Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Discount Shopping Heaven for Beauty Junkies: Dover to Calais by Ferry

Dover to Calais ferry trip, P&O Ferries | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
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At the beginning of last week I went on a little expedition and did something I haven't done since I was 17: j'ai voyagĂ© en France en ferry (I travelled to France by ferry)!

The last time I crossed over the English Channel was with my parents on a holiday to Brittany in 1989 (I'm the youngest of four so it was their last holiday with one of their children before we were ALL grown up enough to go on our own holidays) and it did seem like a lifetime ago. So when I was contacted by P&O Ferries and offered the chance to visit Calais on a day trip via ferry from Dover I was curious as to what it'd be like as an adult. It's amazing how you take the organising of trips for granted as a kid (or even a young adult as I was then) because I remember NOTHING about having to be at a certain place at a certain time, remembering tickets, passports or anything...!

As Keith was unavailable (i.e. couldn't get time off work at this time of year) I asked my two lovely friends Lisa and Michelle if they wanted to come and spend the day with me, checking out what Calais had to offer and to see what the trip over would be like. Unfortunately Michelle got a chest infection at the eleventh hour (poor thing!) so it was up to Lisa and I to get the Christmas spirit kicked off with a day in the French port after catching the ferry from Dover.

So how did the trip go, what did we do, and what can I recommend? Let's start with the ferry trip...

Dover to Calais ferry trip, P&O Ferries | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle

The P&O Ferries experience

Going at the very end of November meant that the ferry was extremely quiet - I'm sure it's not like that in the height of summer but it was nice to seemingly have the ferry to ourselves! It meant we didn't really have any queuing to do anywhere so we sailed through passport control [pun intended]. As I didn't have the car (Keith wanted to drive the 18 miles to his work rather than walk it, how selfish can you get? 😏) we went as foot passengers.

THE LOVELY FEMALE MEMBER OF STAFF SHOWED US EXACTLY WHERE TO GO AND THEN PROMPTLY ARRANGED FOR US TO HAVE A FREE BREAKFAST

The first thing I must do is praise the P&O Ferries staff for being absolutely wonderful. Every member of staff we came into contact with was friendly, polite and incredibly helpful. In fact we shared a cab with a couple of P&O employees from Dover train station to the terminal and I insisted on paying as they got the cab first. They didn't know I was reviewing the experience for a blog, but when we arrived the lovely female employee showed us exactly where to go and then promptly arranged for us to have a free breakfast as a thank you.

How nice was that...?

Dover to Calais ferry trip, P&O Ferries | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Above: the newer of the two ferries we sailed on, this was the Spirit of France on the way back. Very bright, very clean and spacious.

We did actually sail out on a morning with gale force 8 winds, so unfortunately the trip over was pretty choppy. I'm not affected too badly by it, but Lisa isn't so happy about the motion of a ferry so only I had the breakfast. It was a good, hearty English breakfast, but my only criticism was that the one tea they had on offer was standard Tetley - very few establishments these days don't offer you at least green tea, peppermint or fruit teas. (I don't drink tea with milk and am not a fan of black tea.) Some herbal options please, P&O!

Duty free shopping - heaven for beauty junkies

This is the part where I was actually salivating. You know when you shop online and manage to get a discount code for makeup and beauty products? Well, the duty-free onboard a P&O ferry is pretty amazing, especially where beauty is concerned. Just check out some of the brands that were available tax free (20% off RRP):

Smashbox, Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder, Benefit, OPI, Bare Minerals, Givenchy, Soap & Glory, Clarins, Clinique... the list goes on. Plus ALL the perfumes you can think of.

Therefore if you're a beauty junkie and you want to stock up, knowing that everything is discounted, THIS is the way to do it. It's quite literally beauty junkie heaven.

P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Like the P&O staff I mentioned before, the staff in the duty-free section were out-of-their-way helpful. Lisa was after a specific lipstick in a true orange and couldn't find one, but the assistant knew where to find one and Lisa came away really happy with a tangerine-coloured lippie and several other bits and pieces as well. I stocked up on a few essentials like my Bare Minerals Mineral Veil and Touche Eclat which I'd run out of, as well as getting a couple of gift sets for Christmas presents.

(I'm not going to list them here as the relevant people may be reading this!)

P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Dior makeup \ P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
OPI nail polish \ P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
I honestly could have gone absolutely mad - when you know everything is duty free it's hard to resist the temptation to throw EVERYTHING into your basket. My advice? Make a list of what you're after before you go. Think of all the products you use regularly, and of all the products your friends and family use so you know what to get them in duty free. Everyone likes receiving their favourite perfume or aftershave as a gift, don't they...?

Eating out and things to do in Calais

I'd already looked up where I wanted to eat lunch online, so it was off to the Café de Paris after grabbing a cab at the ferry terminal.

Cafe de Paris, Calais \ Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Our choices were somewhat limited for places that were open - several restaurants were closed on a Monday (more on that in a bit) and then many places close every day at 2:30pm, so you have to plan ahead a little and make sure you don't lose track of time and find yourself hungry at 3pm with nowhere to go.

Café de Paris was lovely - it had a nice atmosphere and pretty chandeliers (see above) - but the waitress didn't attempt to speak English to us and the menu was all in French so be warned if your French is lacking! Luckily my French is passable and Lisa's husband is French and they regularly go to Paris, so we were fine.

As with most restaurants in France, the food was delicious. I had escargots as a starter (you know, when in Rome...) and a huge, beautifully presented salad which totally defeated me - I NEVER leave food, that's how huge it was.

Then it was onto looking round Calais:

Calais Town Hall, Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Lisa and I in front of the beautiful Calais Town Hall.

Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Above: a tarte with my name on it. Literally.

The Burghers of Calais sculpture by Rodin \ Christmas shopping and eating in Calais, France | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
As we went on a Monday we soon discovered to our misfortune that Monday seems to be a "everything's closed" day which we didn't know - more than half of the shops we would have gone into were shut, which was such a shame. Luckily the weather held out (despite pouring rain predicted) and we went and saw Calais's beautiful town hall and the well-known sculpture The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin.

We did visit a few pĂątisseries that were open which were filled with Christmassy delights - I bought as much as I could carry, though unfortunately I couldn't think of a practical way to get that "St Catherine" tarte home with me...!

Duty free shopping - gifts and drink

On the return ferry we checked out the duty free again, this time with serious shopping in mind (obviously you don't want to be carrying bags with you all day if you're a foot passenger, so getting most of your purchases on the way back makes more sense).

This ferry - the Spirit of France - was a newer ferry so the duty free was even bigger again than the Pride of Burgundy on the way out. There are so many brands and products which would be perfect for Christmas shopping:

Designer sunglasses, Jellycat soft toys, wine and spirits, Christmas chocolate (Toblerones, etc.), foodie gifts, Radley handbags, Cath Kidston products, all the beauty products I mentioned earlier and much more besides.

P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
P&O Ferries duty free \ Christmas shopping | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 fashion & lifestyle
Above: I couldn't resist a picture of my blog's namesake drink: Lamb Navy Rum.

I stocked up on things I could physically carry for Christmas gifts (and I might have treated myself to one or two small things!), though alcohol was a problem because it's so heavy. If I could have carried them I would have bought a bottle of Baileys, a gin and a whiskey which always go down well at Christmas. The duty free prices mean that you can stock up the drinks cupboard for Christmas at a hugely discounted price which is SUCH a good idea if you enjoy a little tipple during the festive season.

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My Dover to Calais recommendations and tips

So Lisa and I had a lovely day, despite the grey weather and the lack of shops being open. However, if I were to do the trip again I wouldn't go as a foot passenger, I'd go by car for a few reasons:

  1. You can take advantage of the duty free on the ferry without worrying about how to carry it home.
  2. You can drive to one of the shopping centres just out of town to stock up on cheese and wine for Christmas.
  3. Ferry tickets can be really, really cheap - prices vary depending on when you go and whether you need the ticket to be flexible, but we went on a weekday and return tickets were about £50 for the two of us. However, if you take the car, prices start at just £39.50*. You will have made your money back by the time you've bought two Toblerones, a bottle of whiskey and some Smashbox primer.
*There is an even better offer on at the moment with P&O Ferries - see below...


I did a little research online for places to go if you've gone by car - these are the recommended places to go:

  1. CitĂ© Europe - in the village of Coquelles just 15 minutes drive from the ferry terminal, it has 147 retail outlets, 20 restaurants in the CitĂ© Gourmande area and parking for over 4,000 cars. 
  2. Auchan Hypermarket - also in Coquelles, you can get wines and beers and everything you need for Christmas lunch with savings of up to 20%. The complex it's situated in has three restaurants, clothes and shoe shops and a Belgian chocolate shop.
  3. Calais Vins - the place to go for wine where you can taste everything before you buy, plus they now produce their own range of beer and sell cheese too. Just on the edge of the town centre.
  4. Inter Caves - this French wine chain in the town centre specialises in bag-in-the-box wines which are perfect for parties and don't lose their quality for up to a month after opening.
  5. Calais Christmas market - with up to 80 chalets, Forum Gambetta in the town centre will be a winter (shopping) wonderland on Wednesday 13th December. Free entry.

There is a fantastic offer at the moment with P&O Ferries if you book before 10th December and travel by 17th December 2017: Foot passenger tickets are only £10 per person and a car is just £35 (with up to nine passengers). See here for details of how to book.

The question is: Is Calais a worthwhile sightseeing destination? I'd say no, but the Brits have certainly got it right by looking upon Calais as THE place for discount shopping. If you plan ahead, make a list and take the car you'll have found the perfect, most convenient way to get a huge bulk of your Christmas gifts and Christmas supplies shopping done in one day. If you go when the Christmas market is on it will make all the difference.

So I may not have done a "booze cruise" as it's fondly referred to, but I'd definitely recommend a "beauty cruise" and a "cheese and wine cruise". At the prices that P&O offer you could easily blitz Christmas in one day at the fraction of the price it costs to buy it all at home.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON USING FERRY TRIPS FOR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING? COMMENT BELOW, OR TAKE IT TO TWITTER @NOTLAMB!

Catherine


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by P&O Ferries (click here for my full disclosure)All content is original, however, and opinions are my own and 100% honest.
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15 comments

  1. Oh.Em.Gee I had no idea duty free shopping was so great on the ferry! It's just like Heathrow! Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention Catherine, great post. By the way I was wondering...Did you co-ordinate your outfit to the ferry colours? ;-) xx

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    1. It WAS just like Heathrow Michelle - but without the high price of air fares so it's really worthwhile. And I should say Yes I did coordinate my outfit (and wear a fisherman's hat?!) but I really didn't...!!

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  2. It was such a shame I couldn't join you! I'm really glad the weather held out for you, and how amazing is the offering on the duty free!!!
    Michelle xx
    http://www.thebarefacedchic.co.uk

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    1. Aww it was such a shame you couldn't come, but I hope you're on the mend now Michelle x

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  3. I LOVED this post!! I'm missing France--we go every summer, and last year we took an extra trip to Paris around this time! The Christmas shopping was great. MY favorite discounted beauty shop is CityPharma on rue du Four and Rue Bonaparte. But the Duty Free at CDG or any airport--you cannot beat it!

    I wanna go on that Ferry!!!!

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    1. Oh how lucky of you that you go to France every summer Catherine! Being outside on the ferry across the channel in the summer would be lovely I bet x

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  4. I loved to read this post, we are going the times a year to the uk. Always with PO. For 17 years now. And I never bought cosmetics. It is much more expensive then buying it here at Douglas. The staff is always very kind indeed!

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    1. That's great that you go with P&O so often Nancy, aren't the staff so wonderful?!

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  5. Oh I LOVED reading this Catherine. It sounds like a mixed-bag of a day, but your tips are excellent. I wish I lived closer to Dover xxxx

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    1. Yes it can be a long trek to Dover Liz depending on where you live, but even if you're visiting the area it's so worth it if you plan the day x

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  6. Note to self: next time check weather forecast and re-book if there are gale force 8 winds! Still, weather and choppy seas aside, it was a fun outing and it was great to spend the day with you. The duty free was ridiculously good, and I'm sure the Christmas markets will be amazing when those fully open in a few days. xx

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    1. Awww poor you and the rocking boat Lisa!! đŸ€ą It was a lovely day though and I'm SO glad you got your orange lipstick, I should have got one myself! x

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  7. We've done the ferry a couple of times - once from Spain to UK and the other time France to UK. Both times were stay overs and the first time I felt so ill! The second time, I remembered to take a travel sickness pill which certainly did the job. I do love going on the ferry because, like you, I love looking around the duty free shopping! And the food is always good. I hope to get the chance to do it again some day :)
    Suzy xx
    www.suzyturner.com

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    1. Oh no Suzy! But at least you knew to take a travel sickness pill the next time, they do work. The duty free is great - makes you forget you're on a boat (until it lurches, of course)! x

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  8. I love the colour of your hat! Where is it from?

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