A France holiday has been on the Holroyd’s list of places to visit for a long time. Our neighbouring country doesn’t feel that far away but for some reason we had not travelled there before.
The planning for this year‘s France holiday took a different turn. We couldn’t fly due to me being pregnant. Which lay out a few new challenges we had not faced before.
Travelling when pregnant is a whole other blog post. In this post I will concentrate on our itinerary and the holiday.
Here is our holiday diary:
The first part of the France holiday sounded like the easiest. Simply drive to Folkestone from the North West and enjoy a hotel stay before taking the Eurotunnel to France first thing. Then drive to Paris. In reality it was the most painful car journey. Every hour at least we stopped for bathroom breaks and breaks to stop us losing our mind as the whole journey is littered with 50mph restrictions!
We arrived in Folkestone fed up, in need of our beds. Instead of looking forward to the exciting leg of the journey under the sea, we passed out. The epitome of weary travellers.
The Holiday Inn Express, Folkestone Channel Tunnel is a superb hotel. The service was great, the rooms were comfy and spacious. And you are a stones throw away from the entrance to the tunnel. So there was no worrying about timings etc.
There’s also a Tesco with petrol station – so we made the most of that collecting air miles along the way! (Read how we collected 100,000 air miles in 24 months here)
If you live in the South I would urge you make the most of having the Eurotunnel/ Eurostar. We arrived early expecting queues, delays, crowds and what we got was sleek, efficient, fantastic service. We got bumped up to an earlier train (winner!), we got through passport control and vehicle inspection super speedy. And before we knew it, we were boarding. Driving into a train carriage is one of THE most bizarre things but it was so much fun!
Our expectation of the system was it would be clunky and take a while for boarding. We were on, through the tunnel and off the other side within 50 minutes!
We took our time through the French countryside. I adored driving there, the roads were clear and uncomplicated. The GPS was a good call, no arguing over an AA Map. And without data roaming charges we were without burden on our mobile bill.
Arriving at Disneyland Paris
Arriving at the hotel just after lunchtime, our room wasn’t ready so we used the time to head to a nearby supermarket. We stocked up on breakfast, and packed lunches, our intention was to save money in the Disneyland parks.
The hotel, Hôtel Kyriad Disneyland Paris is a partner to the Disneyland Resort, it enjoys a free shuttle service to the parks, a restaurant, burger bar and even a petting zoo! Simple rooms but clean and comfortable, the hotel was a great base but was missing the “Disney magic”.
The next two days were a blur of rides, attractions, parades and all the things we love about Disney. You can catch up on our escapades in my YouTube vlog, here.
As at the time of our France holiday I was heavily pregnant we headed straight to guest services and picked up a special pregnancy pass. This allowed us to get fast pass times on all rides and attractions that I was “allowed” to go on. It was an absolute gem. We got to do far more using that pass than we would have otherwise on this busy August weekend.
Disney want to make sure you have the best experience possible, so these passes are available for a number of different “conditions” temporary or otherwise. I recently advised a client of them and her family also reaped the benefits of the fast pass to attractions using the Green Pass.
After a magical couple of days at the park, we were ready for a change of scene. On day 3 we took the 40 minute RER train to the centre of Paris. Abigail’s first trip to the city, we loved how she walked around wide eyed and taking it all in.
We fell in love with Paris
We had a lazy morning, getting into the city for lunchtime, grabbed some picnic supplies from a local deli and headed up to Trocadero for the most monumental views of the Eiffel Tower and an ideal picnic spot, away from the tourist crowds we slipped in amongst the locals.
From here we walked down towards the tower, taking a stroll along the river. We had set very low expectations for the day. We simply wanted to see as much of the city as possible. Following the river we stopped at the Flame of Liberty, a full-sized, gold-leaf-covered replica of the flame of the torch from the Statue of Liberty.
Taking a slight detour of our route to the Louvre we headed up to the Arc de Triomphe. Abi was keen to replicate a photo I have from her dad and I’s first trip there. Checking that off our list we meandered down the Champs Elysee, to the Place de la Concorde and then to Coco Chanel’s legendary Rue Cambon apartments and original store. (Abigail is a huge fan).
From here we made our way to the Louvre, where we rested and people watched a while. Digesting all that we had seen, heard, eaten. Highlights of the day included the much needed pit stop eating some delicious Parisian pastries, Abigail’s reaction on first seeing the Eiffel Tower “in real life” and our quiet picnic lunch spot.
For the whole day, we didn’t feel like tourists on a France holiday, more like observers or admirers.
Route to the North
The next day we checked out of the Kyriad Hotel Disneyland Paris, our next destination was the northern coast of France, Boulogne Sur Mer. The route would take us back through the Somme region and in an effort to take things slowly we pre-arranged a pit stop on Albert a town slightly north of Amiens.
At school Abi has learned about the World Wars and she was really keen to see places affected and the battlefields. She’s a kinetic learner, loves to see, hear and feel things for herself. Albert is a sleepy provincial town, but in the centre of it all is this brilliantly humble museum, Musée Somme 1916.
We descended 10 metres underground, under the main square of the town and discovered the lives of soldiers in the trenches. Dioramas, compelling displays, collections of weapons, moving artefacts and photographs made this visit. Over 250 metres in length, it comes to an end in the “Heroes’ Gallery”, dedicated to nine people who marked the war.
We became totally immersed in the history, exploring the Remembrance Trail and the battlefields, cemeteries, trenches and memorials that remind us of the tragic offensive of 1916. From here we headed to a Newfoundland Memorial, where the ground is carved out by the shells and trenches.
This was an incredibly sombre part of the holiday, but so poignant and meant a lot to all of us.
Boulogne Sur Mer
We were glad to reach our apartment in Boulogne Sur Mer later that day. After a quick stock up at the supermarket for food and treats we cooked a family feast and chilled out together reading about the town and deciding where our trip would take us next. A lot of it depended on the weather!
Fortunately, the next day the sun made and appearance and while Ant and Abi messed around in the sand and the shallow waters, I slept. A lot. The sounds of Abi’s laughter, the waves and a breeze nestled into my ears and sent me into a state of hypnotic relaxation. That perfect feeling on our France holiday.
We’d earmarked our final day for Europe’s largest aquarium, NAUSICAA. We had the most fantastic day. This place is THE most amazing aquarium we’ve ever seen.Just 25 mins from Calais it’s well worth a detour if on holiday in France.
It was packed due to the weather and as the last week of French holidays but apart from the restaurants you wouldn’t know that. Each of the displays is easy to access with plenty of viewing room. And it’s massive! We were there all day, there’s tons to see and do.
NAUSICAA is a unique marine environment, which visitors can discover in a fun, educational and scientific way, with a primary focus on the relationship between mankind and the sea. In 25 years, NAUSICAA has welcomed over 15 million visitors and become a major player in efforts to raise awareness of the marine environment. NAUSICAA is a UNESCO “Centre of Excellence” because of its awareness-raising activities.
After a day at NAUSICAA we headed into town for our last night holiday ritual, a meal out. As my menu choices were quite restricted due to the pregnancy, we let Ant choose the place. He picked well, a modern Bistro, serving classics like Moules Frites, and Steak Frites.
After a packed week, all that was left to do wass the journey home, a monumental 6.5 hours according to Google Maps, in reality a 13 hours as once again we stopped hourly for bathroom breaks, meals and the rest.
Evaluating the holiday, there are a number of things I would do differently…
I would take a France holiday and explore the country more in a heartbeat. I would never drive there again. Next time we’ll fly and hire a car. Driving in France was easy and even fun, but the hours of 50mph stretches on the UK road system was awful so we’d cut that out.
I would stay in a Disneyland Resort on another France holiday, not only do you live in the magic 24/7, have extra park hours, a short walk to the park. They are much better value for money, tickets for the parks for the duration of your stay, kids under 7 stay free, often with free upgrades to half board (eating in the park is expensive).
As usual, there’s a couple of vlogs of the whole trip – I can’t wait to re-do the trip with Baby Holroyd.
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