For quite some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of going on a day trip to France.
Predominantly because everyone I knew who’d been raved about how cheap the wines once you crossed over on the ferry but partly because I kinda wanted those bragging right “Oh, I just popped over to France for the day…” (which was literally my reply to every message/email I got that day).
The first proper trip I took as an ‘adult’ (i.e. that I paid my own hard-earned cash from my part-time job at University) was on the ferry to Ireland with 3 of my friends so I was far too aware of how convenient the actual journey was – albeit, without a car back then and with no plan to buy any champagne.
Anyhooo, fast forward to a few days ago when P&O Ferries asked if we’d like to partner with them to go on a day trip to France.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! 😀 We’ve got a friend’s Christmas party coming up (the kind where everyone seems to revert to being silly teenagers) and we all have to bring different things to the part. Some are in charge of the turkey, others the very and Christmassy deserts… you get the picture.
I’d been taken off cocktail duties this year (apparently, I make them too strong – not even sure what that means… 😄 )so I went for wines, cheeses and a non-Christmassy dessert. My friend (Alex) recommended a couple of places in Calais and in some other little towns in France as perfect stops to go shopping for “champagne on a prosecco budget”. Challenge accepted!
Our friend, Ben decided to come along for the ride and so off we went in our rental car, from London to Dover. The drive took like 90 minutes – roughly the same amount of time it would take us to get to Gatwick or Heathrow Airport. From Dover, we then hopped aboard our P&O Ferry over to Calais (90 minutes from Dover).
After a quick pit stop in Calais to pick up some essentials (i.e. champagne), we headed to Ardres to find some cheeses and specific wines our friends had asked us to get from a wine shop here.
Ardres is one picturesque little town (the kind that makes you surprised at how you’ve never heard of it before). It was a lot quieter when we visited – kinda the way Lille was in the afternoon before the evening hustle and bustle picked up.
It’s perfectly walkable and so close to Calais that you have very little excuses for not visiting. (Also, being as quaint as it is, the parking situation here is fantastic!)
^ That’s Ben!
Once we were done with Ardres (and found the Sauternes wine Alex wanted), Lloyd pipped up about a castle he’d read about and wanted to visit – Château d’Hardelot.
The Chateau is only 40 minutes away from Calais (a little longer from Ardres) and seeing as we still have a fair bit of time to spare, we head over to the castle.
Château d’Hardelot is something of an English-French castle and has in fact been home to the French and English over its centuries-old history (it’s been here in some form since 1222).
For the grand price of €3 😄, you get to explore the castle and its many rooms to your heart’s content.
Once you’re done here, head out to the gardens, for an even better view of the Chateau. (From photos I’ve seen, the gardens as so much more lush in summer but given as it’s the tail end of Autumn/start of winter – it’s understandably a lot ‘browner’).
After faffing around the castle for a while, we decided it was time to head back to Calais to catch our ferry back home! (Sidebar – always buy your cheese last, that Camembert sure can stink out a car! 😀 ).
Back at Calais, pleased with the stuff we bought, I knew for a fact that we would have to do this all over again very soon. I’m a sucker for a great bargain and when that great bargain comes with the opportunity to travel and do a bit of sightseeing, well that just changes everything for me really.
The best part is that I didn’t even for a single second consider my “luggage weight restrictions” – because it doesn’t exist! 🙂 You can take back as much champagne, cheese, cakes, gifts, sausages or even rocks as you can fit into your car! You can even take your dog or cat with you when you go (you need to sort out your pet passport before you do, of course).
The whole hassle-free nature of all of that makes it the perfect way to shop for the holidays or indeed, just for any parties you might have coming up (or even just for a weekend getaway with your friends). It also means a European road trip like this one here is perfectly doable in your car.
Bring on the Christmas parties!!! 🙂