“You need to set your alarm for 5am tomorrow”
“We are going out for lunch”
“Then why the hell do I need to set my alarm for 5am?”
“Because we are having in lunch in Calais”
“oh for God sake, mum”
That exchange actually happened in our house last year. We had no plans for Easter so decided to do something completely ridiculous and go to France for lunch. A day trip to Calais. For no other reason than we could. There was a ridiculously good deal on for a crossing, including the car and four passengers, breakfast, and a case of 6 bottles of wine, for something like £25 so it seemed rude not to.
Which meant that when we heard that P&O were offering us a crossing for the day we jumped at it, quicker than you could say “Moules et frites” and didn’t just email back and say “are you actually insane?”. We knew that it was totally do-able and actually great fun. None of the teens were free so we asked our friends Andy and Sarah if they would like to come along too. Andy works all the hours known to man and Sarah has recently been diagnosed with a debilitating condition that has left her pretty much housebound. So whilst we knew this would be a tiring day for her she was totally up for the fun of making some memories and doing something a bit different as it rained in England.
It does mean a bit of an early start to get from Hampshire down to Dover which is about 2 hours away but it is by no means arduous. Alternatively you could always make a weekend of it by spending a day doing Canterbury Cathedral or Leeds Castle maybe, stay in a hotel nearby and then get up the following morning and just do the last bit to Dover ahead of your day in France.
Signs as you drive in to Dover tell you exactly where to go and it really couldn’t be easier. Even to the point where you don’t need tickets as there is number plate recognition on the barriers. So you drive up and are greeted with a cheerful “good morning Mr Barrow, four of you on our 10.25 sailing?”. That will never fail to make me jump.
Priority boarding meant that we were first on board and within minutes we were up in the Club Lounge. Whilst this was included in our package I have to say that I would always pay for it on future crossing. At just £14 per person it is well worth it. We were treated to a glass of complimentary Champagne, snacks, unlimited teas and coffees, a private deck outside and big comfy sofas. It was such a peaceful way to spend the 90 minutes that it really set us up for the day ahead. And on the return it was an ideal place to sink into a sofa and have a bit of an exhausted snooze. Only when we ventured down to the Duty Free shop did we realise just how loud ferries can be. And in some parts cold. One bit we walked through was actually freezing. No wonder people were hugging their Costa coffee cups!
Talking of Duty Free, there were lots of deals on and it seemed to have everything you might need. Not the biggest selection of wines but certainly enough spirits, cigarettes and toiletries to keep you happy. And sweets. I appear to have come back with Skittles in every flavour. And the obligatory Toblerone.
Once we arrived in Calais we were first off and into the city. One of the joys of ferry crossings for me is that you don’t need to arrive two hours before and then once you arrive find that your arrival gate is 14 miles from the arrivals hall and baggage reclaim. Once you drive down the ramp you are through passport control and customs in minutes and certainly in Calais, pretty much in the centre of town within half an hour of arrival.
Despite this being predominantly about lunch we had snuck in a quick salmon and scrambled eggs on the ferry (a bargain at just £8 extra) so weren’t hungry and decided to do a bit of shopping first. The first place we always head to is Calais Vins. Our favourite wine shop, with lots of wines to taste. Ahem. Just a couple of junctions down the A16 from the port, dead easy to find and so much nicer than the usual places you associate with a “booze cruise” to Calais.
Followed by breads, pastries and cheese from the shop next door.
That done, boot full, we headed back to Calais for lunch in the Cafe de Paris that I can totally recommend for its great menu deals and free wifi. And large Martinis. Oops.
Then it was back to the port and back on to the ferry for our return journey. Club Lounge was a welcome sight on this journey. We were all seriously flagging by this point. I say flagging, I think I was 80% Martini by that point and needed a bit of a nanna nap. Knowing there would be a quiet corner to curl up in a sofa, a plug point to charge our weary phones and free tea and coffee really made a huge difference. Service to the table too means that if you order food you don’t even need to move.
Did you know there are 46 sailings a day on the Dover – Calais route? So your day can be as long or as a quick as you like really. Our return crossing was at 19.55 which meant we got home just after 10pm. A long day considering we left at 6.30am but SO worth it on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday in England.
Why wouldn’t you?!
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