Living in the south of England means a day trip to France can be an easy and relatively cheap excursion.
Many of us oldies pop over the channel to stock up on booze, or to enjoy a decent French meal. But recently I had the grandchildren to entertain so I treated them to a visit to Nausicaa, the award-winning aquarium in Boulogne-sur-Mer. On a wet and windy May bank holiday Saturday, it proved to be the perfect way to keep them entertained.
Our adventure started with the P&O ferry crossing from Dover to Calais. The ship was very busy so we took advantage of upgrading to the Club Lounge for just £12 per person. I felt this was great value as it gave us comfy seats by a picture window, complimentary tea, coffee and even a glass of bubbly for the grown ups, and soft drinks for the little ones.
On arrival it was a quick 30 minute drive along the motorway to Boulogne. Parking on the sea front outside Nausicaa is free, but gets very busy, so we made use of the underground car park where there is a small charge. On a wet day you can take the lift directly from the car park into the Aquarium and not have to run the gauntlet of the driving rain on the prom.
Be sure to pick up a map as the Aquarium is vast and it helps to know where you want to go. The information around the site is all easy to understand and helpfully is in English as well as French.
The emphasis is on global warming and the need for us all to be aware of the impact it is having on our world, especially marine life and the great oceans and seas. Its aquariums are home to more than 36,000 fish and other marine creatures, ranging from microscopic plankton to large sharks.
We all enjoyed a 10 minute 4D film giving a birds eye view of weather conditions and landscapes affected by the power of the sea. The children were enthralled by the special effects, smells and sensations that came our way!
Other highlights were the sea lions swimming so close to us, under and through a glass tunnel. Feeding time was particularly fascinating as they all responded by name and seemed to enjoy the audience applauding their every move.
The sharks drew the crowds as they lazily swam through a lagoon pool alongside some huge turtles.
Penguins hopped about in their special enclosure, some nesting comfortably under rocks and some diving in and out of the water, their comical antics providing entertainment for all.
The touch pool was a definite highlight with giant rays coming to say hello and allowing small hands to stroke them.
Nausicaa has a choice of eateries – the Bistro Cote Plage, Tropical Lagoon Bar and Foyer Bar, all offering popular French fare. But we had taken a picnic and as the rain held off, we went onto the beach just outside and the kids enjoyed a romp on the sand. Make sure you get a stamp on your hand so you can get back into the Aquarium afterwards!
Quote – James aged 10
“My favourite part of the Aquarium was watching the sea lions swimming around. You can stand on a glass floor and see them go underneath you, it was really cool. I also enjoyed the seal lion show where they did everything they were told to do and were really clever”.
Quote – Jessie aged 7
“I liked watching the jelly fish because they had music playing and it looked like they were dancing”.
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