Han and I have developed a little bit of an addiction to driving across the Channel from England into France for a weekend getaway. Initially I had my reservations – just thinking about how long the journey in the car would be; the waiting around; the traffic; and all the rest of the inconveniences of a road trip for just two days… was it truly worth it? I was very delighted to be proven wrong as we test drove Han’s ambitious plan – we woke up early on a Saturday morning and we were in coastal France by lunchtime. Boulogne-sur-Mer made for a truly enchanting escape from the hustle and bustle of the City – we swapped the madness of the cramped London streets with the fresh air, quaint markets and the secret treasures laying underground in this charming town.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne is not one to miss. Its structure frames the Boulogne skyline beautifully. The interior view of the dome is impressive, boasting impressive details whilst being complemented by the lovely rays of sunlight peeking in. You will see around Boulogne many references to the Virgin Mary on a boat with the baby Jesus Christ. This is due to a legend that an unmanned boat appeared in the estuary at Boulogne – it carried a luminous statute of the Virgin Mary. Such statue was then carried to the church and following this, miracles began being reported at the site.
Certainly the most amazing part of our trip was the crypts of the Basilica. Amongst the original Roman crypt sprang other mazes of underground chambers housing stunning burial sites, wall paintings and mysteries that may never be uncovered. We were impressed with the signs that accompanied the exhibitions went into substantial detail and were able to use them as a guide to identify the different historic periods pertaining to the various sections. We were informed that the crypt is actually one of the largest of its kind in France and it is still being excavated and studied by archeologists who hope to reveal its ever growing secrets.
Getting across the Channel was really not as big deal as I thought it would. We went via the Euro Tunnel in Kent, where there were was a World Duty Free and various amenities for food and last minute purchases (such as the France survival kit!). The wait was comfortable and you just refer to a large notice board which calls you when your tunnel train is ready. You just drive your car on board, and voila! I think it took us about 35 minutes (in that timespan, we just put on the Netflix and enjoyed a comfy journey) and we were in Calais. All in all, coming from London, it took us about just over 3 hours to get to Boulogne. You can get a good deal if you book the Euro Tunnel a little further in advance and generally, the price is about £10 and up per way. Pretty good price-wise, particularly if you are splitting it across 5 people!
Just a note that if you are driving in France and using a UK car, you will need to ensure you are equipped with a France survival kit. Such includes compulsory stickers that need to be placed on your headlights, a warning triangle that you can enlarge and put on the road, as well as other emergency items. You will also be required to stick a “GB” sticker on the back of your car so it is clear to European drivers that you have a non-continental car (particularly pertinent given everything is the other way around, driving-wise). You can pick up a comprehensive kit from the Euro Tunnel shops but otherwise you might be able to get a good deal online before you head off on your journey.