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.

251 travelers at this place:

  • 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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  • Day675

    Cité Europe, Calais

    May 2, 2018 in France ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    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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  • Day27

    Equipment Van Update

    July 19, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    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

    Student Blog - Jonny Lodder

    July 27, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    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, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    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, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    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, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    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!

  • Day787

    Bois des Forts, Bergues, France

    August 22, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    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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  • Day673

    Petit Port

    April 30, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    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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You might also know this place by the following names:

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

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