Sunday, 3 March 2013

France encore !!


On our travels again – last weekend hubby and I had a weekend in France. Nothing fancy, posh or expensive just a hop across the channel to stay a couple of nights in a country I love, and maybe bring a few goodies home too.

Before I start though I will just give you a few tips and points:

Firstly;
although you can purchase wine and beer and other lovely goodies at a slightly cheaper price in France than here in the UK you do not ‘save’ any money if you include your travel, accommodation and food. Therefore to do a ‘booze’ run is not always economically best, but it does make a fabulous weekend break.

Secondly;
because the shopping, eating out and generally being in France is our main purpose we do travel and stay as cheaply as we can – if we were travelling further afield or having a luxury break where the hotel was the main focus our choices would be different (the same reasons as our first night away in my last blog). I do believe in ‘meeting the purpose’ with costs accordingly matched and saving a few pennies on one part of any holiday means more to spend on another.

So all that said here’s our Calais adventure:

6am departure from home made our trip feel almost like a normal work day as this is the time hubby usually leaves for work. However driving down the M1 with all the other commuters and watching the sky lighten (no actual sunrise) over Milton Keynes was definitely not leading to a day in the office.

The journey passed without incident although we both nearly had a heart attack crossing the Queen Elizabeth II bridge as the charge for a car is now £2.00 – we remember using the Dartford Tunnel both directions seeing the bridge grow more each time, waiting for our chance to drive over (1991).

Traffic being kind to us resulted in arriving early at the Port of Dover where P&O Ferries put us on the next boat; thank you. Our booking was with Direct Ferries who we have used many times – this time our return crossing was a bargain at just £49.50 return !!! 
P & O to France
The Pride of Burgundy sailed across to France in 90 minutes with just a few sways and less than 2 hours from leaving England we were happily wine tasting/browsing in Calais Wine Superstore

It’s an amazing store with 'over 32 wines available every day to taste in their state-of-the-art temperature controlled tasting machines and another 40 wines at the bar’ . We buy our cheaper favourites here – wines we love that are easy drinkers for an impromptu glass in the evening. These wines are our ‘laid back’ favourites as they do not need any planning or food matching – they can just be enjoyed.
Here are some favourites that are now living ‘chez nous’:

Blossom Hill Signature Reserve Chardonnay
Jacob's Creek Three Vines Shiraz Grenache Sangiovese
Merlot Ca'Lunghetta
La Roche Brut
Chardonnay Ca'Lunghetta
Cabernet Sauvignon Ca'Lunghetta
Pinot Grigio Ca Lunghetta

Just next door – well ok to be precise round the corner - is Pidou. This supermarket is a newbie to us discovering it last summer. It has wine, beer and other goods; nothing in size to the big Auchan or Carrefour but it does have a good range of brand labelled glasses and gift sets. I found a beautiful Courvoisier glass and a Disaronno tumbler.
 
We always stay at the B&B Hotel in Coquelles just south of Calais. It's a travel hotel but is always clean with comfy beds and a small but very adequate bathroom. Towels and showergel are provided and each room has a flat screen tv which receives BBC channels. The double rooms were a very good price at just 39 Euro with breakfast and additional 6 Euros each. It's definitely worth having breakfast; a buffet with bacon and scrambled eggs, a variety of bread, pastries, cereals, yoghurts, fruit juice and hot drinks.
 
We started using this hotel many years ago was they have four bedded rooms on the second floor; double bed and ensuite bathroom with an added mezzanine homing twin beds; superb for travelling with a family. From the top floor too you can see the tops of the ferries as they sailing and out of Calais - this caused great excitement in the early days. 
 
B&B Hotel - Coquelles
The hotel is next to a Centre Commercial with a large Auchan, a great bar Le Blierot and most importantly a Flunch. For being a supermarket cafe Flunch is a fantastic place to eat. It's self service for starters, puds and drinks; at the service till you say which main you'd like for which you are given a ticket. After settling ourselves at a table with our starter and bottle of Bordeau it was mains time - hubby took our two tickets, Bavette and Gallette Americane, to the grill where the meat is cooked right in front of you to your preferred liking. A large variety of vegetables, some in delicious sauces, rice, mashed potatoes, chips and pasta are all 'a volonte' - help yourself. It is perfect being able to have different mains and chose what you would like to eat with them. Flunch do Menu Enfant too for younger visitors - a favourite with our two in the past.
 
Perfect cosy night - well it was minus lots outside with snow - and a good breakfast set us up for a quick trip to Majestic Wines. They also have a very good selection with many of the usual supermarket choices available at a few pounds cheaper than home. We only bought a few bottles which now rest in our 'reserved' rack for special moments.
 
Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc
Robertson Winery Merlot
Lindauer Brut
Brown Brothers Orange Blossom and Muscat
 
Our Saturday afternoon was spent driving and mooching around Boulogne - it was bitterly cold but it didn't spoil our plans,if anything it made us walk even quicker to Buffalo Grill for our evening meal. Did it feel strange to be escorted to our table by a clown, with a sheriff and can-can dancer serving at tables ??? no of course not it was Carnival Night - although we didn't join in the quiz or singing !! Staying at the B&B entitled us to a free aperitif which went down well with our complimentary salad starter. Our mains were perfect - similar to our Harvester restaurants and pub was perfect - Cafe Gourmand - mini creme brulee, mini brownie with creme anglais and an espresso coffee. A great meal with a fun atmosphere for a Saturday night.
 
Cold walk back, another cosy night, waking up to snow, yummy breakfast and a 'choppy' boat home completed our weekend away. It's one of our favourites to do - not too expensive for travel, hotel and food - car full of goodies and time to be in FRANCE !!!
 
If you get the chance do it :-)

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