WHEN it came to visiting France I always used to be hung up and a little obsessed with Paris. While still J’Adore the City of Love I am so pleased that I have begun to explore other parts of this vast country in recent years.
I had never in fact considered visiting Lille. Why not? I don’t know. Maybe it is because it is so quick and easy to get to. After a smooth trip over on the DFDS ferry from Dover it was only 50 minutes’ drive from Dunkirk and we were at or beautiful hotel right in the Vieux ville?
It is perfect for Christmas. The old cobbled streets with its picture postcard buildings got us straight into the Christmas spirit. The cosy little lane like streets are full of the most wonderful architecture, untouched for generations and transporting you into a world without many cars that means you could be here at any time in the last 100 years and more.
The patisseries and chocolatiers are a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. The ornamental designs of the interiors of the shops themselves are enough to make your jaw drop to the floor.
It reminded me a little of Bruges, not far away, but it was distinctly French.
Making our way to the square we found the huge ferris wheel which our two children were not going to let us pass without a ride.
One of the things I love about France is that tourist attractions, like chateaux, are always so much cheaper than the medieval castles we have here, and sometimes it is the same for other things.
The Ferris wheel, which is absolutely huge, is only five Euros for adults and three euros for children.
Up we went, higher and higher until we towered over the city, a beautiful view across the rooftops, with spires and not an ugly modern building in sight.
It was also a lovely view down upon the Christmas market.
The market, reassuringly, had an entrance and exit with security, though it was free to enter and the prices at the wonderful stalls were reasonale.
After wonderful mulled wine (and warm apple juice for the children) our Christmas spirit was now at full pelt.
Just right for a lovely stroll around the stalls, with old fashioned toys, ornaments and Christmassy items.
The cafes and restaurants prove quite a choice, and Le Voltaire, a creperie we found near the market, seemed as untouched inside as the buldings are outside, with its wonderful charm and fantastic décor. One wall was completely covered in coloured glass which made quite an impression.
Close to our hotel there was an amazing choice for dinner, with locally sourced cuisine, perfectly mixing the traditional with the new.
Fact sheet: DFDS Dover-Dunkirk route
- DFDS offers up to 24 daily sailings on its Dover to Dunkirk route, which has been running for six years
- Dover is Europe’s busiest ferry port and offers the shortest English ferry route to France, which is just 21 miles across the Channel. The port has excellent road transport links via the M20 and M2 from London and Dover Priory station is served by the UK’s only high speed rail service (HS1)
- Dunkirk is France’s third largest port. It provides direct, fast access to the European motorway network via the A25 and the A16
- In spring 2016 DFDS opened a new terminal at Dunkirk. It includes a new entrance and access road, new check-in facilities and a booking office, plus improved vehicle access onto the ships
- DFDS runs three ships on its Dover to Dunkirk route with each ship making four return trips from Dover each day. The Dover Seaways, the Delft Seaways the and Dunkerque Seaways have all operated on the route for DFDS since 2010
- All three ships on the route were built in 2006 and can carry up to 780 passengers, 200 cars and offers 2,900 lane metres of capacity for up to 120 freight vehicles
- Crossings on the Dover-Dunkirk route take two hours each way and customers are advised to check in at least 45 minutes before their scheduled sailing time, or 60 minutes prior during busy periods
- Prices for a car and up to nine people start from £39 each way. All Dover-Dunkirk ships feature a premium lounge, which can be booked for an additional £12 per person each way. The lounge provides a quiet space with free newspapers, fresh fruit, pastries and petits-fours, soft drinks and a glass of Prosecco upon arrival
- Each of the Dover-Dunkirk ships also features a café serving hot and cold drinks plus light snacks; the Food Express restaurant offering burgers, hot dogs and lighter choices such as baguettes or rolls; a self-service restaurant offering hot and cold meals, snacks and drinks; a shop offering up to 20 per cent off high-street prices on fragrances, skin care, and cosmetics, plus a range of travel essentials and duty-paid goods; plus a Kidz Club children’s play area that provides entertainment and activities for children during the holiday period
- Priority boarding is available to customers travelling on the Dover to Dunkirk route for just £10 per car each way. The service offers the opportunity to be among the first cars to board the ship and to disembark on arrival at the destination port
- Pets are accepted on the route, but must comply with the rules of the Pets Travel Scheme (PETs) and should be declared at the time of booking. There is a charge of £15 per pet each way. The pet must stay in the owner’s vehicle throughout the crossing and customers can visit their pet during the journey on request.
- The Dover-Dunkirk route is also a freight service that accepts driver accompanied, unaccompanied and hazardous goods vehicles
- Freight drivers have their own dedicated restaurant, Road Kings, and private lounges on board the ships. All drivers receive a free meal with drinks and can make use of the free shower and Wifi facilities
- Freight operators can book shipments directly with DFDS via its website. The booking service, which launched in spring 2016, offers the option to search schedules, track shipments and view real-time departure and arrival information.
- DFDS recorded a record month for freight on its Dover to France routes in March 2016, carrying more than 110,000 vehicles for the first time
- In 2015, DFDS carried 3.1 million passengers, 652,000 cars and 700,000 freight vehicles on its Dover-Dunkirk route
- So far in 2016 (to end April 2016) DFDS has carried 728,000 passengers and 165,000 cars on the service
DFDS, Dover Eastern Docks, Dover, Kent, CT16 1JA
DFDS, Terminal Car Ferry, Route du Petit Denna, Port 5625, 59279 Loon Plage
Driving distances from Dunkirk: