I have a week in late July to explore the area from Calais to Strasbourg by car and then train to Paris. I would love to hear about suggested sites to visit and places to stay.
You have 2 possible general routes for that short journey, either through France (and tolls for the time you spend on the Autoroute), or through Belgium and Luxembourg (no tolls and my strong preference) and then out either via Metz or through Germany and down to Strasbourg.
Plenty of things to see in a week. Heck, with a week, you could spend half a day on the driving and 6 and a half days in the Black Forest, or you could have a week in Switzerland.
What sort of a person are you? What sort of things interest you?
Our trip will be a week in London and a week in Paris with a road trip in the middle. We plan to take the train from London to Calais. The Strasbourg endpoint allowed us to explore one side of the l'Hexagone. Perhaps we should turn the corner at Strasbourg and continue on south a bit before returning the rental car and heading to Paris by train.
We like to walk and bike. We want to eat and drink. We prefer spontaneous exploration over tour groups. We have been told the champagne region is worth visiting. Other than that, side trips and a zig-zag route is fine with us.
Very few of the Eurostar trains stop at Calais these days. Only a few trains going to Brussels stop there, none towards Paris. I can't yet see next year but I'm sure they won't add any more, and some may go.
At the moment only the following stop at Calais:
If anything went wrong it would be a long wait fro the next one.
Can I suggest you consider taking the Eurostar to Lille instead? It is still in Nord - Pas de Calais area, the car rental places are way more easy to get to, and many trains both to Paris and Brussels stop there.
If you like Champagne, that's on the French side, some people like Metz, Nancy and the Vosges, and all along the Route des Vins.
On the Belgian, Luxembourg, German side, consider Luxembourg, both City and rural, Brugge, Gent, Trier, the Mosel Valley, the Middle Rhine, the Black Forest, Dinant, Deutsche Weinstrasse, Freiburg in Breisgau, Genegenbach, and Basel, and dozens more.
Can I suggest picking up Michelin Green guides and looking through all the many many choices.
I admit that I've never been to Calais. One reason for that is that I get seasick, and the ferry route has never worked out for our longer-term plans. It seems too "nostalgic" for a practical vacation. Do you have some specific reason for Calais? (I will say that I have stayed in Dinard, which has a similar ferry-resort relationship with England, and an immense English visitor base. But it has a similar climate to England. Who needs that?)
You need some coastal personal "musts" to go through Calais. Perhaps if you haven't been to Bruges or Gent, or there are some French gardens in bloom at that time? I love Antwerp, and you could easily stay there to visit Brussels, Gent, and Bruges as train daytrips. But there's no point in taking a car to cities like those. You'd use a car for the smaller medieval centers like Tongeren or the open-air building museum in Bokrijk.
Although Lille (FR) is gritty and urban (like Paris ... ), it has the nickname "Little Paris". I went there specifically for the Art museum, but it's worth an overnight visit, and Eurostar is convenient and cheap if bought well in advance.
Certainly you'll visit Louvre-Lens if you stay in France. I'm very fond of Belgium, but I haven't seen the most southern part. Namur and Dinant are often cited tourist towns, but I get the idea that southern Belgium has some very scenic national parks with rocky hiking and scrambling.
My work sent me to Calais, Fr and it was my fisrt taste of France. I enjoyed my stay there and at the time it i considered it small town, somewhat easy to get around, but i have to admit, i was driving from the hotel to work and back and not alot of tourist time. But i would love to go back and see how things have changed.
see how things have changed.
The Burg(h)ers are still there. The tower is still there. All the tourist hotels and motels are still there (for people spending the night before or after a crossing). Most of the cheap booze places have gone because of the huge drop in English daytrippers on booze cruises.
Most shoppers now go to the Cite Europe mall next to the Eurotunnel.
I often stay overnight after a Crossing, don't ever go into the town because it is so tacky, and get out of town as fast as I can the next morning.
In dozens of trips through I've only gone into the centre once. Maybe it has improved but I see it as one big ferry port with all the associated negatives. I do tend to fill my boot with specialities such as food, electronics and cycle bits and pieces at the two hypermarches though, as long as the exchange rate is going the right way.