Thursday, 10 March 2016

Which Ferry Crossing?

 Spring heralds the start of planning for the summer. A time to think about summer BBQ's, wine in the sun, sunshine, camp sites, beaches and ferries. Over the years we have used most of the ferry crossings to France. When we were both working the best option was always the latest crossing on a Friday night, so we arrived in France and were able to cope with a full days driving to the next perfect camp site on the list! 

We live in Bristol, so Dover is generally the cheapest option but the longest and probably the most painful drive. Portsmouth is better but also far more expensive and generally means a cabin for a decent sleep, although this can be offset by the usually good Brittany Ferry restaurant meal. Whichever way we go, some stress is involved either fighting with the M 25, Operation Stack, queues at Dover or the rush to get to Portsmouth for an earlier ferry and a lighter wallet. To date, we have not ventured through the tunnel, but we are saving Tesco vouchers for a possible future foray that way.

A Dover sail for us, usually means catching a ferry around 9/10 o'clock at night. When we arrive at Calais or Dunkirk we head onto the A16 towards Bologne and just past the Tunnel exit is Aire 2 Caps up on the hill. We have stayed here at all times of the year and in all weathers. It's a handy night halt and in the morning the cafe is open for coffee with toilets and even a shower ( we've never tried them.) Usually there is a number of Brit vans parked up and we usually tuck ourselves up between a few.You can park up to the side on the grass if you can find a spot, or amongst the trucks, not recommended. Also very easy for fuel in the morning. A 10 minute drive back towards Calais takes you to Cite Europe so you can shop if you must!

Here we are last year parked up at Aire 2 Caps.

A Portsmouth crossing usually means you can drive straight off the boat and onwards. We have found the crossing to Caen and Cherbourg is almost too short for a night crossing. You barely get your eyes closed and its time to get up again. The St Malo crossing is probably the most civilised, a nice meal, a proper sleep and you're fit to drive on the next day. The downside is the cost.

Coming back we have tried many options. Dover/ Dunkirk is relatively easy and we take the morning 8.30 ish crossing. It means we get home at a civilised time. We have stayed at a few places near Dover. The camp site at Guines used to be our favourite option but
ridiculously expensive, very busy and overrun with "Brits Abroad".  To be fair not a bad site if you want all the bells and whistles and the restaurant was very good, but not for us!

Camping La Bein Assise near Guines.

The best site for us has always been what we call " The Farmers Field." Around a 30 minutes drive to Calais, a bit longer to Dunkirk. Clean, plenty of room, good facilities and a stroll to the village where there is a choice of restaurants. It does get busy so you need to arrive early but we have never had a problem finding a spot. In fact we have actually stayed there for a few days, beautiful views.

Camping Escalles

Camping in the "Farmers Field" there is even a beach nearby. Monsieur and Madam who run the site are very friendly and beginning to speak a little English.

From St Malo we have managed to find a site on the ring road which we have used. Big commercial, but OK.

P'tite Bois St Malo

Our current favourite on the circuit is Le Pommiers at Ouistreham when we do the Caen crossing home. This crossing suits us as it saves the deathly drive up to Calais. It's a bit more expensive and a 4 hour crossing but a good restaurant breakfast takes some of the time up. The site at  Ouistreham  has grown on us over the past few years there is a cycle track from the site to Caen and a stroll into  Ouistreham  brings you to loads of reasonable restaurants, cafes and a nice beach.

Camping des Pommiers

The camp site is very French and the facilities basic. Turn right when you enter through the barrier and there's loads of camping on the grass at the top of the site, also hard standing for motor homes. There is a supermarket across the road and you can leave the site at 6 in the morning. The ferry port is 5 mins away....perfect.

Here we are at Pommiers last year, getting the last few rays before we say au revoir.

So that's it then. Booked for later this year two crossings Dover to Dunkirk DFDS and two returns Caen to Portsmouth. Let the sun shine !