So we decided over the summer to take our well-loved beautiful caravan Mabel out for another spin. This time we ventured out a little further than Wales, and decided to explore a bit of Europe, seeing it is on our doorstep!
I am one of those people that isn’t happy just going to one country. I like to cram in as much as we can into our little adventures. So I figured whilst we were in France…why not head over to Belgium? And thus our little road trip came to fruition.
If anyone wants to read about our beaut of a caravan you can read about her on the link above! She’s an old lady but loves to travel.
After an insanely ridiculous amount of list-making, arguments and packing, we finally set off on the 4 hour drive to Dover and travelled with P+O Ferries to Calais. We found the crossing very easy, and only took just over an hour. It was a good chance for us to rest from the driving, and get some fresh sea air.
After arriving in Calais, we headed over to Boulogne Sur Mer, a mere half hour drive from the port. My daughter was so excited to hear the French radio and the kids then made up their own little language, which entertained them for the whole journey while we got annoyed with the sat nav. We were pleasantly suprised at how beautiful this area was, being so close to Calais. The local beach was just gorgeous, the sand white and water crystal blue. Needless to say, the kids loved the beach! The local village was very quaint and full of mostly locals which meant it felt a lot less touristy and very French. We ate lunch in one of the restaurants and braved some snails! Bizarrely my fussiest eater loved them! Not for me though, the texture was exactly how I imagined…bleurgh!
3) Saint Dizier
After a couple of nights near Calais, we headed over to our next campsite near Saint Dizier near Lac Du Der. This area of France we just loved. Being inland, we were surrounded by beautiful countryside, and our campsite looked onto the nearby Lake. The kids could swim in the lake too which was lovely in the heat. I got distracted by the scenery whilst the kids were swimming and just wandered about aimlessly with my camera.
We/I decided to take a day trip into Paris (a little bit of a crazy decision, as it was a 2.5 hour trip each way!). Myself and the hubby had been to Paris before but our daughter was so desperate to see the landmarks and get some tourist tat! I understood her enthusiasm to tick it off her bucket list as I am just the same! We only ended up spending 4 hours there due to travelling so we didn’t get to fit much in.
In an effort to save money, we headed to a local supermarket to pick up some yummy pastries and macaroons and had a little picnic by the Sienne River. The kids ate way too much but boy, are french pastries just gorgeous.
We then took some photos near the Eiffel Tower and the kids went on the carousel opposite, which has some great views.
5) Dinant, Belgium
A couple of days later, we drove over the French border to Dinant, Begium which I had researched beforehand and I just thought it looked so pretty! We managed to park up the caravan in a free carpark outside the Citadel, Dinant and then paid the reasonable fee to look round the citadel itself. Driving up to the top of the citadelle was very nerve wracking with a caravan and we had a little emergency with the tow bar but no-one died so all was good! Our daughter loved the history behind the fortress, and is obsessed with the world wars so this went down well. We then took the cable car down to the bottom and explored the cute little shops in the village. And had our first taste of Belgian chocolate!
The next day we headed over to Bruges, a place I was particularly excited about! Myself and the hubby had been to Amsterdam earlier this year, and the architecture did remind me of there. But the beauty was just phenomenal! The chocolate shops…there were literally hundreds of them and you could smell them for miles. You could buy a chocolate version of anything you wanted, absolute heaven!! Top tip though: we actually bought most of our chocolate in ALDI near our campsite for a fraction of the cost – still made in Belgium and still 100% yummy!
Our only low point was when our youngest decided to pull his pants down outside said chocolate shops and have a wee. This kid just loves to share his willy with the world…
7) Canal Bruges, Dammes
I had again done my research, and was desperate to take the kids to a windmill whilst we were in Belgium. I came across this beautiful place online Canal Bruges, Damme and was so chuffed I found it! I actually prefer some of the off-the-beaten track places when we go travelling as the touristy areas can sometimes ruin the feel of a place. It was such a tranquil, peaceful area and just stunning scenery.
And lastly while we were in Belgium, we of course had to take a trip to beautiful Ghent.
Ghent I found somehow more picturesque than Bruges, but all crammed into a smaller area. We decided to try Gravensteen Castle while we were there as our kids love a bit of history. I will be honest, I wasn’t too impressed -most of it was just empty ruins. But we weren’t too bothered as we were too distracted by the beauty of Ghent itself.
One thing about walking round these towns though – who knew that small kids don’t like walking far in the heat?! I could have walked for hours just taking it all in but thanks to these small humans, we ended up leaving after an hour! My kids seem to do much better in the great outdoors and will walk for longer if they are immersed in natural beauty. Note to self….
Has anyone else been to France and Belgium with the kids? What were your experiences? I would love to hear from you.