How to do a beach holiday in the UK and France in one trip – with just 35 minutes by train

LOOKING FOR AN AFFORDABLE SUMMER HOLIDAY BREAK, MY FAMILY couldn’t decide whether to stay in the UK or move overseas.

And we were torn between a road trip and staying in one place.
The solution, it turns out, is to do both.

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A holiday on the Kent coast can be a launch pad for a visit to FranceCredit:

Two mini-breaks, one on either side of the Channel, linked by a quick flight over the Eurotunnel.

Marlie Holiday Park in New Romney, Kent, is the first stop on this cross-Channel adventure.

For adults, the appeal here is in the platinum pavilions.

This two-bedroom unit is large enough to have an en-suite bathroom in the main room, has surprisingly spacious living areas and an outdoor terrace for a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed.

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Adventure on a door-to-door safari in Port Lympne, Kent

For children, space to stretch out is a secondary consideration to the activity list.

Segway rentals, ceramic painting, go-karts, and hand-painting are on the menu, and the indoor pool is happily splashed.

The real joy, however, comes from exploring the nearby Kent coast.

Romney Marsh Nature Reserve is right next to the park, and a looping walking path lets girls go in search of nature.

PRETTY LITTLE VILLAGES

They begin to spot signs of life, such as large holes in the ground leading to burrows. And, even when no bunny appears, the girls are mesmerized by the swooping butterflies.

A few minutes away, Dymchurch Beach offers a sandy treat.

Shameless bribes are needed for the girls to leave after a long afternoon of jumping waves.

But the highlight of the surprise is Dungeness. An air of the end of the world emerges from this ultra flat and marshy landscape.

It is dotted with wooden shacks – the kind you imagine white-bearded fishermen living in.

The best views come from the top of the black-painted lighthouse.

There are 169 steps to the top and the girls climb them with enthusiasm.

Dungeness on the Kent coast feels like being at the end of the world

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Dungeness on the Kent coast feels like being at the end of the worldCredit: Getty

From the top, we look at the English Channel which we will cross the next day.

We had opted for a quick trip on the Eurotunnel, just 35 minutes from France, but allow extra time to check in and go through passport control – at least two hours is reasonable.

However, the ease of travel was perfect for our short escape.

The area around Calais is often seen as a place to dash past to get somewhere else. But it is a region of pretty little villages, woods and stunning coastal scenery.

Our home here is Camping La Bien Assise in the pretty town of Guînes, just a 40 minute drive from the Eurotunnel terminal.

The three bedroom mobile homes are much tighter than our lodge in Kent, but most of the time is spent outside on the terrace.

Or, in the case of girls, repeatedly zooming down the waterslide in the pool.

Ironically, the best view in the Calais region is . . . England.

It’s not quite right on Cap Gris-Nez, though. This rocky promontory offers great views in all directions. There is also educational signage about birds and sea life.

But Cap Gris-Nez happens to be the closest point in France to England.

The colorful seaside houses on the northern coast of France give you a different perspective of the English Channel

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The colorful seaside houses on the northern coast of France give you a different perspective of the English ChannelCredit: Getty

And the girls are amazed to see the white cliffs of Dover across the water.

The biggest attraction here is Nausicaá, in Boulogne-sur-mer, which boasts of being the largest aquarium in Europe. Get there early to avoid parking hell.

Our happy place, however, ends up being a few miles to the north.

The seaside town of Wimereux has colorful, quirky buildings and a string of cafes along the waterfront.

More importantly, it has a walled pool in the sea, fed by the tides.

This is perfect for swimming without having to worry about the Channel currents.

The girls chase each other through the water, playing an incomprehensible game about crocodiles and mermaids.

They don’t realize how well they’re swimming in the process, and it’s magical to watch two newbie swimmers forget all nervousness in the water.

After a week on both sides, we learned that the English Channel is not just a crossing. It is a playground to be enjoyed.

GO: Twin center of the chain

GETTING THERE : Eurotunnel tickets cost from £87 per vehicle with up to nine passengers each way for a Short Stay Saver ticket. See eurotunnel.com.

STAYING THERE: Four nights’ rental in a Platinum lodge at Park Holidays’ Marlie Holiday Park is from £299, based on four sharing.

See parkholidays.com. Four nights in a mobile home rental at La Bien Assise campsite near Calais from €184.80 with Vacanceselect.

See holidaysselect.com.

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