North will surprise again

Impressive sight: The Ch�teau de Pierrefonds
Impressive sight: The Ch�teau de Pierrefonds
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In these days of austerity, any little savings count.

And for me any time not spent driving a car, or even worse being in neutral in a 
traffic jam, counts double.

So a saving of more than three hours going from 
Preston to Hull, plus nearly 90 miles’ worth of juice, rather than slugging it down to Dover is a bonus.

On the ferry, throw your bags in the cabin, have a steak and chips, watch a film then a nightcap watching a half-
decent singer.

That’ll do.

And, after cruising through customs, none of the hanging around, hassle and increasing taxes of airports.

But what you’re actually doing is opening up a whole swathe of northern Europe.

That includes wandering around the beautiful city of Bruges eating oliebollen, fried doughballs sprinkled with caster sugar.

Showing your son the ultimate consequence of wars – the rows and rows of gravestones at the Somme didn’t inspire nationalistic glory but only a time to reflect on an 
appalling waste of life.

The castles and forests of northern France – Château de Pierrefonds, Château de Coucy and Château de 

In fact you may have already seen Pierrfonds – the castle has often been used as a location including the 1998 version of The Man in the Iron Mask and acting as Camelot for the BBC series Merlin.

And then there’s the fake castles and piped-music forests of Disneyland Paris – intelectuals may have derided it in 1992 as a ‘cultural Chernobyl’ but it’s celebrating its 20th 

And being the Channel side of Paris it’s also very accessible – and the kids loved it, proving Walt knows how to keep young ones mesmerised and entertained better than those from the Sorbonne.

Then there’s the classic days out. Gauping at through the windows at the delights on offer in the patisseries of Vieux Lille, the gorgeous cobbled Old Town of the northern city.

And Paris itself, with all its splendour.

All within a two-hour radius of whichever base you choose.

Our base was spot on.

La Croix du Vieux Pont offered a cosy caravan after each day’s exploits, a place to slump, warm yourself up and relax with a full-bodied red.

It wasn’t just places, it was adventures too.

Archery, climbing, trapese, zip wire, canoes, table tennis, fishing, swimming, cycling – all on site.

My nine-year-old was very impressed that the metal tipped, feathered arrows would probably kill an imaginary foe at 30 yards.

By the time we slumped back on to our cabin beds on the ferry home, it was job done.

Fun, culture, adventure, fine food, new experiences and even time to relax with a full-bodied red – that’ll do.