The Christmas celebrations had just passed and everyone was getting prepared for the New Years Eve celebrations. As a birthday present for my partners mum, we as a family, with his sister and her boyfriend, all went to Ghent for the day.
An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!
Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!
The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!
Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.
Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!
After quitting my full time job in England and having a month before my start date to work as an Au Pair in the Netherlands I wanted to do something spontaneous. I had to sell my car and sort out all my belongings to keep, sell or to give to charity. The month was passing by so quickly!
Well before selling the car we decided on a road trip in England! My partner had arrived in the UK to visit me on the Isle of Wight for about 2 weeks, but we spontaneously decided that I would pick him up at the airport and we would just drive from place to place until the two weeks were up!
Picking him up from Bournemouth Airport, due to being too late to land at the usual airport of Southampton we had a hotel for the night before we first set off. Our plan was to drive anticlockwise around England.
Below are the cities we visited! The bold cities is where we had a place to sleep and the other cities is where we took day trips to. Planning everything went well, once arriving at one place we booked the next place for a few days in advance making it cheap to do being last minute.
This is the estimated route we likely took to the cities we had sleeping arrangements in. This map does not include the day trips from each city.
This was our first stop, a lovely little place to walk along the beach and for a some seaside lunch.
While we were here we did the usual touristic sightseeing and shopping but it was raining for the whole time, giving us not much time to enjoy the beach or relax in the sun with an ice cream. We visited a little castle on the way to our next destination, which was pretty and gave us some great views of the cliffs towards Dover.
This was a beautiful little spot to stay and relax at. Close to the sea with some beautiful walking routes.
We visited Cambridge for a day trip, a place not to be missed during a road trip around England. The beautiful city has so much to see and do it was hard to decide what to see and where to walk first! As tourists of course we had a punting tour along the river and visited the King’s College Chapel and the grounds.
Once we were settled at the Cayton Bay Holiday Park, who gave us a luxury camping home with bottle of wine for a different couple (which we drank!), we were greeted by the beautiful view of the sea and coast. We walked here for ages! In the city we visited the seafront, got the ice creams we missed out when in Brighton and visited the castle.
We took a day trip here to visit the Angel of the North and some shopping. Driving from Scarborough along the coast was beautiful and we ended up having the sun the whole day, making it a great day for lunch outside and lots of walking.
Stopping here on our long journey back to the Isle of Wight was the perfect place. The city gave us the combination of history with visiting Bath Abbey and relaxing with lots of little cafes to sit at and unique shops to visit.
Heading Home To Southampton
We took the Clifton Suspension Bridge back on the way driving south. We planned to stop at Stonehenge, since I had also never been here so close to home. It was rather busy but we queued up for a ticket and an audio guide. Interesting to visit!
Overall we loved our spontaneous trip, even if we missed some pretty nice places to visit. Every place had its uniqueness and different activities to do so its hard to pick the best place, however Scarborough was one of our highlights, greeted with sunshine and those pretty views!
After digging out the biggest suitcase from the closet and packing all our much needed summer clothes, having our passports in our hands and relevant travelling tickets needed, we were ready to leave. Our journey started at the bus stop where our coach would pick us up for the overnight journey to Genoa, where our cruise ship departs. It was a 16 hour drive through the south of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and finally in the north of Italy. We had the whole back seat area of the coach as it wasn’t completely full, and could luckily get some sleep across some of the chairs. For me was easy, but Lennart sure did struggle with his 196cm length!
Waking up to the early morning sunrise in Switzerland was beautiful, seeing the snow on the mountain tops and the houses hidden on the mountain side. Stopping at the gas station we bought some breakfast before crossing the border to Italy. Most other guests on the coach were 50+ and we had our speculation that the cruise would also be filled with the older generation, but we didn’t mind as it was a brand new travelling experience for us.
Arriving in Genoa at the cruise terminal was an exciting feeling, checking in our bags and receiving all the information needed for when we were on the ship, like our dinner time schedule and room key. We had a few hours to wait before we could actually get on the cruise ship, so like most other guests we headed into the city of Genoa to start soaking up the sun.
Beautiful city, and much bigger and busier than expected! We knew that we would have a few more hours in the city when our cruise returned for the home journey with the coach, so we had no rush to see the city now. While waiting for the time to board we found a little café for some lunch. We were very nervous and excited that we didn’t actually eat much!!
It was time and we were ready. Finally standing next to the ship was amazing, warmly greeted by the personnel while others rushed around with taking peoples suitcases to the correct room, cleaning the whole ship and making all the preparations to depart. It wasn’t the biggest cruise ship on the sea, but to us it was breathtaking.
Our first day and night was towards our first destination of Marseilles, France. We had to take part in the safety routine emergency drill, grabbing our life jackets from our room and heading straight to our safety point. Definitely made us realise the seriousness of being on a massive ship with up to 3500 people in an emergency. However it was like being in a comic scene seeing people in life jackets, wondering around lost and taking selfies, making the best of the routine emergency drill. It all added to the excitement as our cruise ship departed the docks of Genoa.
Joining in with our first sit down dinner at our time schedule we learnt how we would have the same table every week, with the same guests on our table. It was very organized and new to us. To our delight we had a lovely older Dutch couple who had the same interests as us, and also the same charming waiter every day, making our dinner time’s very ‘gezellig’.
We had an inside cabin, which we didn’t mind as it had plenty of space for us to unpack and make it cosy. Couldn’t feel the ship moving at all and once we turned the lights off it was perfectly pitch black and couldn’t hear a thing from other guests in the hallway. Our first nights sleep on our cruise was a delight.
Check out Day Two where we arrived in Marseille, France.