With the past two Easters having been subject to travel restrictions, 2022 offers a fantastic opportunity to celebrate. For an easy Easter break that offers a true taste of France, Hauts de France has a great range of options, with activities ranging from coastal walking to chocolate tasting and floating gardens to fairytale chateaux. This part of Northern France is the UK’s closest international self-drive destination and easily accessible by ferries and Eurotunnel into Calais, or Eurostar into Lille. For inspiration, Hauts-de-France Tourism has created a specially curated website, with a tempting range of itinerary and accommodation.
Chocoholics Rejoice: Easter bells, chocolate fish and oeufs de Paques
In France, it is the Easter bells that deliver the Easter eggs to children rather than the Easter bunny. Chocolate-lovers of all ages will be delighted by the creations on offer in the Hauts-de-France region, with Easter chocolate reaching a whole new level in the expert hands of the local artisan chocolatiers.
In pretty Amiens, chocolatiers Maison Jean Trogneux are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Famous for the macarons – a regional specialty featuring almonds and honey, they also produce the most beautiful chocolates, and Easter is a highlight of the year. Look out for traditional ‘Friture de Paques’ – fish and shell shaped Easter chocolates; delicate praline chocolate eggs; Easter bells and a fantastic choice of characterful chocolate rabbits, chicks and ducks.
Often described as the Venice of the North and recently voted in the top three best destinations to visit in Europe, the lovely city of Amiens is the ideal location for an Easter break. With its majestic UNESCO-listed gothic cathedral – one of France’s most impressive – and pretty cobbled streets and fascinating Jules Verne’s house to visit, it is also home to a 300 hectares of ‘hortillonnages’ or floating water gardens, which have been in operation since the Middle Ages, providing much of the city’s flowers and vegetables. Now comprising a combination of working farms and more than a thousand private gardens, they are a highlight of any visit and usually explored on a barge or small boat. Spring is a lovely time to visit, with spring flowers bringing the gardens to life.
Base yourself in the heart of the city, at the historic Hotel le Prieure, just a few steps away from the Cathedral. Prices from £86pp for two nights, including breakfast and free bike rental, based on two sharing.
Walking around the Wissant Cove- Enjoy the magnificent Opal Coast this Easter:
The Opal coast, so-called for the effects of its magical iridescent light, stretches for 75 miles and offers a wonderfully diverse coastal walking route to explore, with magnificent cliffs, wide sandy beaches, dunes, marshes and estuaries. The magnificent Gris-Nez and Blanc Nez headlands, located between Calais and Boulogne, are a highlight and the Wissant Cove, with 7.5 miles of sandy beach – which nestles between them, is punctuated by small hidden villages along the way, perfect for dipping into en route. The ‘Route de la Corniche’ – or coastal road – makes for a rewarding walking route or (slightly more challenging!) bike ride.
Treat yourself with a stay at the Hotel Atlantic in the attractive seaside town of Wimeraux – an ideal easy Easter holiday destination, around half an hour from Calais. With huge sea-facing windows, soak up the views from the comfort of your room, and relax your weary legs in the sauna, steam room or perhaps book a massage. Choose between two restaurants, both of which use the freshest local ingredients. At the Michelin starred ‘La Liegoise’, sample former Ritz chef Benjamin Delpierre’s superb menu with dishes such as sole with wild garlic, langoustine royals or carpaccio of sea bass, or tuck into generous seafood platters at the more laid-back ‘L’Aloze’ brasserie. For those feeling brave enough, there’s even a freshwater pool on the beach just in front of the hotel.
Prices from £201 per night based on two sharing a sea from room, including breakfast and a sauna staying at The Atlantic Hotel, Wimereux.
Family-friendly Easter in a Chateau:
With its grand castle, fabulous gardens and beautiful forest beyond, Compiegne was once a favourite of French royalty. As the largest neoclassical French castle, it ranks alongside Versailles and Fontainebleau as one of the three most important royal residences in France. These days, it also makes the perfect destination for a family-friendly Easter break, just a two-hour drive from Calais. As well as the chateau itself, there are with plenty of activities on offer in the area, including networks of easy cycle tracks through the forest, ziplining, hiking and horseriding. Other family highlights in the region include Parc Asterix – ideal for those looking for a castle-themed adrenalin fix and fairytale Chateau de Pierrefronds – the magical setting of Camelot in the BBC TV series.
For the all-round castle experience, stay at the nearby Château Le Quesnoy, dating back to Napoleon III, which offers the perfect balance between indulgence and a fun ‘non-stuffy’ stay and plenty to keep everyone entertained within its 27 acres of grounds. With a football pitch, table tennis, a play area with swings and a slide and a menagerie of animals including Leon the resident peacock, there are also bikes available to hire. The highlight has to be going to bed in the type of castle usually only read about in bedtime stories.
In the evenings if you book half board, Clary will cook up some fantastic local dishes and is happy to make the kids’ favourites too for an easy life. For some rare ‘me’ time, a local therapist is available for a massage treatment with the option of a babysitter.
Prices from £138 for one night based on four guests in the family suite at Chateau Le Quesnoy with interconnecting rooms and an en suite bathroom, bike hire and breakfast.
Eurotunnel fares from Folkestone to Calais from £89 return, ferries from Dover to Calais from £118 return.
For further ideas on activities and accommodation in Hauts-de-France, visit www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk
To find out more and to plan a visit to Hauts-de-France, visit Hauts-de-France Tourism – Official Website (hautsdefrancetourism.com)