France
Hauts-de-France

Here you’ll find travel reports about Hauts-de-France. Discover travel destinations in France of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

238 travelers at this place:

  • Day27

    Equipment Van Update

    July 19 in France

    Pleased to say that the equipment van has arrived and parked safely at the Clarion Congress Hotel in Olomouc; in fact it looks like it may have parked on the front steps?!!?

    Well done to Mr Draper and Mr Butler! We are several hundred miles behind you, currently sitting in a service area outside Calais waiting to meet up with our main drivers for the tour...

    ...and Rick Astley has just come on the backseat playlist oh joy!!!!
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  • Day35

    It has been such a great opportunity to be invited come back on tour, and to be able to play with the orchestra again (thank you Tim!!!!). After a year away at university not playing much percussion at all, I truly feel at home here, with my friends and family at NMPAT.

    I remember when I left last year, it was overwhelming, and not just because of the constant 35°+ heat. I was terrified, unsure of the future, sad, happy, and so proud, so so proud of the music we were playing. Even though that was a year ago, I can totally empathise with how some of my friends feel right now, as we heard back to NMPAT for the last time this year, and for some, the last time ever.
    Just before we boarded the coaches to come back from Italy, Mr Smalley told me simply (after I’d done a pretty big embarrassing cry, trying to say thank you, or maybe I was trying to say ‘PLEASE HELP WHAT DO I DO NOW?!’, but it came out as thank you) ‘I understand, I get it’.
    Now after a year, I think I get it too. Those of you that are leaving the orchestra, or choir this year will always have been in some of the best ensembles in the country. You will always have had the opportunity to tour with those ensembles and have performed amazing music in beautiful venues, with some of the best musicians, and friends you will ever meet. You will always feel the pride you feel now. You will always have been a part of this family.

    Being a student at NMPAT and working with the staff there is one of the best things that has, or will ever happen to me, and even though we move on, every year there is a new generation of young musicians who will need a nmpat, to make sure they have the same opportunities we have been so lucky to have.

    So make sure you hold on to how you feel now, and make sure you shout from the rooftops about it. Make sure you tell people about what we’ve achieved, and how it shaped you. No matter whether you’re leaving to study music at university or not; let’s make sure when we’re the parents, teachers, and the people WE look up to now, that we support and nurture youth music. Let’s make sure every child can have the opportunity to have their lives touched by music as we have.
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  • Day35

    Staff Blog - Matt Butler

    July 27 in France

    As I write this I'm sitting in the van at 7am drinking service station coffee somewhere in Germany looking forward to my bed and hoping the channel tunnel queues aren't going to be an issue because of the wrong type of heat.
    So looking back over tour what can I say?
    Firstly I cannot think of a better group of students to be with. Not only are they superb musicians, but they are just a great bunch of well rounded decent human beings, a real credit to you all. Listening and playing in the concerts, I have been really proud of the exceptionally high level of music produced and to hear that in such stunning settings has been quite moving.
    I've enjoyed seeing the students flourish and you soon learn who the characters are!!
    The tears shed just prove the importance of this musical journey, the lifelong friendships made and the experiences many other people won't ever be fortunate to have.
    So as van driver, triangle player and general shifter of stuff, I've had a ball. Thank you to all those staff and students who have helped carry, load and laugh at my bad jokes. Thank you to the percussionists for the banter and for telling me where I am in the music or that it's in 4 and not 3.
    Its been a blast!!
    Oh and I love Czech dumplings!
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  • Day35

    Family Blog - the Suttons

    July 27 in France

    We have to thank the CYOCYch tour so much for the past week. You gave us the “why” to make the effort to take this trip, and what a reward we received.
    The concerts were incredible and it was a real pleasure to witness such wonderful young people enjoying themselves and doing NMPAT proud. We saw how Czech and Slovak audiences were taken aback by the quality of the orchestra and choir; and the genuine happiness and appreciation in their applause and standing ovations was lovely to see.
    As a family we had a brilliant time exploring each town and city and being real tourists. The places are amazing. And whilst we didn’t feel we ‘stalked’ Dasha and you all too much; it was very funny to frequently bump into you all in various places along the route. Then again, it’s hard not to miss 119 musicians stomping through town! Finally, a huge thank you to the staff who took care of our children but let them be themselves.
    Roll on tour 2020. Count us in...
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  • Day35

    Final 'Gallery' of tour

    July 27 in France

    So there really could only be one set of photos to finish our 'gallery' sessions on tour! Apologies to coach 2 but obviously I could only 'snap the sleepers' on my own coach; I would imagine the picture was very similar though!

    Music on class, then you can begin!

  • Day675

    Cité Europe, Calais

    May 2 in France

    It was the day before we were due to catch the ferry from Calais to Dover, so we chose a stopover close to the port. In fact, it was the car park of Cité Europe, a commercial centre adjacent to the Eurotunnel. After ignoring the sat nav directions that tried to lead us into the tunnel, we managed to find the motorhome area. We needed van services but these were over the other side of the complex, so after lunch we drove Martha Motorhome to the petrol station that hosted a service area. We didn't fit under the station's roof so had to reverse a little way along the exit road to get to the emptying point. Tokens were required so Vicky went over to the pay booth, only to find it shut - humph! Returning to the car park, we went for a browse around Carrefour supermarket and managed to get a token from their service desk. After a cuppa, we returned and finally managed to fill up with water before settling in for the night next to the 12ft high razor wire double fence that surrounded the Chunnel entrance. It was a surprisingly peaceful night.

    N.B. We'll be back in the UK for just under 3 weeks. Whilst there we'll be making the most of our time with some of our family and friends and therefore won't be doing a daily blog. See you back here in 3 weeks' time for the beginning of our drive accross the continent to Lithuania!
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  • Day673

    Petit Port

    April 30 in France

    It had been a rotten night in terms of weather and we woke to a rotten day. Torrential rain turned to sleet and as we began our journey, it then turned to a blizzard of snow, blown by vicious side winds in excess of 20mph. It wasn't an easy drive!

    By now we've got into the swing of getting up, travelling between between 120km and 200km, with perhaps a stop for lunch or a supermarket, then arriving at our stopover and settling in, before doing it all again the following day. Today was a little different because we had called ahead to Clinique Veternaire Vauban in Abbeville in order to get Poppy's passport stamped ready for the ferry on Thursday. There turned out to be a drop-in session in the afternoon, so we stopped in a large car park about 300m away and after Poppy had settled herself from the drive, we walked her to the clinic.

    The staff were friendly and we were seen quickly. The vet took a double take and checked she was actually 15 years old (but was convinced of the fact when she looked at her teeth). To our relief Poppy passed her clinical exam and to our surprise she voluntarily ate the worming tablet the vet held out to her (although she turned her nose up at the treats she was then offered as a reward- contrary animal!). We left with two new stamps in the passport, €40 lighter and a rather tired Poppy.

    We'd made good progress through France so had a day in hand. We were therefore able to spend 2 nights at the lovely car park at Petit Port. Situated in a rural spot between La Canal de la Somme and the smaller Contre Canal it was a pretty place, despite the persistent rain.

    The following day we relished not having to move on. Ducks and moorhens rippled the reflections on the water surface in the golden light of dawn and apart from one brief rain shower, it stayed gloriously sunny all day. 1st May is a bank holiday in France so there were many fishers stationed on both waterways, as well as an vintage car rally that stopped by for half an hour. We took a couple of enjoyable walks along the super straight towpath. It wasn't warm but the sunshine did its job and elevated our moods.

    Having time to think about it, we spent a while discussing and tweaking our travel plans for 2019 onwards, sticking months onto our European map, their colours corresponding to their year. This way we could see our journeys over space as well as time and found a few improvements we could make to our itinerary.

    The sun set with a special treat; a view of otters on the Contre Canal! For more than an hour as the sky's colours transitioned from blue, to warm oranges and reds, then faded to grey, we caught glimpses of them swimming to and fro, collecting bits of grass for their well hidden nest!
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  • Day787

    It is calm here. A cluster of conifers and a curve of tall Black Poplars shade us from the warm afternoon sun, keeping the van comfortably below 25°C. The gentle rustle of a breeze through their leaves is louder than the distant murmur of traffic. Bois des Forts (Wood of the Forts) is a country park with pleasant gravel parking, divided by well tended hedges and surrounded by grass and picnic tables.

    After a bit of a stressful morning getting Poppy's passport sorted at the vets in Tournai, she flaked out in her usual position between the driver and passenger seats as we set off on today's 100 kilometre drive. Before we knew it (literally!) we were in France, the outskirts of Lille to be exact. We hadn't seen any 'Bienvenue en France' signs on the motorway and we only realised when a text came through on Vicky's phone saying that we were in a 'roam-free destination'. Every fortnight and each time we enter a different country Vodafone tells us we "are probably expecting a text about roaming charges" . As you can imagine, we are becoming rather tired of them after 15 months and nearly 30 border crossings!

    Poppy continued to snooze while we travelled out of the urban and into the countryside. A good feeling spread through us when we pulled up at Bois des Fortes. As much as we appreciate town aires like the one at Tournai, we feel so much more at home when our home is surrounded by greenery! After settling in and giving Poppy freedom to explore off lead, we took a stroll along the criss crossing paths that led through the woods and by the side of canals and large ponds. We leant on a bridge's wooden fence and peered over into the muddy brown water, spotting the large mouth of a carp coming up for air. It was a very relaxing way to spend our penultimate afternoon on the continent!

    The following morning we set off towards the Carrefour supermarket at Bray Dunes. We had stayed here previously and knew its car park offered overnight stays for vans, a petrol station and van wash. We planned to stay here but when we pulled in it was pretty busy. Although we managed to find a spot on the end of a row we made the decision to return to Bois de Forts and stay there a second night. We therefore did a shop, washed the van, filled up with diesel and set off back to the woods!

    We enjoyed exploring a different part of the plantation in the afternoon and knew the right decision had been made as we were able to thoroughly relax before our ferry crossing from Dunkirk the next day.

    We haven't booked a return ticket yet because we don't know whether Will might need to attend a follow-up appointment, but we intend to be back over on the continent and blogging our adventures as soon as we can!
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  • Day514

    Oye-Plage, France

    November 22, 2017 in France

    We had done a full circuit of Belgium and were back near the farm where we'd spent 10 days volunteering with WWOOF. Having got on so well with Diderik, our host, we'd arranged to drop in for a quick visit. It was great to be back and see Diderik and the animals again, especially Lappa the dog who seemed very excited to see us and Poppy. We toured the farm and it was really intersting to see how much had changed. Although we see different things almost every day on this trip, we rarely see how the same place changes over time. Outside, the trees were mostly bare now, the pond was almost clear of duck weed, two little nanny goats had joined the three in the field, the meat chickens were gone and the sheep had taken over their field and shed. In the greenhouse the baby rabbits who were only a few days old when we arrived had grown to the size of dwarf rabbits, but their old father had died. We said hello to Ever the pig and Vicky got to feed her before we headed inside for a cuppa. Diderik had got a compost toilet installed to replace the downstairs flushing toilet and it was really intersting to see how well that was working out. It was a simple setup with a bucket underneath the rim that was gradually filled with waste and homemade leaf mulch. The bucket would then be removed and the contents left to compost, providing nutrients for the soil.

    Too soon it was time to say goodbye, both to Diderik and to Belgium. As we approached the French border there were a series of shops selling tobacco and chocolates and soon after crossing in to France, the products on sale changed to wines and champagnes.

    Oye-Plage was a free car park aire just 20km from Calais ferry terminal. Calais itself has a paying aire but our ferry was scheduled for 12:35pm the following day leaving us plenty of time to get there, so we'd chosen this quiet spot where we were the only van in sight.

    We tried to keep busy and focus on tasks all afternoon and evening because we were in a state of nervous excitement, thoughts constantly buzzing around our heads.
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  • Day558

    We said our goodbyes to Will's sister and her family and set off for the port of Dover. The rain lashed down but we made good time, arriving so early that P&O booked us on to the Pride of Burgundy, which sailed an hour earlier than our original crossing.
    In the queue we swapped the pounds and pence in our wallets for euros and cents, changed the sat nav and dash display from miles to kilometres, set the clock forward an hour and had a quick bite to eat. Vicky found a dedicated pet exercise area where Poppy had her last wee and away we went!

    On-board the background noise was filled with voices we could no longer understand. The sea was choppy, waves broke accross the bough and hit the ship side on, making it shudder and occasionally producing an almighty bang.

    Disembarking we saw signs directing motorhomes into the correct lane for exit, making us feel welcome. Repeating the mantra 'Drive on the right, drive on the right', roundabouts weren't half as difficult to get used to as the British ones had been 6 weeks ago, although seeing drivers sitting on the left hand side did make us look twice.

    Checking on Park4Night for a place to stay, the map was crowded with stopovers. We found a dedicated aire de service in the town of Montreuil and pulled into it alongside 4 other GB vans, just as the daylight began to fade.

    After a rest and some food we took an evening stroll. Montreuil still had its xmas decorations up, real trees were dotted around, blue fairy lights lit up lamposts and formed an overhead canopy in the square. There were a mix of buildings, but our eyes were drawn to the authentic shabby chic facades with pastel coloured wooden shutters.

    We slept well and were delighted to find a Saturday market in the central square the next day. Several people we passed greeted us with cheery bonjours. We picked up some fruit, veg, eggs and cheese from the market stalls, avoiding one who had a couple of cages containing cramped chickens. With a warm baguette from the boulangerie in our bag, we returned to the van with a sense of accomplishment, having carried out several conversations in French.

    After making use of the stopover's facilities we continued on our journey to Spain with a smile on our faces. We were back on the road again!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Hauts-de-France, Nord-Passo di Calais-Piccardia

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