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Where to go in France - driving from Calais with 3 DC's

(23 Posts)
mylittlemonkey Mon 25-Aug-14 07:47:42

Never been to France before so would appreciate any suggestions of where to go. We will be driving with 3 DC's ages 5, 2.5 and 9 months. Because of ages am nervous about driving too far south but as we are going for 2 weeks I would rather drive as south as possible for the good weather, possibly breaking up the trip with a stop over on first night. We have been thinking Brittany so far.


sunnyrosegarden Mon 25-Aug-14 08:49:28

I love Brittany, but it's not far enough south to guarantee sunshine. If you want a beach, the Vendee is actually not that much further in drive time, but is further south.

Are you camping?

Tinkerball Mon 25-Aug-14 15:07:12

I agree about Brittany, we've been to the Vendee which was only about 6 hours from Calais and is supposed to have a climate similar to the south. Dordogne is lovely to and if you do want go go right to the South can recommend the Languedoc around Narbonne region, we do the drive in a day to from Calais!!

mylittlemonkey Mon 25-Aug-14 17:40:00

That's interesting! I will definitely look into the Vendee. Thanks for the tip.

We are planning to rent a holiday house with my sister and her dh and dcs.

Have you ever done the ferry to st malo? We are looking into the overnight ferry although it is much more expensive than eurotunnel.

sunnyrosegarden Mon 25-Aug-14 18:57:01

Yes, we've done both - several times! The ferry is fun, and we found it very easy with the dcs. We took ds2 when he was 6 months.

I don't always sleep that well on the boat, so the last couple of years we've driven from calais. Bit stressy this summer, due to road works at Rouen, so we may get the ferry next year.

sunnyrosegarden Mon 25-Aug-14 18:58:20

Oh, and you are looking at a holiday cottage, I don't know about the Vendee - there are lots of campsites. We always eurocamp.

NotAnotherNewNappy Thu 28-Aug-14 22:40:59

I've just got back from 2 weeks at Siblu caravan site in Brittany (domaine de Kerlann). Weather was not as great as I'd hoped, v similar to uk. However, Brittany is fab, so much to see and do. Siblu was great for young kids.

juneau Mon 01-Sep-14 07:54:35

We've been to Brittany twice (2009 and 2013) and been very lucky with the weather, which was gorgeous both times. In 2011 we went to Charente Maritime (just below the Vendee), and had mixed weather, so its really the luck of the draw in that particular year! The Dordogne is always good for family holidays IME and being inland the weather is a bit more stable. You can never guarantee hot and sunny though unless you go somewhere like Dubai!

juneau Mon 01-Sep-14 07:55:26

Sorry, we went to Charente Maritime in 2012, which was a bit of a rubbish summer everywhere.

codandchipstwice Mon 01-Sep-14 16:34:34

We are just back from 3 weeks in Dordogne and the Lot and whilst bit better than here still wasn't great and drive back took 2 full days. I am not sure you can count on weather in France at all as is second year it happened hmm

fridayfreedom Mon 01-Sep-14 16:40:12

Depending where you live, look at Ferries from Poole as they can work out cheaper than Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth. Also book early to get the cheaper prices. Ferries insist on cabins or reclining seats overnight, no more just sleeping on the floor! So daytime crossings can be cheaper. The Cherbourg peninsula has a good fast road south which saves the longer crossing to St Malo.

Whatevertheweather Mon 01-Sep-14 16:44:10

We have just got back from a wonderful week in Loire Valley. If you're after villa recommendations we stayed here it was absolutely fantastic. So well equipped, outdoor pool was heated to 30degs so lovely and warm and the hot tub was heavenly! Loads of things to do in the local area, chateaus, a zoo, a childrens theme park and lots more. Took us about 5hrs drive from Calais but we went a rural route rather than straight down past Paris.

We found it through which is a great website for looking for villas in france.

worldgonecrazy Mon 01-Sep-14 16:53:55

We stayed near St. Valery sur Somme. It's not that far south, but it is a very easy drive from Calais. For the good weather you probably need to be south of Nantes, but in the summer, anywhere is probably good.

If you're nervous about driving abroad, one tip is to practice in a supermarket carpark out of hours, so that you can practice driving on the right. Alternatively have you thought about getting the ferry down to Brittany to miss out a chunk of the journey?

lordnoobson Mon 01-Sep-14 16:54:47

brittany weather not any better to Cornwall

get further south

MillyMollyMama Mon 01-Sep-14 20:39:20

Brittany is prettier than the Vendee and we always had good weather in Brittany and not in the Vendee! I would not drive there from Calais though. It is much easier from St Malo. It really depends if you must have hot sunny days or will be ok with more of a mix. Frequently southern Brittany, eg Carnac, has way better weather than Cornwall! We stayed at a great little place at Trinity Sur Mer (may not have spelt that right!!) . Our children loved it there.

MillyMollyMama Mon 01-Sep-14 20:40:23

Actually, Normandy is lovely too! Not such good weather but plenty of places to visit and beaches. Nearer to Calais.

Wednesbury Mon 01-Sep-14 20:54:03

We have also just had 2 weeks in Brittany, in the Morbihan region near Carnac. We did have very mixed weather but managed a few days on the beach and found lots to do nearby with DCs aged 4 and 6. In fact there were some things we didn't manage to fit in. We did drive from Calais as I hate ferry travel, and it was a long drive. On the way back we left at 11am and did not get to Calais until 7pm taking into account a traffic jam and a couple of stops. It takes 15 minutes alone to wait in the queue for the loos at French service stations! Also to keep the cost of the gite rental down we stayed an hour's drive away from the beach which I think may have been a false economy. We did about 2,000 miles over the whole holiday (we are about 150 miles from Folkestone) Next time I would go further south but have an overnight stop each way.

mandy214 Wed 03-Sep-14 12:10:26

Would recommend Chateaux Les Eaux in Normandy (although perhaps not far enough south). We had an absolutely brilliant time there when we have a new born & 4 yr olds.

mylittlemonkey Thu 04-Sep-14 22:36:38

All great advice and recommendations. I will enjoy doing some research into the places mentioned.

I would love to have a better guarantee of good weather and would prefer to travel a bit extra to get better weather but I don't want to travel so far that the journey ends up being nightmare!

I prefer the sound of the overnight ferry now as means the kids will sleep through most of the journey and then only a few hours from St malo on the other side if we were going to Brittany.

A few people have suggested South Brittany for the better weather. How far a drive would that be from St malo?

Also, how soon would we need to book the ferry to get the better prices? Baby number 3 is due in early November so would like to wait until after birth to book ideally. Would that be to late?

SquidgyMummy Fri 05-Sep-14 06:34:07

We live in the Dordogne so drive often from the UK. It is 10 hours from the channel tunnel, so we can do it in one hit during the night, whilst DS is asleep.
I would recommend the tunnel; is much more flexible; if you get there up to 2 hours early, they will let you on if space, and up to 24 hours late, no extra charge. This is particularly useful on the journey home, when it is harder to time travelling across france. Waiting around or rushing for a ferry is tiring and / or stressful.
Weather is normally very good south of Limoges. The last 2 summers have been exceptionally bad.
If you can take your eldest out of school (!) i would recommend june. The french don't start their holidays till july, so you could get deals with mobile homes etc.
As well as the Dordogne, I would also second the vendee and particularly Ile d'oleron. There is lots to do around la rochelle, huge aquarium, port, lots of restaurants. Ile d'leron has a water park, bird sanctuary and lots of cycle paths. (It is not far from the vendee)

iwantgin Mon 08-Sep-14 20:00:18

I think Charente Maritime would suit your group. The weather is usually pretty good ( although not guaranteed) -and the beaches are lovely. Plenty to see and do.

Inland away from the coast is good too - there are many inland lakes with 'beaches' and watersports. All great for kids.

We were there a few weeks ago - and took Eurotunnel and then drove straight down. It took us about 7 hours - and we stopped for snacks/toilet breaks a couple of times.

We've never done an overnight ferry - as DH reckons he won't sleep well - but I think we may give it a go next time. My parents often take the Portsmouth to Le Havre overnight. But DM doesn't drive in France so it's all downto DF. Me and DH share the driving so it is a little fairer.

For properties - have a look on Owners Direct or Chez Nous. You could possibly find a couple of smaller houses/gites on one site sharing a pool? (sometimes that is nicer than sharing the whole house..)

Loire valley has some beautiful places - and much closer to the channel crossing. We went last year and enjoyed it. However we don't have young DC now, so it's a bit different.

Dordogne is beautiful. A little longer drive - but no shortage of accomodation to hire there.

MillyMollyMama Mon 08-Sep-14 20:25:07

We used to drive from St Malo to Carnac, South Brittany, in about 2 hours plus. You could look at doing a two site holiday going further south for the second or first week. Looking at the problems at Calais, I would avoid this port.

lordnoobson Mon 08-Sep-14 20:26:02

i never sleep well on them, plus they wake you abotu an hour before you dock

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