Friday, 29 July 2022

A Weekend in Calais

Just a 30 minute drive from the port of Calais, along the opal coast, past the rolling green hills is the village of Ambleteuse.  Picture French shutters on the windows, well looked after paths with vibrant flowers in every colour and a hut serving ice cream and beer on the beach that is still busy at 10pm with people watching the sun set over the sea.  Having always associated Calais with a ferry port I was curious to see another side of the area and our weekend away did just that.

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

We picked the children up from school and drove down to Dover where we could get a DFDS ferry across to the port of Calais.  The ferry was quiet and modern and we grabbed some dinner (they even had a vegan option for me) on the 1.5 hour sailing.  The port of Calais is familiar to me, having grown up in Kent, the ferry has always been the easiest option to get across the channel and a pathway to exploring the rest of France.  This was the first time we have stopped in Calais though to explore the area and we were excited to see more.  The ferry was clean and modern and had a space for children to play as well as plenty of comfy seating and huge windows to watch the coast getting closer.

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

It took just under half an hour to drive to our holiday home in the village of Ambleteuse and our apartment had stunning views over the sea as well as plenty of space for the seven us.  We were only in there for moments before we had to head down to the sea though.  It was a warm evening and we had spotted the fort out on the sand which was just calling to be explored.  The beach had a bit of everything, smooth sand for building sandcastles and paddling in as well as mossy rocks perfect for finding crabs and then the fort and the surrounding rocks which you can't help but climb on.  The fort seems to be open briefly over the summer to see inside but we enjoyed the exterior, We had dinner in a little restaurant up the road that served burgers and pizzas and grabbed ice creams at the hut on the beach, which still had deck chairs out and plenty of business at 10pm.  This is the ideal situation for us, somewhere with space to run free and get out the last of the day's energy before bed.

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse


We had a whole itinerary planned for our weekend but the weather and children's temperaments meant we had to slow down a bit and change our plans.  I will include a list at the bottom of some of the things to do in the area that we couldn't fit in our weekend agenda.

On Saturday we drove to Bourlogne-Sur-Mer, less than half an hour from Ambleteuse and a charming seaside town which is home to the most incredible sea life centre we have ever visited called Nausicaa.  Before we went inside however, we made the most of the beautiful weather and spent time walking along the sandy beaches, playing in the playgrounds both on the sand and on the grass outside the aquarium and exploring the town which was lined with colourfully painted bollards.  We even found the street art team painting some and stopped to watch.  There were lots of pubs and restaurants serving lunch and lots of colourful street art to explore.  

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids


Nausicaa is the kind of aquarium you could easily spend all day in and I would recommend allowing a minimum of three hours to walk around.  Split over several levels, it is buggy and wheelchair friendly and has seals, penguins and crocodiles as well as the biggest viewing wall I have ever seen.  I will write another post about our visit later but I don't think you can come to Calais without visiting Nausicaa and if you are Kent based it could easily be done as a day trip. (Look out for a post about Nausicaa coming soon!).

Visit calais, calais with kids, Nausicaa

On the Sunday we had planned to explore the beautiful coastline and lighthouses but the weather wasn't on our side so after a very short walk, we found some indoor entertainment.  We spent the afternoon in Calais, checking out the incredible street art, discovering what a 'Welsh' is after seeing it all over the menus (a Calais dish, worth a try if you like a lot of cheese!) and finally seeing the Calais Dragon.

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids

I had heard of the Calais dragon a couple of years ago and I just loved the idea.  The dragon is 12 metres high and 25 metres long and you can pay to ride on his back as he patrols the seafront area, roaring, blowing water over onlookers and even breathing fire.  Designed by the artist Fran├žois Delaroziere, the dragon is both a work of art and incredible machinery and we all thought that the person who rides on his head controlling where it blows water has the very best job!  The children could have spent all day with the dragon and it is definitely an experience not to be missed on a visit to this area in France.  

Visit calais, calais with kids, calais dragon

Visit calais, calais with kids, calais dragon

The dragon is right next to the port so it wasn't long before we were back on board our DFDS ferry to Dover and heading home for a good night's sleep before Monday morning.  Calais is a fantastic destination for a weekend adventure with the ferry sailing only 1.5 hours and so much to do and see along the stunning Opal Coast.  For kids that can't travel far in a car or if you need a weekend getaway and fancy somewhere a bit different, check out what Calais has to offer! There is so much more than we were able to see and we can't wait to visit again to check out more attractions and some of the incredible coastline.

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids


Visit calais, calais with kids




Other ideas for family adventures in Calais:



The cliffs and beaches at  Cap Gris-Nez, Wissant and Cap Blanc-Ne


Land of Giants

Berck Sur Mer








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Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Days Out in Great Yarmouth // Merrivale Model Village and Penny Arcade

                                                              Part of a Paid Collaboration with Visit Great Yarmouth.  All opinions are my own



During our recent visit to Great Yarmouth, we spent a morning at the Merrivale Model Village.  Located right on the seafront, we could see a peek of what to expect over the fence, but once we were in, it was so much better.  This typical reflection of the British seaside in miniature was just over an acre in size and was buggy and wheelchair friendly. The price of entry includes being able to come back throughout the day too and the price of a family ticket (2 adults and 3 children) is £30.

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth

The first thing you come across is a small mini golf course that we all had a go on. There was a jubilee exhibit under shelter and then we were outside walking around the beautiful model village. With everything from castles, camping grounds and high streets, we loved looking at the tiny world.  There were lots of buttons to press and the fairground was a big hit as there were different buttons to make each ride work. (Merrivale is only a couple of minutes walk from the pleasure beach so we were excited to visit a full size fair afterwards).

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth

In the centre is a big pond and we had bought fish food at the entrance (card payments only at the entrance but there is a machine that accepts cash by the pond).  The children loved feeding the large, colourful fish who waited with their mouths open hoping to catch some pellets.  We also found a small sensory garden with a water feature and beautiful flowers.

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth


We loved finding the buildings that resembled things we had seen around Great Yarmouth already, like the big wheel and the caravan park and the trains that run on a track around the village were fun to follow.  As you move towards the exit there is a more mythical small world with fairy houses and a dragon. 

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth

As you exit Merrivale, you walk through an old fashioned penny arcade.  We visit our local arcades regularly but it was our first time visiting one like this.  You can change up £1 into 12 old fashioned pennies (you do need cash for this bit) and have a go on the traditional games.   We enjoyed racing our horses on the grand national game and asking questions on the machine that answered almost like a magic 8 ball. It sparked a conversation about the value of money too and how it has changed over time.

If penny arcades aren't your thing, there is a more modern arcade in the building too (again you need cash for this) and a cafe serving food and drinks.

merrivale model village, days out in great yarmouth


It is well worth a visit on a trip to Great Yarmouth!









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Sunday, 26 June 2022

The Night Before Six

For the first year since you learned to speak, you didn't ask for a pet dog . . . it was a pet bunny this time.  You are still my little animal lover but we are expanding the interest slightly now as you approach six.  Your birthday wish list is full of cuddly animals that you would like and I hope you love what we have chosen for you.

Five was the year you became a big sister, the year you stopped being the youngest and I was unsure how you would take it, having been the baby for so long.  I shouldn't have worried as the love for your baby brother is immense. He is your favourite person and you want to be with him all the time.  I am not sure if he adores you or is terrified sometimes but he is a lucky boy to have such a caring big sister.


The whole dynamic of a house changes with the introduction of a new person but you have kept your role as boss.  I love the way you try and parent your brothers, sharing your sweets with them if they have done something good to earn a reward and always being supportive.  You are kind and I hope that value will take you far in life.

As you come to the end of your second year in school, you have made some lovely friends and we had a party today with them.  I love watching the way you interact with them and seeing your confidence grow.

Five is the year you started sleeping more in your own bed, although you still sneak in mine wherever you can.  It is the year you decided you can exist almost exclusively on pasta and the year you started to really get the hang of reading, although your favourite subject is always art.


I can't wait to see what six is going to bring! But before the adventures of six begin I want to stop for a minute and soak up everything you are now.  The force of your cuddles, the way you pretend to be asleep with a big grin on your face, your insistence that everything is so special, even when it is rubbish.  I want to remember the way your hand feels in mine at this size, the grin with missing teeth and the drama every time a new one is wobbly, the way you like to dress with as many patterns as you can fit in each outfit (ideally animal themed).

You will never be this small again.  The clocks will move forward and so will you but I never want to forget this wonderful stage in your life.

Baby girl, you are more loved than you will ever know

xx
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Friday, 24 June 2022

Days Out in Great Yarmouth // Sealife Centre

Part of a Paid Collaboration with Visit Great Yarmouth.  All opinions are my own


You can't miss Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre.  It is right in the middle of the seafront strip, next to the big wheel. The familiar logo was easy to spot and we noticed a collaboration with Peppa Pig was currently on.  The staff inside were really lovely and the children were given mini magnifying glasses, activity trails and the instructions on how to meet Peppa during our visit.

sealife great yarmouth


Our favourite animal to see in the Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre was definitely Noah the green sea turtle.  We could walk in the tunnel underneath it and the children were amazed.  We have never seen one before and hadn't realised they were so big!  We loved seeing the shark nursery too and learning about the ongoing breeding program.

sealife great yarmouth

Another highlight of the trip was the hands on area where you could stroke a starfish.  The staff member we spoke to was really knowledgeable and the children asked her lots of questions.  They are definitely more open to learning when they can get involved and they discussed all sorts about the marine life with her. 

sealife great yarmouth


Cora was really excited to meet Peppa Pig ( who will be at selected Sealife centres until July 3rd) and to do the interactive trail. Peppa was appearing twice a day when we visited and we didn't have to wait long to meet her.

sealife great yarmouth

We got to see the penguins during our visit and we loved watching them from both under the water and on land.  These photos were taken by Archie who was really interested in photographing them.  

sealife great yarmouth

sealife great yarmouth

There is plenty to see at Sealife Great Yarmouth and the children did the VR experience at the end too which looked really fun! When you book tickets for Great Yarmouth Sealife there are options to book as a package with the Ocean Explorer and with the big wheel next door.  

sealife great yarmouth













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Monday, 20 June 2022

Days Out in Great Yarmouth // Pleasure Beach

Part of a Paid Collaboration with Visit Great Yarmouth.  All opinions are my own

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach is situated right on the seafront and splits into two halves.  The Pleasure Beach has a gated entrance and costs £15 per person to enter which gives you unlimited rides, and the Pleasure Beach Gardens is free to enter and has paid for attractions including mini golf, an upside down house and a grand prix track, as well as Sara's Tearooms which serves hot and cold food as well as drinks and cakes.  We visited both parts on our recent trip to Great Yarmouth so scroll down to read more!


The Pleasure Beach


It cost £15 to enter (under 2s are free) and for that price you have a four hour slot to explore the park at your leisure.  With the limited tickets we found that this gave us plenty of time to go on all the rides we wanted (some several time) as there were virtually no queues on our trip (this may be different in the height of summer but for a hot June weekend we were impressed).  Inside the fun fair there are also games you can pay extra for, such as hook a duck and shooting games, and stalls to buy food and drink.  

With young children, I find it important to see what they are able to ride before we go and there is a handy table here with more information. The boys (aged 7,9 and 10 and all over 1.3m) were able to go on every ride unaccompanied and Cora (nearly 6 and 1.1m) could ride on all bar 7 rides.  Rex at 7 months enjoyed watching his siblings from the safety of our arms or the buggy and was mesmerised all day by the colours and movement. 

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

Our favourite rides were:

Me - The Classic Roller Coaster. I love the wooden roller coaster, it was mild enough that all the children could ride on it, but had enough bumps that you can put your hands in the air and scream. It stands proud in the centre of the Pleasure Beach and was as bright as the summer sky

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

Dylan- Dylan took some convincing to go on the Log Flume and we all got totally soaked but he loved it all the same.  There was a machine you could use for £2 to dry off afterwards which the boys made good use of! I ended up buying the picture of Ed and the four children on there as a fridge magnet.

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

Archie - The dodgems will always be a favourite for this boy, he doesn't stop giggling as he drives round.  You can ride in the dodgems from 1 metre but you need to be 1.25 to drive.  Often one of the busiest rides in a fair, we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes for a turn.

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

Finn -  The Haunted House and the Fun Factory next to it were Finn's favourites.  The Haunted house takes you round in a small car that sits 2 and the Fun factory you walk round yourself. Do be aware for the fun factory, closed toe shoes are necessary for entry so no sliders or flip flops allowed.

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

Cora - The Big Apple ride was a favourite for Cora. A rollercoaster designed for smaller children where you sit in a caterpillar.  They all liked to sit in the back carriage as we think it goes faster. 

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

We had a fantastic visit to the Pleasure Beach and the children are already insisting we book to go again.  Find out more about Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and book your tickets here.

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk

great yarmouth pleasure beach, days out in Norfolk





The Pleasure Beach Gardens




Next to the Pleasure Beach is the Pleasure Beach Gardens which is an attraction in itself.  With the large Great Yarmouth letters in the background, the safari themed mini golf is a great place to start.

With 12 holes it is a great length for younger children and we were given a score card with our clubs and brightly coloured balls.  The course was relatively simple and the children enjoyed the challenges. It was easy to navigate and felt well looked after.

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

The Pleasure Beach Garden's area includes a large cafe called Sara's Tearooms where you can get hot or cold breakfasts and lunches, cakes and drinks.  The milkshakes came with cream and marshmallows and were a big hit with my boys! We had a hot lunch and I was excited to see vegan options on the menu for me. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and a few smaller tables on the beach side which are perfect if you want to enjoy a drink whilst the kids build sandcastles.


Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids


Also in the gardens are a race track with ride on motorbikes and trucks which takes £1 coins and are always a hit with my children, and the upside down house.  It was our first time visiting something like this and the children all thought it was amazing! They particularly liked doing Spiderman poses below the bed.  You can explore the two stories but be aware that you can't take babes in arms inside as the sloped floors make it unsafe.

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, great yarmouth with kids

There is easily a full day out to be had between Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and the gardens (although our visit was split over two days).

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