-taking peaks of the Pyrenees, there's something for everyone in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Poitiers Drive from Calais: 6h 10m / 624km Visit the futuristic theme park Futuroscope near the city of Poitiers. If you're driving down from Calais, one of the first cities you'll come across in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is the beautiful and historic city of Poitiers. Known as ‘the city of 100 bell-towers' due to the abundance of Romanesque churches, the most famous of which is the Église Notre Dame la Grande. The oldest parts of the church date back to the 11th century, and the stunning west façade was carved with intricate biblical scenes between the years 1115 and 1130. The city is also home to one of France's oldest universities, and is still a student city to this day, bringing with it a vibrant energy. Another big draw for tourists is Poitiers's proximity to Futuroscope, France's second-biggest theme park after Disneyland Paris. This futuristic theme park offers plenty of fun to keep the whole family entertained, and because they change a third of their attractions every year, there's always something new to discover. If you want to experience absolutely everything the park has to offer, give yourself a couple of days, but the highlights should keep you busy for five or six hours at least. Throughout the winter months, the park is closed during the week and for most of January, so check ahead before making the trip. La Rochelle Drive from Calais: 6h 45m / 692km The 14th century towers of La Rochelle harbour. If you were to dream up a perfect little seaside town, it probably wouldn't be too dissimilar from La Rochelle. In the harbour, you can see the masts of yachts dancing as the boats bob gently on the water, and people stroll along the waterfront at their leisure, pausing to admire the two towers. The shorter, round tower is the Tour de la Chaîne, and the taller of the two, is the Tour St-Nicholas. The latter is unusual in that it has leaned ever so slightly to one side since it was built in 1376, and also that it is set up a little like a house inside. It was used both defensively and as a royal residence, with some of the rooms open to the public, but the real draw here are the views of the city. Before you head off into the heart of La Rochelle, don't miss a look around the Tour de la Lanterne. The third tower around the harbour is often mistaken for a church at first glance, but is actually a 15th-century lighthouse. It was also once used as a prison, and you can still see some of the graffiti carved into the walls and floors by the prisoners, including a backgammon board in Room 4. Elsewhere in town, you can easily lose a good couple of hours just wandering the winding streets, browsing shops and picking up souvenirs – the salt in this part of France is particularly good, if you're looking for a local gift. Saint-Émilion Drive from Calais: 8h 20m / 871km Saint-Émilion has been producing wine since Roman times. The only wine site to have been granted UNESCO classification, some of the vineyards in Saint-Émilion can be dated back to the 2nd century when the Romans first planted them. It wasn't until the 8th century, however, and the arrival of the town's namesake, the monk Émilion, that the local wine was commercialised. The wine produced here has always been popular, and almost two thousand years since the Romans first planted a vine, Saint-Émilion is still one of the principle red wine producers of the Bordeaux region, creating some of the finest wines in the world. Many of the local vineyards are open to the public for tours and tastings, and it would almost be a crime to visit the area and not at least sample a glass – providing you're not driving! A great place to start is the Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion, where you can learn about all the intricacies of the Saint-Émilion wines before continuing your tour through the region. Pau Drive from Calais: 10h 20m / 1,078km Admire the dreamy architecture of the Château de Pau. As the gateway to the Pyrenees mountain range, Pau may be a long drive from Calais, but it is certainly worth the trip. The view that a stroll along the Boulevard des Pyrénées affords is astounding. The majestic snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees pierce the horizon in the distance, contrasting starkly with the palm trees and 19th century mansions lining the street either side of you. The balmy climate that allows these palms to flourish is the same reason that Pau has been enduringly popular with tourists. The first real boom in tourism in Pau started with wealthy Victorians, who came to spend their winters here, bringing with them the first 18-hole golf course in continental Europe, and a love of landscaped gardens, some of which you can still stroll around. The main attraction of the town, however, is its castle. Some of the Château de Pau dates back to medieval times, but the majority of the castle's creamy stone exterior was built in the 16th century when it was converted into a royal palace. Once a holiday destination of Napoleon, the castle is now a museum dedicated to the fascinating ancient history of the area. If you're dreaming of warmer climates and feeling inspired to hop in the car and set off on a road trip adventure through France, book your tickets early to guarantee the best price.

The best day trips in France and Belgium

Post image

Whether you’re looking for something a little different to do at the weekend, or have a spare holiday day that you don’t know what to do with, a day trip to the continent might be just the answer. It only takes 35 minutes to get from Folkestone to Calais, and from there, there are myriad little towns and cities within easy driving distance that you can explore in a day. Ghent Where: East Flanders, Belgium Drive from Calais: 1h 40m / 147km Admire the medieval architecture of Gravensteen castle in Ghent. Ghent is one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets, and as such, is relatively light on tourists. But that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to do to keep you entertained. As a city, Ghent is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so once you’ve parked up, explore the city on foot or hire a bicycle and join the locals on the cycle paths. There are a number of bicycle tours you can do, such as Bike Ghent which offers an ‘insider’s tour’, but if you’d rather explore the city off your own back, there are a couple of highlights that you simply can’t miss. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Saint Bavo's Cathedral attracts art-enthusiasts the world over, and for good reason. It’s one of the earliest known oil paintings, dating from 1432, and has an illustrious history. It has almost been destroyed by fire, both accidentally and intentionally, and is the most-stolen piece of art in history – in fact, one panel that was stolen in 1934 is still missing. Ghent is also famous for its medieval architecture, and there’s no finer example of this than the 12th century castle Gravensteen, which means ‘castle of the counts’ in Dutch. To look at, Gravensteen is very much what you’d imagine a castle to be, with its turrets, crenellated parapets, and surrounding moat. The castle was once used as a mill, but has been lovingly restored since, and there’s a great video tour you can take round with you that tells a fun story to teach the history of the place. Saint Quentin Where: Aisne, Hauts-de-France Drive from Calais: 1h 49m / 177km The historic Basilica of Saint Quentin still shows signs of damage from the war. Another lesser-visited city which is perfect for a day trip is that of Saint Quentin, and if you or your party are interested at all in military history, you should definitely pay it a visit. Saint Quentin is the site of many significant WWI battles, but is less well known than Ypres and the Somme. The central square is the location of one of the most famous retreats in British military history, when the British Expeditionary Forces were forced back from Mons by the Germans. They later redeemed themselves, however, in September 1918 with the Battle of St Quentin Canal, which was one of the most pivotal battles of WWI. Because of its significant involvement throughout the Great War, there’s an impressive war memorial in the town near the railway, and plenty of historical sites to visit nearby. Just to the north, you can visit the canal where the Battle of St Quentin Canal took place, and to the south you can see some of the original Hindenburg Line bunkers, where the allied forces broke the German defensive line. Saint Quentin is also well situated for exploring other important WWI battlefields, such as the Somme, Arras, and the Aisne, but it’s so full of its own interesting history, you may prefer to just stay put. If you do, be sure to visit the impressive Basilica Saint-Quentin, which was originally built between the 12th and 15th centuries. It was very badly damaged during WWI and almost actually blown up – you can still see the holes made in preparation for explosives – but thankfully it was saved in the nick of time, and has since been restored and is open to the public. Saint Omer Where: Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France Drive from Calais: 0h 42m / 46km Explore the beautiful canals and wetlands surrounding Saint Omer. You don’t have to travel far at all to visit the town of Saint Omer, and also one of France’s most popular tourist attractions. Just to the south of the town, nestled amongst the trees, is the sweeping concrete dome of La Coupole, which was once the location of Hitler’s secret V2 rocket base. Today, La Coupole now stands as a museum examining the fascinating history of the bunker, as well as the science of flight and space travel. There are plenty of other draws to Saint Omer, aside from La Coupole, however. The entire surrounding area is part of the Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale, which is home to the famous Audomarois marshes. They are the only cultivated wetlands left in France, and as such, are recognised by UNESCO. There is a museum in Saint Omer, La Maison du Marais, dedicated to the marshes and their fascinating history dating back over a thousand years, and you can even go on a boat tour of the area. With its proximity to the Audomarois marshes, and the 50 or so local farmers tending to the area, Saint Omer benefits from an abundance of incredible local produce. There is a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, which is definitely worth getting up early to travel for, where you’ll find it all too easy to fill your entire car with fresh jams, cheeses, vegetables, and wine. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy some of France’s most charming little towns and exciting tourist attractions. It’s so easy to pop over for a fun-filled day out, or even extend your trip for a spontaneous weekend away, so book your tickets with us in advance to guarantee yourself the best price.

What to do at Parc Naturel de la Brenne

Post image

Park walks are an activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year. You can breathe in fresh air and become one with nature at any time you choose. But autumn in France is considered by many to be the most beautiful season of the year, with its golden leaves and haze of mist in the distance. Where is Parc Naturel de la Brenne? Parc Naturel is located in the centre of France, in the Rosnay region, about a six-hour drive from our Calais terminal. The drive will take you through some beautiful areas of France, such as Arras, Sologne and Chateauroux, so a great opportunity for a little French road trip. The history of Parc Naturel de la Brenne The park may be relatively new, having been created in late 1989, but its history actually goes all the way back to the middle ages. The area's lakes and ponds were used for fishing by the monks of the abbeys at nearby Fontgombault, St.-Cryon and Meobecq. The area has now been developed into a national park, protected by the government. The area of a thousand lakes With four thousand lakes and ponds, you’ll never be too far from the water. Credit: Jean-David & Anne-Laure. As the park was originally used for fishing purposes by the monks, there are a number of lakes and ponds for you to walk around. There is some dispute over how many lakes and ponds make up the landscape; the number is believed to be around 4,000, but we'll leave it to you to try and count them all when you visit! The amount of water in the park means that there is a stunning range of wildlife that you can see. Birdwatchers flock here to see the 260 species of birds that have made the park their home. The wildlife of Parc Naturel de la Brenne Make sure you bring your binoculars to not miss the wildlife of the park. Credit: Daniel Jolivet. In total (including the birds), there are 2,300 species of animals living in the park, including 27 protected species. The animals range from big to small, and everything in between. Otters and beavers splash about in the water, and 22 different species of bats fly through the night sky. It's the larger animals that most visitors hope to catch a glimpse of. If you're lucky you could see animals such as deer and boars, or the sleek otters that swim in the lakes. The birds are one of the main draws of the park, especially the ones who stay to breed, such as the Black Necked Grebe, Night Heron or the Western Marsh Harrier, you can also see rare breeds like the Eurasian Bittern. Anyone who is a bit nervous of snakes may want to keep their eyes to the ground, as the Asp Viper, Grass Snake and Viperine Water Snake have all made the grassy ground their home. The Flora and landscape of Parc Naturel de la Brenne Water Lilies are floating on the lakes, turning the park into a scene from a magical fairy-tale. Because of the large expanse of wetlands in the park, there is a huge amount of beautiful fauna making up the landscape. This includes floating lilies, like the False Water Lily, and Floating Water-Plantain. As the park is so vast, there is a range of different landscapes, from the wetlands through to the meadows and the forests. Make sure you wear proper walking boots, or maybe even wellies, when you trek through Parc Naturel de la Brenne as you will likely get your feet pretty wet. Exploring the park There are plenty of ways to see the park, from hiking to cycling, but if you decide to cycle, make sure you stay on the designated paths. You can also go horse-riding, or if you don't think your legs can take all that exercise, there are also electric carts.  Staying at Parc Naturel de la Brenne After all that walking you'll be pleased to know that there are plenty of places to stay, including inside the park. We love the holiday cottages that are dotted around the park, as the owners of the houses are dedicated to sustainability and protecting the environment.   Are your feet itching to get out and march through the beautiful Parc Naturel de la Brenne? It's only a car journey away, and don't forget that booking your tickets with us early will give you the best price.

Drive & explore Dinard

Post image

Visiting Dinard Made famous by aristocrats journeying over from Britain and America in the 19th Century, a walk down Dinard is a walk through the past. The sort of past you see in films; beautiful belle époque mansions, picturesque beaches studded with blue and white striped tents and tall cliffs looking over a tranquil sea. What to see in Dinard Promenade Clair de Lune As well as being a beautiful beach, Plage de l'Écluse is also known for its blue and white striped tents. The best things in life are free and what's more enjoyable than a costal walk with a beautiful view? On a warm summer's day, take your time walking along the palm and mimosa tree lined Promenade Clair de Lune. The walk will take you to Plage de l'Écluse, Dinard's main beach and home of your next stop on our guide. Casino Barrière Dinard Just a five-minute walk from Plage de l'Écluse, you will find Casino Barrière Dinard, the perfect place to go for a glamorous night out. If you don't want to run the risk of lady luck not being on your side, then the casino is also home to a restaurant and bar with a stunning sea view. Belle époque mansions Promenade Clair de Lune is a beautiful walk surrounded by exotic plants, looking out to the stunning sea below. One of the most charming things about Dinard are the belle époque houses that you can find perched high on the cliffs, watching out over the sea. The houses were built in the 19th century, during the height of the belle époque fashion. All the houses are especially beautiful, but make sure you try and get a glimpse of Empress Eugénie's villa, as it's quite spectacular. Plage de l'Écluse In Dinard you must take the time to get a proper look at the beautiful belle époque houses that make the area so famous. As this was briefly mentioned at the start of our guide, Plage de l'Écluse is the largest and most popular beach in Dinard. It is decorated with blue and white striped beach tents, and is in walking distance to the Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as lots of lovely little cafés and bars. It gets quite busy in the summertime, so if you're planning a beach day make sure you get there early. Where to eat in Dinard La Balafon On your holiday, you want only the best. La Balafon is known locally as one of the finest restaurants in Dinard, and for good reasons. It's set away from the busy seafront, in a quieter, less touristy area. This is a true neighbourhood restaurant, using ingredients from local markets so you get the real Dinard experience. Where to drink in Dinard Bar Rock Café For those who love a big dose of live music to go with their beer, then the Bar Rock Café is a great place to go for a brilliant night out. A good selection of drinks, tables shaped like guitars and live music; the perfect ending to a day at the beach. Where to stay in Dinard Hotel Barrière Le Grand Hotel In such a grand and historic town, it's only fitting that you treat yourself to a special place to stay. Hotel Barrière Le Grand Hotel is a beautifully decorated vintage hotel that doesn't just offer gorgeous rooms, but a relaxing spa, delicious restaurants and a kid's club, all overlooking the stunning Vicomté Bay. Weather in Dinard During the summer, the average weather is around 17°C, but expect it to climb higher, especially in July and August. There will be a healthy sea breeze, so do remember to bring a light layer. It gets quite cold in December (7°C), but January and February are colder so definitely don't forget your winter wardrobe if visiting then. Getting there and around: It's just under five hours from our Calais terminal to the sun-kissed streets of Dinard. Take the A16 to Voie de la Liberté then take the D168 to Dinard. This route does involve tolls, so keep your euros close. Dinard isn't known for its parking facilities. Expect to spend some time driving around for a space and you will probably have to spend a few euros once you find it. If you're staying in the town, it's best you leave your car at your accommodation and walk everywhere. You'll see more that way! Are you ready to live the belle époque dream? Jump in the car and head down to Dinard. Book your tickets through us early, to get the best price.

The Haunted Castles of France

Post image

With its beautiful castles and bloody history, a country like France is bound to have a ghost or two lurking about. If you dare, step over the threshold of some of the most haunted locations in France, and see if you detect any spooky goings on. Château de Puymartin Region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine Drive from Calais: 7h 58m / 830km Explore the haunted tower of Château de Puymartin. Built in the 13th century, the honey-coloured turrets of Château de Puymartin will take your breath away as they emerge from behind the trees as you drive up to the castle. In the day time, you can take a tour around some of the rooms (the family still lives in part of the castle), admire the period furnishings and tapestries, and learn more about the history of the place. In the summer months, on Tuesday evenings there are tours after dark, which recount the tale of the ‘Dame Blanche' or ‘White Lady'. This is the legend of Thérèse de Saint-Clar who was imprisoned in the north tower in the 16th century, after her husband returned from war early and discovered her in the arms of another man. He supposedly killed his wife's lover, and then locked her up in the tower for 15 years, until the day she died. Rumour has it that her body is buried in the walls, and her ghostly figure can be seen around the tower just after midnight. Château de Puymartin is closed from mid-November, but opens again in April. Entrance will cost €8.50 for adults, €6 for teenagers (13-18), and €4 for children (6-12). Check ahead for opening times.

Top five wine and food festivals in France

Post image

Going on holiday means discovering new places, relaxing and, most importantly, eating and drinking! If you want to find the best food and drink on your holiday, a culinary festival is the place to go. One of the best things about going to a local food festival is to meet the chefs and producers of the food. And of course, trying the local dishes that make the area so special. As you will be driving to the destinations, it means you can leave plenty of space in the boot to bring back all the delicious ingredients. Toulouse à Table: The Last Bite of Summer in Toulouse (September) Toulouse Nine hours from Calais There is more to Toulouse cuisine than its famous sausages. Visit its food festival to find your new favourite dish. In the famous city of Toulouse, you can visit the Toulouse à Table festival, and get stuck in to the cuisine of South-West France. Aside from the famous Toulouse dishes that weigh down the tables (cassoulets or Toulouse sausages) there are plenty more new and delicious treats to discover. The festival is two weeks long, so you have plenty of time to pop in and feast on the best that Toulouse has to offer. If you're planning on visiting, check out what special events they have for when you're there. The events include a food truck night, food conferences and banquets, so there's something for every type of foodie. The Fête du Ventre Festival (October) Rouen Two hours 10-minutes from Calais Normandy cuisine is rich, hearty and comforting. How many sausages will you bring home with you? credit: Frédéric BISSON. Normandy is known for its cuisine; hearty delicious food that is comforting and elegantly simple. In the city or Rouen, they celebrate the dishes of Normandy over a weekend in October, as well as Norman history. The city's streets are covered in market stalls, selling local produce of honey, oysters, apples and andouillette sausage and many more tasty treats. The vendors dress in traditional Normandy clothes of aprons, large veiled hats and patterned scarves, so you get a real quirky feel for the city. It can get quite busy, but the hustle and bustle is all a part of the atmosphere, and you'll soon find plenty to chat to your fellow food fans about, especially when sampling the local produce. The Chablis Wine Festival (November) Chablis Four and a half hours from Calais Visit the region of Chablis for its wine festival, and learn more about the art of wine making. France is the home of good wine, and people travel far and wide to visit each of its wine regions. And one of the most important events in a wine lovers calendar is the Chablis Wine Festival. It doesn't matter if you're a wine connoisseur, someone with an interest in wine or a complete novice, there are plenty of wine-soaked activities for you to get involved in. From new vintage baptisms, tastings and learnings, you will definitely leave the festival with a new-found appreciation of wine.   Sarmentelles of Beaujeu (November) Beajeu Six and a half hours from Calais Celebrate the new barrels of wine with acrobats, fireworks and plenty of dancing. This is a special night for all wine lovers. Another celebration of wine, the Sarmentelles of Beaujeu celebrates the new vintage of Beaujolais with the sort of fanfare and partying that's usually reserved for a major sporting event! Expect dancing into the small hours, acrobats and fireworks when the broaching of the Beaujolais Nouveau barrels starts at midnight. Everyone gets to taste the wine for free, so you can see just what makes it so special. Bordeaux: Bordeaux S.O Good (November) Place Puy Paulin Six hours from Calais While some of the festivals on this guide have been smaller, quirkier gatherings on the streets of France, Bordeaux S.O Good is a bit different. This expo is huge, and is the place to come to find the best of Bordeaux food and wine under one roof. Here, you will meet the people behind Bordeaux's most popular dishes, from the vendors to the chefs to the sommeliers. And there's enough samples available to keep you full the whole time you're there!   Is your stomach rumbling at the idea of touring the best food and wine festivals of France? Make sure to leave plenty of space in your boot so you can bring back as much goodies as possible! And if you book your tickets early with us, you'll get the best price.

No Search results
Filter Results
Categories
Regions
Search inspiring ideas: