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.

472 travelers at this place:

  • Day999

    Estaires, France

    March 22 in France ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Hello from northern France! A month in the UK gave us time to catch up with a few of our family and friends, get some medical appointments over and done with and finally get Martha Motorhome's bumper replaced, after a small collision we'd had in the summer. We were without our home for 2 weeks, but luckily family came to the rescue with offers of help, we stayed with Will's sister and brother in law, who put us up in their spare room and Vicky's Dad and Stepmum allowed us to use their van as a home from home - thanks everyone!

    Returning to the continent, we took the Spirit of Britain ferry from Dover to Calais and drove eastwards to the free aire at Estaires, the first stop on a 5 week trip. Located between a modern, low density housing estate, a petanque club and fire station, it has all the basic services, except bins and its 3 bays are separated by rows of Beech saplings, that will eventually knit together to form hedges. Behind us is a strip of grass with a picnic bench for each van and an electric point. Hookup is charged at €4 for 12 hours, meaning we don't need to move on when the leisure batteries start to run low.

    Arriving late afternoon on Thursday, Will immediately leapt out and after a short explore, settled down to fishing the nearby River Lys while Vicky curled up with a good ebook, enjoying the peace and quiet.

    The following morning we woke to birdsong, cockrels' crows and the chime of bells from Estaire's clock tower; the sort you might expect when opening a child's jewellery box. After a slow start adjusting to the 1 hour time difference, we took a saunter around the nearby town. Its red brick buildings reminded us of Belgium, but considering we are just 13km from the border, this makes sense! Amongst other outlets, the centre hosts a couple of artisan boulangers, boutiques, a tabac and several cafés. After a little window shopping we crossed a bridge and returned to the van via a treelined riverside walk. When the sun came out, buds and blossoms on the branches created a happy sense of Spring in the air!

    We've been saying for some time that we'd like to slow down our travels, spending longer in each location, striving for quality over quantity, hoping to gain a deeper experience of each place instead of just a snapshot. Old habits die hard and our last trip saw us moving on frequently despite this resolve. One of the reasons for this was the need to charge our leisure batteries every few days, either by driving or finding somewhere to plug in. At the end of summer we ordered a roof mountable 150W semi flexible solar panel to help feed our power needs. We picked it up during our stay in the UK over Christmas but our plans to fit it were scuppered when we read that the adhesive required temperatures exceeding 18°C for it to stick properly. Well, after lunch on the picnic bench our outside temperature sensor read 23°C in the sun so we siezed the opportunity.

    Vicky washed the area and we hoisted the lightweight panel onto the roof so it would warm to a similar temperature. After some meticulous positioning and being careful not to bend it too much, she peeled back the film to expose the strong layer of adhesive and smoothed it down. Covering the cells with cardboard to ensure they weren't live, she ran the thick wires along one of the roof bars, securing them with cable ties, and connected extension leads. Now it was time to test it!

    The power needs to be routed via a control box so Will cut a couple of lengths of wire and stripped the ends, attaching the panel to the MPPT controller, then the controller to the battery terminals using connectors we'd bought for the purpose. When Vicky exposed the solar panel, low and behold the MPPT displayed 12.8V! The panel was charging our batteries! Test complete, we unplugged the input and tidied the tools. The next stage will be to drill a hole in the roof and feed the wires through this and down an internal column to reach underneath the passenger seat where the batteries reside, but it was getting late in the day so we quit while we were ahead.

    We stayed 4 nights in total, taking things easy and enjoying the quiet surrounds. Unfortunately the IUS Vicky had fitted back in the UK doesn't seem to be helping with her PMS related fatigue at this stage, so we postponed drilling the holes. Will enjoyed many hours sat on the grassy bank of the Lys with his fishing rod and Vicky even joined him when the sun was out. Estaires proved just the ticket as the first stop in this journey, allowing us to relax and readjust to being back on the road.
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  • Day921

    Wissant, France

    January 3 in France ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    We've made it to France and have found a spot in the popular free aire at Wissant, 30km south of Calais. The crossing was fine, the ferry's Christmas deccies still in place, having not yet reached 12th night. Rainy downpours greeted us as Martha's wheels touched down on French tarmac but our hearts lifted a little as we left the razor wire and dour high rises of Calais behind to wind our way through rolling green fields toward the distant blue cleft where the Channel met a changeable sky.

    The van parking at Wissant is surrounded by a thick screen of small trees, their bare winter branches providing a good network of perches for robins and little brown birds. It is quiet, save for a little road noise and occasional squawks and screeches of waterfowl somewhere in the distance. It doesn't have fresh water but it does have bins, glass recycling, grey and black water emptying facilities. A slightly muddy footpath leads between the gardens of nearby houses and small streets provide passage into town.

    We arrived mid afternoon on Thursday but didn't leave the van until late Friday morning. The cloud of Poppy's absence still hangs over us, dampening the excitement we would usually feel embarking on a brand new tour. It always takes some adjusting from staying with friends and family to being by ourselves, but being without Poppy is making it all the more difficult. Our moods swing, as one moment we feel like doing something radical (for us), such as leaving the van and taking a flight somewhere and the next moment we have a strong urge to shut the world out and do absolutely nothing. We know time heals and are just trying to focus on the good memories we have.

    A cockrel's crows heralded Friday's eventual dawn. France is an hour ahead of the UK so it isn't light until after 8:30am. Vicky blogged while Will used the leftover cream from Christmas Day to make butter (as you do!?), then we slowly meandered through the streets toward the beach. Will needs to be careful not to overdo things since his operation, but we made it to the soft yellow sands and gentle rolling waves of the English Channel. High dunes topped with tufts of maram grass divided coast from countryside as people milled around, taking in the sights. Walking back through the quaint town of Wissant, with its cream or white facades, terracotta rooves and splashes of colour on the woodwork, we passed signs for a summer oyster and champagne bar, as well as plenty of seafront restaurants. We can imagine the place would be heaving in high season. After picking up a few necessities at a small Spar we saw a sign advertising direct sales from 'the boat'. A small shop, open to the outdoors on one side, had an iced counter with a selection of fish and seafood on offer. We treated ourselves to half a dozen oysters and a cooked crab that we enjoyed for lunch back at the van with bread and salad - MmmMmm!

    We found ourselves needing to run the engine for a while in the afternoon because the leisure batteries were getting so low. We really could have done with that solar panel! With Will's post op appointment in mid February, we've decided to stay in France for the next 6 weeks instead of venturing further afield. What we hadn't decided on was where in this very large country we were going to go. Well, we still haven't exactly decided but on the final evening at Wissant we booked a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth, a few days before the appointment. We've only ever brought Martha Motorhome over the channel because all other routes would have required Poppy to go into onboard kennels. This 27 hour crossing from Spain us a little more costly than we are used to (£420) but it allows us to meander south at our own pace and enjoy the winter sun when we are there instead of worrying about when to start making our way north again.
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  • Day923

    Campagne-lés-Hesdin Lav'car + laverie

    January 5 in France ⋅ ☁️ 5 °C

    Our hands are red and stinging with cold but Martha Motorhome is shiny white again! The aire at Campagne-lés-Hesdin is part of a 'Lav'car'. It has a special high, van washing hose and even a platform you can climb to reach your roof! Our mud and salt splattered home was well overdue a good scrub so we donned unflattering waterproof trousers, braved the chill and got on with it. How the locals manage to look so well dressed while they do this is beyond us!

    We chose the coastal route to get here, the journey taking us through soft dunes and towns comprising of holiday developments and run down local housing, before turning eastwards to bypass the built up suburbia of Boulogne. We passed numerous friteries along the way and at midday our resolve finally crumbled when we saw a group of people queuing outside a catering trailer. Two large and delicious portions later, we were on the road again and pulling up at the aire before too long. Vicky made use of the on site laverie to do a couple of loads of clothes washing and we treated the batteries to 6 hours of electric hookup for €3, plugging in our phones, laptops, power packs electric heater and anything else electronic we could find to take advantage of the mains supply!

    It wasn't a peaceful place to stay, with drivers washing their vehicles well into the night. If we had been holidaying we would almost certainly have moved on, but we are full timing and the services were more important than a bit of peace and quiet or scenery for one night. We liked the van wash so much that the following morning Vicky got up onto the roof to scrub the hard to reach areas before we gave the whole van another going over with the pressure washers, focussing on the areas we'd missed. It was a useful exercise as she found a puncture in the roof, probably caused by a tree branch, that she was able to cover with a blob of silicone. We've simply not found these facilities in the UK so we hope you'll forgive us for getting a little over excited at this one!
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  • Day1002

    Boussois, La Sambre Canalisée

    March 25 in France ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    We're settled into the 2nd of our overnight stops since returning to France. Boussois's (Boussois'?) four place aire is directly adjacent to its school playground. The sounds from kids making the most of their free time ring out intermittently. From our gravel pitch, bordered by a thin Beech hedge, we overlook a grassy area leading to La Sambre Canalisée; a pretty, tree lined river with footpath.

    The day we arrived was one of contrasts, the weather changing from sunny to stormy and back again just as quick. It even threw a few hailstones into one of the downpours! First on the agenda was lunch. While Vicky set up the table, Will nipped out to try and find a boulangerie, returning quicker than anticipated, having discovered a bread vending machine just up the road!

    Despite the inclement conditions, the riverside called to Will and he spent most of the afternoon fishing. On our 2nd day Vicky's energy began to return and we took a stroll upstream, along the good quality cycle track. Many of the trees were still bare, their branches just beginning to bud, but the hawthorns provided blushes of pink and white blossom and the tall conifers a rich green backdrop.

    When staying at free stopovers, we always like to spend at least a small amount of money in the area. Looking at the Maps.me app, there didn't seem to be much in the way of shops in town, but there was a friterie, so we decided to treat ourselves to a lunch. There were few cars or people moving about as we made our way along the mainstreet. Entering the building we thought was the friterie, we found ourselves in an upmarket american style diner with fixed bench seats. This wasn't what we expected but when we explained, the server helpfully ushered us through a connecting door to the takeaway. As everything apart from the frites contained meat, they threw together a nice little salad for Vicky, while Will had a Black Angus beefburger cooked to his specification. We walked back towards Martha and ate near a bandstand at a terraced area that lead down to the river, enjoying a bit of sun on our faces.

    The afternoon was dedicated to wiring up our new solar panel.

    To see a 6min video of its installation on VnW Travels You Tube channel, click here:
    https://youtu.be/dUZqxO0_kJI

    We'd already stuck the self adhesive, semi flexible array to the roof, so the next job was to drill holes in the ceiling, allowing the wires to be routed through to our two leisure batteries under the passenger seat. With Will inside and Vicky outside, we measured up to ensure we got the holes in the right place, then swallowed the nerves and began to drill. The positioning was perfect, but part way through, our hand drill seized up and refused to rotate! However, luck was on our side as our neighbour saw Vicky struggling and offered their portable electric drill! We very gratefully accepted and were soon feeding the cables through the roof.

    The next spanner in the works came when we realised we'd majorly miscalculated the amount of cable needed to reach the batteries! Whoops! We were coming round to accepting a long delay in the installation process when a second act of kindness came along to save the day. A new motorhome had just pulled up and one of its occupants got chatting to Will, who explained what Vicky was doing sitting on top of the van. 5 minutes later, this wonderful couple produced two lengths of specialist solar cable, asking if they were suitable? YES! Yes they were perfect! They had recently bought their van and installed a hefty 500W of solar power, from which this cable was left going spare.

    Of course we accepted their offering and got to work extending our cables and plugging them in to the special MPPT controller that we'd already attached to the batteries. A little while later we almost squealed with delight as the display lit up and showed a healthy 18volts coming in! Vicky applied 'Sikaflex' to bond the wires to the roof, then piped some along the leading edge of the panel for a stronger seal, while Will put everything back together inside the van. We were pretty knackered after this, so bought some more bread from the machine and had a simple tea of beans on toast and cheese on toast. We couldn't resist a cheap bottle of bubbly to 'toast' our new addition to the van!

    The kindness of strangers saved the day! We felt so grateful for their help. Our travels take us away from our circle of friends and family, but through travel we are part of the vanlife community. Their willingness to help others really shone through and will stand out in our memories for a long time to come.
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  • Day1038

    Bray Dunes, France, April 2019

    April 30 in France ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    The three days spent in the UK has whizzed by and we have a whole three months' of travel stretching out ahead of us! From the familiar Bray Dunes Carrefour car park here in France, we plan to make our way through Belgium, Germany and Poland, to spend a couple of months exploring Lithuania, a country neither of us have previously visited.

    Bray Dunes is only 60km or so from Calais and its Carrefour supermarket offers an aire with van facilites, a laundery and car wash. Upon arriving, Will went shopping to pick up a few bottles of French wine and ensure we had enough edibles to tide us over for tomorrow's May Day public holiday. Later, we worked together to secure the living area door to its hinges. The external handle mechanism broke yesterday, leaving us unable to open the door from outside. Will did a temporary fix with some araldite glue, but it looks like we need a replacement handle pronto! Vicky found the part online and ordered it with delivery to an Esso fuel station in Germany, via the Relais logistics company in what appeared to be two day's time. When the confirmation came through, it told a different story; shipping within 2 weeks and up to 3 days for delivery! What!? We're not sure what we are going to do about this massive delay yet, but it obviously affects our travel plans...

    We decided to stay a second day at Bray Dunes to get our heads together. Will fished in the nearby canal, watching ducklings hone their swimming skills, hopping on their mother's back when they got tired. He fitted a new bike chain we'd picked up at Halfords and did some more work on the door, while Vicky carried out repairs to the upholstery. It isn't the most glamorous start to a trip, but the van is getting to the age where wear and tear is beginning to show and it is better to try and keep on top of it!
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  • Day1034

    Oye-Plage

    April 26 in France ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Oye-Plage is a free aire 20km from the Port Calais, from where we'll catch the ferry for our short trip back to the UK tomorrow. It is a spacious car park near a cemetery and we are fronted into the corner, facing green privet hedges.

    On the journey today we had to overcome problems with height barriers (much hated by us motorhomers) to pick up food and fuel, so we arrived later than expected and weren't in the mood for exploring. The car park was quiet and the sun shone on and off while Will spent a few hours trying to replace the worn out gear change on our tandem. In the end, it required a whole new chain, so that particular job will have to wait.

    It was homemade pizza for tea, a quiet night and a 10am set off for the ferry the following morning. See you in a few days!
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  • Day12

    Euro5000 - St-Malo - Boulogne s/ Mer

    September 18 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    European5000 - Stage 12: longest stage, about 680kms non-highway! Ahoma-beach, cosy villages,💡-towers and atlantic cliffs! One stage to go and the Euro5000 is ours! #European5000 #TeamPetitBateau #MunchenToAmsterdamWithALittleDtour #TomorrowFinalStage #NeedEnergy #E38 #728

  • Day1185

    Leaving the UK; Night ferry to Calais

    September 24 in France ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    After 8 weeks in Britain we've taken a night ferry to Calais and recommenced our continental wanderings. The 1am P&O crossing is cheaper than its daytime equivalent and a good option considering we are tightening our belts a little. During the visit home we met with Cain Narrowboats in Hull and reserved a slot for a custom built boat that should be ready for us to move into by May 2023! It's a long way off and there are many sights to see in the meantime, but we are very excited about it.

    As always, we enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Thank you to everyone we saw for making us so welcome and apologies to those we didn't make arrangements to visit. We'll hopefully see you next time!

    Some highlights of our trip included celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary by returning to Lake Bala in Wales where we got married on the shore. We renewed our vows before taking the canoe on what turned out to be a gruelling but exciting paddle, in winds up to Force 5!

    Other watery adventures included taking the helm of Vicky's Dad's boat off the beautiful Northumberland coastline and the tiller of our friend Jenny's narrowboat on the Kennet and Avon canal.

    Vicky (whose health has improved massively with medication) indulged in some jumping practice at Townfoot Stables near Alnwick and last but not least, Martha Motorhome got an MOT, full service, new front tyres and brake pads at our old garage in Dudley as well as some TLC during our stay at Riverside Gardens campsite in Nottinghamshire. With Switzerland in our sights, she's as ready to hit the road as we are!
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  • Day90

    Reise nach Belgien ..

    September 20 in France ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    Auf der Durchreise ...ein Stopp zur Übernachtung an der idyllischen "Somme" 💫🐢🦢🕊️🐟🐾

    Der Name Somme geht auf keltische Ursprünge zurück. Die Römer nannten den Fluss Samara. Die Somme wurde weltweit bekannt durch die Schlacht an der Somme..mit mindestens einer Million Toten und Verwundeten eine der blutigsten Schlachten des Ersten Weltkriegs 🥀Read more

  • Day91

    9000 KM ~ 13. Land ~ Belgium :)

    September 21 in France ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Freunde besuchen in der letzten Woche ☺️ ...erstmal auf
    nach Antwerpen 🕊️ Kai und Charlotte wir kommen... 🤗

    In Belgien werden die Sprachen Holländisch, Französisch und Deutsch gesprochen/verwendet - haben wir erfahren. Wobei Flämisch da noch etwas Eigenes ist.

    Mit Englisch kommen wir aber immer überall weiter 🤘Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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

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