5 Go to France

Claire Spicer on 16 February 2020
The week started with the family full of colds and Storm Dennis! To say I was a little apprehensive about how successful our French “Road Trip” was going to be, is an understatement.

As a family of 5, and with a large age range (2 x 13 year old boys and 1 x 4 year old girl), planning holidays takes a fair bit of time and effort to get it right (which of course I love!) As anyone with more than 2 children knows finding accommodation is often a challenge without it costing the earth, or parents having to be in separate rooms – neither of which appeals to us.

Finding itineraries that work for all our interests is another challenge, but I pride myself on having always achieved this – but I definitely had a wobble about this one! Essentially we were combining WWII history with Disney! Definitely a bespoke trip!

So the plan was Eurotunnel to Calais, nip up to Dunkirk to see the site of the evacuation , drive down to Honfleur to enjoy the pretty town and French cuisine, before finding our hotel in Caen where we were to stay for 2 nights in a family room. A day of exploring Normandy , 4 nights in Les Villages Nature at Disneyland to include a day trip to Paris, some chill out time on the site and 2 days of Disney parks. Something for everyone I thought!

Battling Storm Dennis, our journey took somewhat longer than anticipated, with the stop to potter around Honfleur permanently cancelled, and ended with 2 adults in desperate need of a glass of wine – turns out driving through a storm is pretty exhausting!

TOP TIP: If you are travelling on the A86 from Caen to Paris in a high vehicle there is a section with a 2m height restriction, which phased us for a small time (we have a VW Caravelle).

The hotel was great, with comfy beds for all 5 of us, great breakfast, good restaurant nearby ( wine was consumed) and really close to the amazing Memorial museum in Caen. Make sure you have at least a couple of hours to do it properly as it is done really well, and engaging for all ages.

We took the coast road from Pegasus Bridge to Arramanche – war cemeteries, the floating harbour, sword and gold beaches all along the route. It is a long stretch and you can keep going to Omaha. Les Village Nature is a great alternative to the Disney hotels, whilst still giving you the Magic hours extra. It has a fabulous swimming pool on site included, busy but provides body floats for little ones. Loads of other activities to do for a charge, and lovely surroundings to explore but alas we ran out of time. If you can take bikes that would be ideal. We stayed in a Cocoon VIP Apartment which slept 6 comfortably, great kitchen , lovely jacuzzi bath and shower. Great pizzas in the Italian restaurant and had a lovely French meal at Cepages. Supermarket on site is very expensive so good to know the Val d’Europe shopping centre 10 minutes away has a huge Auchan, for all your needs.

Our day trip to Paris was successful, with the Eiffel Tower now added to the kids list of places they have visited. The train from Disney was really easy and we were blessed with a morning of sunshine to walk along the Seine, past the Louvre, up the Champs Elysses to the Tour Eiffel.

Then onto the bit Edie and I were very excited about …..Disneyland Paris. Clearly in half term it’s never going to be quiet, but with good planning before hand so you know which rides you want to do you can best schedule your day. You can purchase Fast pass for some rides at additional cost.

If you want to see a special show, or Princess Pavillion then you must make sure you are at the park gates to get in at 8.30am. Remember to add at least 30 mins for time to get parked and get to the entrance. For maximum efficiency download the Disneyland Paris app and the Lineberty app for many of the meet and greets and don’t forget your autograph book.

Our favourites: Crush rollercoaster, Mickey and the Magician show, all things Frozen, Toy Story soldiers ride, 4D cinema, Big Thunder Mountain, Stitch Live 13-year-old perspective: "You don't have to be little to still enjoy it" Adult perspective: “Forget the rides - I love the shows, parades and fireworks” 4-year-old perspective: “Going on the Dumbo ride made me very, very ,very, very happy”

On reflection, I am pleased to be able to say that our week was a success, helped by a bit of sunshine every day, some yummy food and wine, and a Jacuzzi bath!!!

Of course we had the usual family challenges but as we reluctantly made our way home the wise 4-year-old said: “Being on holiday is the best, but being at home is really good too”