Last week I shared the first half of our October roadtrip through Scotland, England, Belgium and France in our campervan (you can find it right here if you missed it). This week, I’ll pick up the second half of our adventure which saw us visiting Disneyland and Paris with a short stopover in the Lake District on our way home to the north. When I left you, we had just enjoyed a wander round the majestic gardens of the Palace of Versailles – which take some beating to be honest. But we had a few more things up our sleeve to impress the kids with, not least a trip to see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – this was their holiday after all. But first, basics: pitching up at the lovely Camping Maisons-Lafitte, a site we booked through Eurocamp Independent with views of the Seine, a shop, restaurant, and access to a train station in the pretty town centre which was just a short walk away. On the subject of campsites, one of the best things about our holiday were evenings spent in the campervan just eating, drinking and chatting until late. There’s a lot to be said for no TV, minimal technology and an enclosed space harbouring four people who really love each other (try it sometime!) Our kids are great company and we had some wonderful chats with them – my favourite memories will probably always be those very simple, special times.
DAY SIX – DISNEYLAND PARIS, PARC DISNEYLAND
Moving on from the love-fest, adventure awaited us at Disneyland Paris. Day six of our holiday meant getting up early and making our way to the train station to try and negotiate the 1 hr 15 minute journey to Disneyland – which is right next to the station at Marne-la-Vallée. Pigeon French aside, we managed to stumble our way through purchasing tickets (we had 3 days of this so by the end of the week we were doing it like pros. Well, pro-pigeons, anyway). In all honesty, my husband and I – and even the kids sometimes – really quite enjoyed trying out our French. The Paris rail network was easier than we thought it might be to navigate and we got to Disneyland in plenty of time for 10am opening. After bag checks and admissions we had finally arrived!
I should admit here that I am not really a theme park person. I know, how can I even call myself a blogger, right? In my defence, my anxious personality doesn’t generally lead me to seek out thrills and spills in my precious leisure time. But catching sight of the Sleeping Beauty Castle down the boulevard, I admit it – I was instantly reformed.
I think I managed around five rides during the day (get me!) but the remaining three members of my family tried anything and everything. Thankfully, even if you aren’t a big fan of rollercoasters, there are still plenty of other ways to spend your time. I loved watching the parades, the live shows, enjoying ‘baby rides’ as my kids called them – and generally just people-watching. My top tip in terms of rides (from my extensive experience 😉 ) was The Pirates of the Caribbean, which was really very good.
The highlight of the day though – and I think we all agreed on this – was the big 8pm finale, when Sleeping Beauty’s castle lights up in a spectacular display of fireworks, light and music. It’s impossible to put into words (or show in photos), quite how magical this was (I was feeling quite teary by the end, to be fair). My biggest tip on Disney would be to make sure you visit the main park and stay until the very final moments. I would honestly go back just to see it all again!
DAY SEVEN – WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
Day seven saw us making our way back to the station and ordering our tickets (with a bit more panache this time). By 10am, we were back at Disney, this time to enjoy a day at Walt Disney Studios, the second of the parks. I must admit, at this point I was feeling a bit weary after the long day that had just left us. My husband and I spent a week in Florida park-going many years ago, and I remember finding the pace a bit relentless at the time.
Thankfully, after visiting one of the park coffee vendors, I was feeling much brighter. My family scuttled off to the Twilight Tower of Terror and I launched into my routine of grabbing fast passes and mapping out the day. They soon returned, my youngest white-faced in the aftermath of the scary lift drop. He’s as adventurous as they come but I think that one was a bit much for even him!
We had a lovely day pottering around the rest of the park, choosing rides (oh Ratatouille!) and going to a live stunt car show. We seemed to have arrived outwith the local holiday period which meant the queues were relatively light. Tip time: We bought two separate sets of 1 day/1 park advance tickets, which seemed to offer much better value than the 2 day/2 park bundle. We also went for ‘mini’ tickets – which meant we could only visit through the week. Altogether, our tickets were around £175 per day (for the four of us) which considering everything that was available, seemed very reasonable (especially for the main park which had two extra hours of opening time). Before we knew it, our time at Disney was over though. We’d loved it but now we were ready for something else!
DAY EIGHT – PARIS
That something else was a sunny Saturday in the centre of Paris. The weather was fantastic while we were away and we were cursing ourselves for not packing some more summery attire. Then again, there weren’t many people in t-shirts and shorts around so we would likely have stuck out as ridiculously milky-skinned tourists. It doesn’t have to get far beyond 20 degrees for us Scots to peel off the Autumn gear!
By now, we were sailing through the whole buying-train-tickets thing, and our 30 minute journey to the centre was easy. When we arrived in the city, we had a wander round the lovely botanical gardens and then along the Seine, taking in views of beautiful Notre-Dame. Before long, the Eiffel Tower was in sight, but still a long way off, so we decided to hop on a bus tour. This was the best decision we made all day and it’s a fantastic way to see all the main sights of the city if, like us, you have younger travellers in tow.
We ooh-ed and aah-ed over all the passing sights before getting off at the Tower, where we took approximately 3040 photos. Where there are tourists there is tat of course, and we found ourselves getting pestered by vendors keen for us to part with our cash in exchange for selfie sticks and mini tower ornaments (we graciously declined). We grabbed some lunch and coffee from a nearby crepe stall and sat in the sunshine admiring the view in front of us. When you’re eating lunch with your favourite people in front of the Eiffel Tower, you have to admit that life is treating you rather well.
After lunch we took a walk to see the nearby Paris Statue of Liberty, a small-scale replica which was given to the city in 1889 and resides on the Île aux Cygnes, a man-made island on the Seine. After that, we hopped back on a bus to see some of the other sights, including the Moulin Rouge which has been high on my to-see list since I feel in love with its namesake movie (and Ewan McGregor of course), back in the naughties. (And yes, it’s back on the to-watch list. Along with In Bruges and Versailles and whatever else I can find that’s in any way connected to our trip).
We rounded off our day with a wander round the Galeries Lafayette shopping centre and some time spent admiring its beautiful domed ceiling. We popped into a nearby bistro and enjoyed a bite to eat, some wine, and a last lingering look at the bustling Paris streets. We made our way back to the train, and our campsite, feeling full of love for so many wordly treasures. Tomorrow we would start our journey homewards. But for tonight, we had only Paris on our minds.
DAYS NINE, TEN AND ELEVEN – PARIS TO CALAIS, THE LAKE DISTRICT AND HOME
Our Parisian dreams were rudely interrupted though, when we had to get up at 6am the next morning to make our journey back to the Eurotunnel. We had no detours to make this time, so our trip back to Calais was really very nice. As we drove through the French countryside, admiring the sunrise and the early morning mist through the windscreen, we felt a bit sad to say goodbye to our European adventure. The prospect of the flexi-plus lounge, sandwiches and Starbucks coffee at the terminal cheered us on though – silver linings often come disguised as breakfast, don’t you think?
Once we had arrived back in the UK we made our way northwards to the Lake District. It might be worth mentioning here that if, like us, you pass the Dartford Crossing on your trip you will have to pay a toll. This can be done via the government website (details are signposted on the crossing). We hadn’t known about this until we started doing our holiday research, but thankfully we didn’t need change or anything fiddly and it was easy to pay the fee online.
After another few hours of journeying time we had reached our favourite Lake District destination. Skelwith Fold near Ambleside has been one of our favourite UK caravan sites for years. Its long wooded drive and peaceful surroundings make it a perfect Autumn getaway. We holed up there for a couple of days, did a lot of walking, and basically just recharged and regrouped. We also spent a lot of time drinking coffee at vegan café Chesters by the River, which is just a short walk from the back of the site (past a lovely viewpoint on the way). Is it weird that going back to Chesters was one of the highlights of our whole holiday? The coffee is divine and their vegetable frittata is a must!
Before we knew it though, it was time to hit the road for home and say goodbye to our epic roadtrip. Things weren’t all bad – by now we were keen to get back to our homeland and be reunited with our dog. We also had Harry Potter on audiobook for the last leg of the journey – proof that no matter what you’re leaving behind, there is always something to look forward to.
Ten days, 2000 miles, four countries and a lifetime of memories.
Just one question remained unanswered.
When can we do it all again?
You might enjoy this 2 minute highlights video of our trip:
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