We have family meetings each week, and our closing discussion is always plans for the week ahead. For many weeks, I had been asking Jeff if we had the means to go somewhere. Being the responsible fellow that he is, the answer was always no. But last Thursday, I finally got the green light to check out our options-- anything under £150. My first instinct was to check Groupon for some good getaway deals in our neck of the woods. There were some hotel stays with breakfast, but many were teetering on the edge of our price limit. Then I came across one in Scotland. I put it into google maps to see how long the drive would be. Seven hours. Then, I'm not sure why, I put Lille, France into the search. I didn't even expect it to work-- you can't just drive across the English Channel. Or can you? It came back to me with 4.5 hours! I wondered how one would drive there, and saw that you can take a train or ferry. With your car. Did you know this? I had absolutely no idea. I don't know why I even put it into the search-- maybe I just wanted to go badly enough. I revised the destination to be a town on the coast, closer to the arrival port of Calais. Total trip time, including train: 3.75 hours! So, we could get there and back in a weekend, but what would it cost? It turns out that, for a two-day trip, the train costs £60 (35 minute crossing time) and a ferry (90 minute crossing time) cost as little as £25! Again, did you know this?! We heard the weather might be pretty bad, and the ferry might have to cancel voyages, so we opted for the train option.
I found a cheap hotel for £60, and we were set! I didn't book anything until Friday afternoon, and it was really surreal to realize that we would be in France in less than 24 hours. We left the house much earlier than needed, since we were nervous about long lines of traffic trying to get to the Channel crossing. We needn't have worried. Our drive to Dover was only 2 hours and 15 minutes, and we actually spent several hours waiting at the terminal for our appointment on the train. Still, we arrived in Calais at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. British time) and zipped down the highway to the cute little town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer just 20 minutes away.
It should be noted that we left England in the pouring rain, and we also arrived in France in the midst of a deluge. In fact, the rain hardly let up the whole time we were there. But it was just nice to have a change of scenery, even if it was still raining. We spent most of our time there walking around in the rain, often completely soaked, then ducking into restaurants and shops. I guess that if we had been planning a vacation for months, and were really invested, this would have been pretty lame. But we had just barely made plans, and getting there so easily seemed miraculous in and of itself-- everything else was just bonus! And mostly, we were there to eat. And eat we did! (Ahem, this is where we got a little bit flexible with the budget...)
Since we were right on the coast, I had to take advantage of the wonderful, fresh seafood. I had Moules et Frites for two out of four meals.
The first one was in Roquefort sauce. SO good!
We stopped for several espressos, and enjoyed a three-course fixed-price meal for dinner. And, this was the one major downer-- camera drama. I brought four rechargeable batteries. FOUR! Yet somehow, none of them managed to hold a charge, and I was without my camera just a few short hours after arriving. And I couldn't find the right kind of battery locally. It took a lot of work to keep this misfortune from robbing me of the thrill of exploring a new place. But I prevailed! It was so beautiful and quaint and cool... You'll just have to take my word for it, until I can go back again and get it all captured to share. I did manage a few:
And a HUGE highlight was getting to do some shopping in a French grocery store! You don't get to do much of that unless you take your car, so this was really fun. I will share my cart-ful with you tomorrow. Also, I did take some pictures with my phone, and I will be posting some of those on the And Here We Are facebook page, in case you'd like to see some of them.
We came back so refreshed, even though we only spent about 24 hours in a new country. It was incredibly stimulating to land in another world, and just take it all in. And so, I guess the moral to this weekend story is: dream a little. Just go ahead and check out all of your dreamy options, even if they seem out of reach-- who knows, you may find something that you didn't think you could so easily grasp! Now that we know we can cross the Channel so easily, I have a long list of all the places we must find ourselves in soon!
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