SO MANY of us spend big flying to the far corners of the earth on holiday but there are beautiful beaches and great food just on the other side of the channel, ARRON HENDY and family discovered.

There are so many options these days when it comes to holidays that it is easy to forget what is almost on your doorstep.

We wanted to get away for late summer break without spending ages travelling. And we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint too, so we decided to hop across to France and we got lucky when it came to two of our favourite things: great weather and amazing food.

The trip over set the mood for the the three day trip. We had the joy of travelling in the Club Lounge where the staff are on hand with drinks and the surroundings are luxurious, with a great meal to set us off.

Seeing as we were only hopping over on the ferry to northern France we wanted somewhere that would have plenty for us to do. That’s why we chose Boulogne-sur-Mer. It is just half an hour’s drive after getting off the ferry at Calais too.

But we enjoyed three blissfully hot days and found it hard to drag ourselves off the beautiful sandy beaches.

The beaches in and around Boulogne are truly breathtaking - lovely shallow areas for the children to play in safely and so much room.

We whiled away the hours playing in the sand and watching the boats come in and out of what is the country’s largest fishing port.

In fact as a huge fan of seafood I was delighted to discover the fishermen selling their catches on the harbourside each morning, meaning I could jump two minutes across the bridge from our holiday apartment to grab some fresh mackerel for a couple of euros. Amazingly cheap and fresh from the sea. They had shellfish and all sorts on sale each day.

Just a 10 minute walk from the beach, the apartment was in the perfect spot, we ate the catch of the day on the balcony overlooking the pretty harbour.

The obvious reason to visit Boulogne is the jaw-droppingly impressive Nausicaa aquarium - with the biggest tank in Europe.

It has different sections and themes and that tank has to be seen to be believed, with sharks, manta rays and whole shoals of fish. We spent a whole day there it was so fascinating.

Boulogne itself has a beautiful old town. The short walk up the hill from the harbour leads you past lots of high street shops in case you want to update your wardrobe. We were heading to see the 13th century chateau and the Notre Dame cathedral in the fortifield old town. It’s easy to find as the dome, inspired by Saint Paul’s in London, Les Invalides, the Pantheon and Saint Peter’s in Rome, dominates and enhances Boulogne’s skyline.

Beneath the cathedral is one of the oldest crypts in France. It is an adventure on its own to walk around the maze of rooms dating back to Roma times.

For refreshment I wanted to try out the local speciality, dubbed ‘Le Welsh’.

It is their French version of Welsh rarebit but done, I must say, with some typically Gallic gastronomic theatrical indulgence.

It is bread and ham drowned in a beautiful sea of melted beery, mustardy cheese with an egg on top. It’s fair to say I’ll be returning just so that I can eat that again.

We took a boat trip from the harbourside out across the Opal Coast, and from there we could see the lovely beach at Wimereux, said by the audio guide to be where trendy people go.

So on our short drive back to the ferry, after visiting the hugely impressive Napoleon statue up on the top of the hill with stunning views towards England, we could not resist a stop off there. Another beautiful beach like Boulogne, Wimereux was again shallow with some great waves to have fun in and the promenade is impressive.

All in all it is a fantastic area and we couldn’t understand why we had not thought of visiting before as it is so easy and quick to get to.

P&O Ferries’ route between Dover and Calais allows direct travel from England to France and beyond, with just about any vehicle, or as a foot passenger.

With up to 23 sailings a day and a journey time of only 1 hour 30 minutes, travelling to the Continent has never been easier. On board are a variety of eateries, including The Brasserie and Food Court. For those who want to travel in further comfort, spaces at the Club Lounge are bookable from just £12 per person. From £25 each way for a car (up to 9 people)

The new, modern Holiday Suites ( are centrally located, making a great base for families. Two-bed apartments start from €83 a night.