Having been home for some time now, we’re naturally starting to reminisce about past adventures and daydream about future ones. This particular blog post looks back at an adventure that took place this time last year, when we headed to Paris for our first caravan trip overseas!
With my birthday coming up and Stephen starting to act strange (even stranger than usual!) I had a strong feeling something was going on. He’d been taking private phone calls, sneaking around, and the password to our Caravan Club account had been changed- Suspicions grew stronger.
As much as I appreciate them, I’m one of the few people who have never liked surprises as I prefer to feel organised and know exactly what’s coming up. So after a bit of pestering I managed to get it out of him that we were heading to France!
“Surprised” doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt!
We set off in mid May and headed to Dover, where we stopped off for a night at the conveniently located Black Horse Farm Caravan and Motorhome Club site, ready to catch the ferry the following morning. Due to its close proximity to the port, the site has a number of allocated “ferry pitches” for people wanting a quick stopover. These are separated from the main site so you can arrive and leave at whatever time you need, without disturbing other campers or the wardens.
After a restful nights sleep we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the adventure to continue, and we made our way to the ferry port!
As we waited in line the excitement began to buzz, and as we boarded it continued to grow. Being a wheelchair user has the potential to complicate the boarding process, but we’ve learnt that if you inform the crew of your needs ahead of time they are more than happy to accommodate. In this case, we were hitched up to the caravan so I could only exit our car from the side door, and needed a few metres of space to enable me to use my ramps. They left plenty of space and positioned us right next to the lifts, so we were able to head straight up to the passenger decks.
Everything was smooth sailing, and before long we had arrived in Calais! We were cruising down the open French motorways in no time, with the caravan in tow and the sun beaming down on us. It was bliss. Despite some initial reservations, Stephen’s first time towing abroad went without a hitch (pun intended). He instantly settled into it, and surprisingly found it even easier than towing in the UK, due to the wide roads and little amount of traffic!
By late afternoon we had arrived at our home for the next few days – Caravaning Des 4 Vents. It was surprisingly quiet, but I’d imagine it would get busy during the school holidays, with Disneyland just a 20 minute drive away, and the city of Paris less than an hour. It was certainly a great location to be in, whilst still experiencing that “rural France” feel.
After we went for our usual wander around the site, soaking up the last bit of sun and enjoying the vibrant spring colours in the trees, we settled in for the night as the sun set on another day.
The following morning I woke up to the not-so-dulcet tones of Stephen singing “Happy Birthday”, and in my sleepy haze it took me a few seconds to remember that we were in sunny France! I’d never spent my birthday away from home before, so to be waking up in the caravan in an entirely different country was extremely exciting- and something I definitely wasn’t expecting.
After travelling hundreds of miles the previous day, we were both in agreement that a relaxed day would be just perfect- I wasn’t 25 anymore, after all!
We enjoyed a quiet morning on site before heading out for a gentle wander around the picturesque shopping village of La Vallée, just a short drive away. Once there, we strolled amongst the designer shops that filled the miniature high street, and marvelled at the price tags. We could barely afford to buy an ice cream there, but it was a beautiful place to explore and spend the afternoon.
On our way back to the campsite we took a small detour to a supermarket to pick up some supplies for the next few days- but little did we know, this wasn’t going to be the 5 minute job that we had anticipated.
We pulled up outside a huge grey building with eyes full of wonder, this had to be one of the biggest supermarkets we’d ever seen! As we made our way around the aisles spread across numerous levels, we attempted to cross things off our list. We only needed a handful of items, “this shouldn’t take long”… Boy were we wrong! Well over an hour later we emerged from its clutches, exhausted but satisfied that we’d hunted out MOST of the things on our list. Though to this day we’re still not sure if we bought hand soap or dish soap, and we’re convinced that there is absolutely no such thing as potato salad in France. Nevertheless, we made it out the other side and could finally get back to the campsite for a well earned barbecue.
Sitting out in the evening sunshine was the perfect way to end my fantastically memorable 26th birthday, but the adventure was far from over… The following day we were heading to Disneyland!
Theme parks are not usually our thing, but I’d visited nearly 20 years earlier with my family and had created some of my fondest childhood memories. Stephen, however, had never visited before, but it’s one of those things you have to experience at least once in your lifetime, and we couldn’t wait!
As we made our way inside the main park I couldn’t help but be taken back to my 8 year old self, looking up at the magical scenery that surrounded us. The bright colours and cheery music hadn’t changed a bit, only this time I had a greater appreciation for all of the work that went behind it. It’s funny how certain places can evoke really strong feelings of nostalgia, even after so much time had passed.
Thankfully we had another beautifully sunny day, and we spent it wandering around both the main park and the Walt Disney Studios, reliving childhood memories and making new ones together. It was great just wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere, but throughout the afternoon we also enjoyed a number of the accessible attractions that are on offer, including one of my favourites- the Studio Tram Tour, where you get a dramatic behind-the-scenes look at how stunts are filmed.
As we explored each separate area within the parks, we got transported to so many different worlds, but we particularly liked visiting the “Wild West”. The attention to detail was unbelievable, they even had horse and cart tracks imprinted into the ground!
With the sun starting to dip low, we stopped for dinner in an old saloon-style restaurant, and it felt great to finally stop for a breather. We’d had a sensory overloaded day, but it had been amazing- and it wasn’t quite over yet.
As day turned into night, crowds gathered around the castle for Disney’s famous illuminations show. Funnily enough, we were both so tired that we had contemplated leaving after dinner, but we are so thankful that we decided to stay for a couple of hours longer, as the illuminations ended up being a real highlight for us! The clock struck 10 and the castle came to life in a mix of fireworks, projections, laser lights, flames and dancing water jets- all to the soundtracks of some of Disney’s best movies. It was even more impressive than we could have imagined, and this little paragraph could never do it justice!
It was the perfect way to end another memorable day.
Making the most of our final full day in France, we said “bonjour” to the capital city- Paris! Stephen doesn’t enjoy driving into busy cities, but we enjoy public transport in foreign countries even less, so we hesitantly followed the campsite wardens instructions and drove straight around the Boulevard Périphérque (the M25 of Paris), and RIGHT into the city centre. Surprisingly, it went much smoother than expected, and soon enough the Eiffel Tower loomed magnificently over us. After parking in one of the many accessible on-street spaces nearby, we went for a wander.
The hustle and bustle of the city created a calm buzz, and with the springtime sunshine blazing once again couples were relaxing out on the lush green grass, having picnics without a care in the world. You could easily see why Paris gets called the “City of love”.
We were already having such a memorable trip we were certain that a day in the city couldn’t live up to the previous couple of days, but we were wrong.
Neither of us have ever visited Paris before, so high on our agenda was another “bucket list” item- a trip up the Eiffel Tower! After exploring underneath the spectacular tower, realising how much bigger it was than we had ever imagined, we made our way through security towards the lift.
Wheelchair accessibility was surprisingly good other than the fact that we couldn’t access the very top floor (they offer cheaper tickets for anyone not visiting the top though). We were straight up in the next available lift, and stopped at the lowest floor first, then up to the second. At 377ft high we had amazing views across Paris, and the gentle breeze was a welcome feeling with the afternoon sun beating down through completely cloudless skies.
It was hard to believe that just a week earlier I had no idea about Stephen’s plans, now here we were, up the Eiffel Tower looking down over the city’s skyline, broken up by the glistening Seine- It was like something from a dream! Maybe surprises aren’t always so bad (but I’d definitely still rather know!)
Our first caravan trip overseas was definitely one to remember, and we’ve had great fun reminiscing about it as I’ve been writing this. We absolutely cannot wait to explore more of Europe in the future!