Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Short Break in France

Eiffel Tower

We'd been trying to arrange a trip to France for many months as Beth was keen to go to France again in order to try out her French (A* at GCSE! ).  We were quite late booking anything and whenever we found somewhere that had plenty of vacancies we asked ourselves ‘why?’
Le Shuttle

In the end we found a great looking little Gite in a hamlet called Wicquinghem but they were almost fully booked and only had three nights free so we booked them.

Our Gite


We left home at some unearthly hour in the morning (middle of the night!), drove straight down to Folkestone, crossed on the Channel Tunnel and took a leisurely drive along the coast finding a couple of caches (and boulangeries) on the way.

Time for Pain au Chocolats


On Sunday we decided to visit the V3 base at Mimoyecques – The V3 was a German WWII supergun, the weapon was planned to be used to bombard London from two large bunkers in the Pas de Calais region of Northern France but they were rendered unusable by allied bombing raids before completion - an amazing place and very interesting history.

Underground at the V3 base

Then we drove down to Boulogne sur Mer for a walk around the city walls.  I went on a day trip to Boulogne when I was at high school but none of it looked familiar as I don't think we ventured far from the port.

Boulogne City walls

Monday - Paris

We’d pre-booked tickets on the SNCF, Beth and I were keen to go on a TGV but unfortunately TGVs don’t go from where we were! Oh well, another day.

Catching the train from Etaples

The tickets were for 05:25 leaving from Etaples – about 19 miles away so this was another ridiculously early start.  Erm... aren't holidays supposed to be relaxing??  A couple of hours or so later we had arrived in Paris, jumped on bus 42 and went straight to the Eiffel Tower.

Gare du Nord

We had attempted to pre-book tickets for the Eiffel Tower a few weeks ago but they only release a certain amount in advance and we weren't able to book them so after talking to a couple of friends that have visited we decided to make it our first stop and get there for when it opened and hopefully avoid the queues.  Luckily we arrived very soon after opening and the queues were short and we were soon through the security checks and climbing the stairs.  We climbed the steps to the 2nd level, I think there are over 600 steps but we lost count quite soon after starting counting so can't be certain on this, then got the lift to the top.  Amazing views from the top.... Two hours later we were back down again and ready for something to eat!  Everything near the Eiffel Tower was well overpriced but luckily we managed to find a patisserie a short way from the Eiffel Tower where the prices were much more reasonable. Once again Beth did all the talking. With renewed vigour, we made our way on foot towards the Arc de Triomphe finding  La passerelle avec une vue superbe  and Liberty's Flame on the way. Liberty’s flame is a monument above the very underpass where Princess Diana died.

Terrific views from the top of the Eiffel Tower

There is an underpass to get to the Arc de Triomphe and just as we were about to enter it I said 'I wonder if we'll see anyone famous today.'  Well we did!  Not only was it someone famous, it was Billie Joe Armstrong – frontman from Green Day;  Beth’s favourite rock band.  We were all sitting down having a rest under the Arc de Triomphe in the shade as it was sweltering hot and Beth leapt up and said 'Mum, I've just seen Billie Joe!', I thought yeah right, the heat's got to her, I said 'Are you sure' and she said that she'd recognise his tattoos anywhere.  So I followed her round the corner and there he was, we had a very brief chat and he obligingly had his photo taken with Beth and Steven in turn - really made our day as we are all Green Day fans.
Bumped into Billie Joe Armstrong!!!

We were all beginning to flag by now and made a bee-line for McDonalds. They had no tea or coffee so we didn’t hang around too long and caught the Metro down to the Louvre.  We’re not really into art galleries and didn't really have time to go in but there is a virtual cache there Who is she?

Mark was very keen to do the Bonjour Paris webcam so for that we needed a wi-fi hotspot, time to find  a Maccys.  After stopping for fougasse on the way which tested Beth’s vocabulary, did they contain goat or just goat’s cheese? we continued in the sweltering heat (32 degrees) and reached another McDonalds and finally got a cuppa!  It was horrendously busy in there and the wi-fi didn’t work too well so Mark phoned our caching friends AJIGeo and asked them to grab a picture from the webcam. The webcam is located in a lovely little courtyard cafe where two gorgeous Labradors wandered freely. The dogs were very interested in us as we waved for the webcam but the staff who were busy stacking up the chairs took no notice of us whatsoever.
Eiffel Tower

With only a little over an hour to go before our train we decided to head back to the Gare du Nord on the Metro. There is no direct route so Beth asked the assistant in the information kiosk which trains we had to take to reach Gare du Nord.  Asking is one thing, understanding the reply is quite another and Beth did brilliantly once again!

At the Gare du Nord Metro station

The trains are really cool and are the corridor type with compartments, luckily we had a compartment on our own and could spread out for the long journey back to Etaples.  Finally arrived back at the Gite at about 10pm after an 18 hour day, we were all exhausted but had a brilliant day out, a memorable day we'll remember forever.

Corridor trains are cool!


Woke up to heavy rain. We had planned to spend the day in the region before catching a crossing at about 8pm. We couldn’t face doing much in the rain so phoned Eurotunnel and asked if we could change to an earlier crossing. No problem!

Le Blockhaus

Almost as soon as we'd left the Gite it stopped raining and the sun came out. We made our way towards  St Omar and an Auchen hypermarket. After finally getting out of Auchen - you could easily spend all day in there ;-) we decided it would be nice to  make the most of the day after all and contacted Eurotunnel to arrange a later crossing  - but not quite as late. We then went to the Blockhaus near Eperlecques.

A Half Track
This massive concrete construction was built to prepare and launch V2 missiles destined for London!
A VERY interesting but disturbing place, well worth a visit.

Eurotunnel Terminal Calais
Then it was off to Calais for the 18:50 crossing and back home again. 

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