Three days after we got home from our camping holiday, it looked as though our roof box had exploded. This was the first opportunity to dry out the tent since we had returned off the ferry from France because, yippee! the sun is shining here at last. Don’t get me wrong, we had had plenty of sunshine on holiday, tonnes and tonnes of blasting actual true to life sun-ness. It’s the type of heat which makes you totally believe astronomy books describing the surface of our nearest and dearest star as being 5 000 to 5 800°C. (Cool space website here). And it’s a little different to the type we are used to here in Ireland, to be fair lads. On hols, the heat lasted up until the day we had to pack up to leave and then it rained, which to annoyed the life out of us.
We spent two weeks in a campsite in Challans in the Vendée region of France which is approximately four hours’ drive South from Cherbourg, if you don’t stop. Or six if you have a family so stop for a picnic lunch and visit a supermarket for sight-seeing purposes and to ‘do your first grocery shop’.
Oh how I love French supermarkets! They can be absolutely enormous and are faintly mysterious in that you never leave them with what you went in for in the first place. You may loose your children inside. There are so many exciting possibilities for dinner experimentation, although I’m not allowed to buy rabbit, frogs legs or snails. Or cheval (horse). I did mistakenly make everyone eat chocolate icecream with galettes made out of farine de blé noir. LOL silly me!! (I read the small print on the packaging afterwards, they are apparently better with savoury toppings but we all think they will still taste burnt – never again.)
Apart from food there are usually a host of amazing bargains to be had from jewellery to household gadgets to clothing. Actually not the clothing, the French take great pride in looking good. But we did come out with sale school bags one time, one was €1.50 and the other about €3.
Our kids absolutely loved our camp site. There were three pools, two water slides, hundreds of kids to befriend and evening activities in (to them) incomprehensible French. When you are young, making friends without being able to communicate seems to be easy. So they spoke Irish to sound cool.
My spoken French is very basic, enough to get us by but not enough to explain to a cashier (in our local airport terminal-sized supermarket) that she has charged me the wrong price on the knickers I picked. They were the cheapest, I think because they are peach coloured. As a result of this minor fracas I left this holiday resolved to improve my French so that I never need fight a French woman over underwear again.
Apart from spending way too much time and money at the supermarkets we did get out and about to see some beautiful places. This is the part of the holidays that I love the best. When I explore new places I’m often more delighted by the serendipitous finds than the places of interest pin-pointed on the map. We had a lovely mix of little known places and world renown historical sites.
I found out that our local town market was on a Tuesday morning so we drove to the centre and wandered about a little with no idea where we were going. Eventually we asked a passing family who directed us in the opposite direction and then discovered a market that was so huge we got of tired of it before we got to the end of it. (I think it covered the entire rest of the town that was the only part we hadn’t searched). They say it was it was 39°C that day , and you could tell. Although my husband was brought up in Kimberley, South Africa and would have laughed at those temperatures before, our fair and tender skins have become far more adapted to the Irish climate. So afterwards we escaped to our supermarket to worship the frozen food section and buy icecreams.
I love the relaxed easy pace of camping but I don’t love swimming shoulder-to-shoulder with half clad strangers so I would probably look for a less popular campsite next time. Although, seeing that the children love it, I would probably consider camping for only one week and staying in a gite for another. I had booked to stay our final two nights in a stunning stone house that had 1779 carved above a window. It was so gorgeous we felt we were gatecrashing, the contrast to the camping couldn’t have been greater. We had satin sheets, a fridge and an oven!! We felt blessed to be off the beaten track in a beautifully quiet setting, this was the the perfect way to end the holiday. And the kids loved it too. (TV!)
So we are back home, tent has been dried and packed away and life has returned to it’s normal routine. After nine (9!) LARGE loads of laundry, I finally got to the top of my washing basket. Kids are back in school and I’m back to writing again (double hurrah). At the moment I’m slightly blinded by the sun shine on my keyboard, I’m even getting a little hot here by the window. And it’s lovely! I tried to spice up my trip to my local small supermarket today by being a rebel and buying a few things I don’t normally buy. No farine de blé noir unfortunately but I did find some French flour so, because I still have some smelly cheese in the fridge that survived the journey home, I’m excited to make one of the French things I love the most – a baguette. Oui c’est vrai!
++For more articles on travelling with kids, here’s a post I wrote about travelling with kids, another about a trip to South Africa and a further one about our most recent holiday on the Isle of Skye.++