A mini-break to Arras with a toddler in tow

Vimy Memorial Toddler StandingWe did something we haven’t done before last weekend – we went on a mini-break as a family. As we were warned by others who’ve trod the path before us, these aren’t like the mini-breaks of old with lazy breakfasts, sight seeing all day and a bottle of local wine each night. This was a trip punctuated by playground stops, sandcastles and Peppa Pig on the iPad.

Having said that, we did design it around what we wanted to see and do, whilst making sure we went to (hopefully) toddler-friendly places. We’d wanted to go to Arras for a while – particularly my husband who knows a lot about WWI – and there was so much to see around the area that was only just over an hour’s drive from the Eurotunnel.

It was generally a real success but we had to allow for a few more tantrums – actually eruptions – now than even a few months ago, and for the fact that she’s much more aware of what’s going on around her (and has something to say about it).

What worked well:

  • Our gite – a converted barn with lots of floor space and a cosy room for her with a rocking horse and puppet in (untangling those strings wasn’t the most fun I’ve had)
  • The stop off at Calais beach as we left the Eurotunnel – lots of sand, sea to paddle in and sand dunes to hurtle down (again and again)
  • Exploring the trenches at Vimy – it was incredible for us to see and she loved running through the ‘tunnels’ and exploring, although we couldn’t do the full one hour tour underground as we thought she’d get bored
  • The Vimy Canadian War Memorial – lots of steps to climb up and statues to look at
  • Our daily picnics (even though one was in our car in the rain) – she loved the variety of food, too
  • Giving her new toys the day before to take with us – particularly Thomas the train and a big sticker book
  • Seeing just 2/3 sights a day – although we could have packed in a lot more that was enough for her

What didn’t work so well:

  • The Arras Wellington Quarry Museum – we thought all was good when she agreed to wear a WWI Helmet at the start of the trip – what we didn’t realise is that she’d be scared by the loud noise as soon as the tour started, so she and my husband left and sat outside for an hour while I went on the tour (sorry…)
  • Our trip to a French supermarket – it started off well but not being able to go on the car ride and play with the gumball machines until we’d finished packing our trolley full of crepes and Milka prompted a sudden meltdown mid-shop
  • Looking around Arras – we took her pushchair which meant she was determined to try and push it through all the streets, which didn’t make for a relaxing stroll. The drizzle and the fact it was almost lunchtime didn’t help

Would we do it again? Definitely. Without the aid of Peppa and Thomas? Probably not.



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