Friday, 18 April 2008

The Magical Mystery Tour

I’ve just taken our family of six on a Magical Mystery Tour. Having coordinated our diaries some time ago, we told our four children to pack an overnight bag, their swimming costumes and wear a warm coat. The penny didn’t drop until we got off at Newhaven that we were going to France. Amazing how even teenagers thrill in the pleasures of a mystery.

I’d discovered there was a deal for £10 each way if you take the 8am boat and return on a 12.30 boat back from Dieppe the next day. It’s a four hour journey, but easily taken up with a sumptuous picnic, a liberal dose of library books and messing about on the deck with the wind in our hair.

Dieppe is an incredibly unspoiled and picturesque town. On arrival we headed straight for Les Bains, a new thellasotherapy centre at the far end of the beach. The under-18s went for the waterplay area, including a heated outdoor saltwater pool, and the over18s among us booked in for a Turkish bath and sauna. After generally lolling about and exploring the old town, full of one-off shops, we headed off for the old quai for a supper of moules marinieres avec frittes, pizzas and chocolate mousse. This place is heaven for seafood lovers. Later we sodjurned to an ancient hotel whose crumbliness was made up for by starched white sheets and plentiful hot water.

After a breakfast of croissants and coffee the next day, we split off to investigate the castle and the aquarium, before stocking up on supplies for the boat. Around the corner of the hotel was a tiny, unpretentious bakery that sold 20 kinds of home made artisanal bread baked in their own wood-fired bread oven.

The wonderful market yielded salami, cheese, tomatoes, fruit, cakes - we have so much to learn about honouring our farmers, fishermen and food suppliers by buying from them - and we leisurely strolled on to the boat for the journey home. All of which reminded me that adventures needn’t cost the earth – the entire trip for 6 cost £360 including travel, hotel, food, pool and entrances, and was about as light as can be.

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