A gentle 7 day driving tour through Lille, Troyes and Paris (Cergy)
To reach Calais, you can take either the ferry from Dover Eastern Docks or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkstone. The ferry takes around 90 minutes and you have to arrive at least 45 minutes before departure. There are a choice of ferries with DFDS, P&O and MyFerry all having regular sailings. The ships are modern with cafes, bars a shop and plenty of seating areas. Although the sea crossing takes longer than Eurotunnel the price tends to be cheaper and you get the wonderful view of the White Cliffs fading away as you head towards France. You also get an idea of just how busy the Channel is.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, though more expensive (booking ahead gets you the best prices), is quicker than the ferry and not subject to the varying weather conditions of the sea. Certainly, during the winster months, it's a good option. The journey takes about 45 minutes with a 45 minute check-in time.
Days 1 - 2
CALAIS – LILLE (approx) 70ml 1hr 30mins £17 inc tolls.
Take either the ferry or Eurotunnel Le Shuttle across (or under) the Channel to Calais.The A26 is well signposted at the port and it's only minutes before you're driving towards Lille on the autoroute. Arrive in Lille around late afternoon, before the main rush hour starts, and settle in to your hotel (we suggest the Couvent Des Minimes), before going for dinner in one the many excellent restaurants in the old town, which is just a short walk away.
Days 2 - 3
Lille is quite enchanting and often a revelation to people who hadn't previously considered paying a visit. Take your time wandering through the old town, with its exciting shops, cafes and restaurants. Have lunch at Cafe Le Voltaire before taking the Metro to the Baths at Roubaix, now a museum housed in the splendid Art Deco building. On Sunday's there's a great flea market at Wazemmes (visit La Brulerie for a delicious cup of tea) and across the first week of September Lille hosts La Braderie, one of Europe's biggest "brocantes". In the evening go for a drink at La Part Des Anges or Fifi's.
LILLE- TROYES (via Laon) (approx)210mls 3hr 45 £70 inc toll
After an early lunch, it's time to head South to the medieval town of Troyes, driving through the chalky, undulating landscape of Champagne. North of Reims, stop in Laon, with its magnificent medieval cathedral. Laon is close to the autoroute and there's parking around the cathedral, so it's easy to spend a couple of hours having a coffee and patisserie and exploring the old town.
Arrive in Troyes at tea-time, settle into your hotel (we suggest either the Hotel De La Poste or the Relais St. Jean) and go for dinner and drinks in the old town. There are plenty of restaurants and bars. Chez Maximes is good for crepes, but it's nice to simply wander and pick what takes your fancy, as many of the menus have English translations.
Days 5 - 6
TROYES – PARIS, CERGY (approx) 135ml 3hrs Toll £40.00 inc toll.
After a relaxing morning in Troyes set off on the short drive to Clergy. This is a landscape of huge fields and horizons marked with lines of cyprus trees. The traffic gets busier as you reach the Parisian suburbs, but it's still a very manageable drive. Arrive at the Mercure in Cergy Pointoise, which is just off the A15 at jct 9, and check-in (it has a pool and kids under 15 go free if they share their parent's room).
The hotel is about a 10 minute walk from the RER station, which takes you into the heart of Paris in about 45 minutes, getting off at Chatelet Les Halles near to Notre Dame, The Pompidou centre, the Marais and the famous Left Bank.
If you decide to have dinner near the hotel rather than in Paris, Port Clergy, with its marina, is close by for dinner (Le Millesime du Port always gets good reviews).
Days 6 - 7
After breakfast, again take the RER into central Paris. Paris is one of the great cities of the world and there's so much to see, it's difficult to not feel overwhelmed. One option is to walk across to Notre Dame before exploring the shops, cafes and restaurants of the famous Left Bank. The Jardins De Luxembourg are beautiful and a perfect place to sit and simply watch the world drift by. Once you've spent the day exploring this wonderful city, have dinner before returning to your hotel in Cergy.
CERGY – CALAIS (approx) 175m 2hrs 50 £60.00 inc toll.
After the busy traffic around Paris, the autoroute from Cergy to Calais is an easy drive through open countryside of rolling fields and distant church towers. Remember to leave at least 45 minutes for check-in at the ferry or tunnel. There's a lovely service station if you need a break near Abbeville called Baie De La Somme, which has its own nature reserve. There can be delays at passport control during the busy holiday periods, so try to avoid arriving at the last minute for the ferry and Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.