August means holidays! We had an extended break this year as our drive to the South of France took a while but we had a fabulous time thanks to three very successful AirBnb stops ( we used AirBnb for the first time this year – contact me for more info) and Canvas Holidays who were instrumental in giving the kids a great holiday, they are already talking about next year!
Obviously as usual set off later than we expected, so we arrived at the first port of call on our five centre holiday, at our dear dear friends Mark and Emma’s (who live a lot nearer to Portsmouth than we do). Horror upon horrors we arrived so late that Mark had already gone to bed due to an early start the next day, he had cooked us the most amazing meal as well, which we enjoyed with Em and their children. Ooops sorry Mark, we’ll see you next time. reallllly sorry 😦
Day Two, Portsmouth to Pugnac
Early start, which is why we stayed at Mark and Emma’s. We were on a fast – ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, it was an incredibly bumpy 3 hour ride, people were falling around all over the place. Not nice at all! Sit sat sit and I closed my eyes for 40 winks as I knew it would be a long day. I actually fell asleep which was amazing for two reasons A: It made the journey so much quicker and gave me a boost in energy
B: I was able to tick off (quite by accident) number 77 on my list of 101in1001 challenges – Go to sleep on a boat!
Arrived at 12 (1pm local time) and spend the entire day driving south to our first AirBnb property. The house in Pugnac was incredible and in such a luscious area in the heart of the wine making country. It was so idyllic, with nothing to do for miles around but wonderful for a night or two relaxing.
Day Three, Pugnac to Lourdes to L’Isle Jordain.
An amazing day although much of it was yet again spent in the car. We set off early and drove another few hundred kilometres to Lourdes to collect our daughter who has just spent a week there on pilgrimage . Suffice to say she has had a lovely and enriching time and met some incredible people (I would love to persuade her to do a post for this website about her experiences but I wouldn’t hold your breath).
She was very sad that her time there was over and actually disappointed to not be travelling the 20 hours back with her new friends but now we are all together as a family again our holiday can really begin.
She did show us around the town of Lourdes and we saw the beautiful Basilica and the grotto where the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared to Saint Bernadette. Despite the beauty of the area, I was surprised by the amount of gift shops there were full of cheap and tacky souvenirs.
Then back in the car again (grabbing a quick McDonalds) and onto our second AirBnb, once again off the beaten track, this time just outside the town of L’Isle Jordain. It took us a little while to find the Chamber d’hotes and we were exhausted by the time we got there.
Quite a bizarre gîte, all sleeping in one room (cue restless night) with a tiny tiny kitchen and nowhere to sit but at the same time it was pretty functional.
Day Four, L’Isle Jourdain
As we cannot book into our main holiday site until tomorrow we had booked this gîte for two nights, and Terry and I were so grateful not to be spending another day in the car. The boys have been superb but enough is enough.
Despite the weirdness of the gîte itself the property boasts the most incredible pool overlooking the best of the French countryside, it was quite breathtaking. We made the most of the experience and rested, lounging around reading books and the boys enjoying swimming. Although it was cloudy we were foolish enough to get quite pink. Lesson learnt!
Barbecue on the veranda in the evening and the most glorious sunset.
Day Five – L’Isle Jordain to Argelès sur Mer
Slow start this morning as we packed and prepared for the final leg of the journey, one that should have taken 2.5 hours but actually took 4 hours due the horrendous traffic. We have now covered 1000 miles in 4 days – already dreading the journey home (which we will do over the course of two days).
For the main chunk of our holiday we stayed in a large holiday park called Camping La Sirène which is situated just outside Argèles sur Mer on the French Spanish border.
Several holiday companies have chalets on the site, this time we had booked with Canvas Holidays because they offered activities for teenagers.
Camping La Sirène is much bigger than the park we were in last year.
Camping La Sirène (Day Five – Day Sixteen)
The days all merge into one during our time at La Sirène. The children attended most of the activities offered to them by the holiday reps. The canvas team organise several children’s clubs for different age groups and also events for the whole family which were reasonably well attended therefore an excellent opportunity for the children to meet others their own age the results being as the week went on, we saw less and less of them, except of course when they needed feeding and watering.
Even putting aside the Canvas teen-club and family extra there was lots on offer by from La Sirène themselves. A crazy golf course, several sports pitches and a top notch and very clean pool complex with enough space to accommodate everyone, there were no wrestles for loungers each day as none were provided! Everyone lay on their beach towels or brought their own portable loungers, actually, this worked really well, no bad feeling and no hogging the best spot or saving a lounger by keeping your towel on it.
There are also clubs and activities organised by La Sirène themselves, plenty of exercise classes round the pool, aquagym (Terry liked this one), aquabike, combat, pilates, zumba to name just a few. There was sports activities and tournaments and a teen club, unfortunately the children found these hard work because they were predominantly French and therefore they preferred to stick to the Canvas activities. When we arrived the campsite it seems to be 50% French and the rest made up of Dutch and English. But as we went on more and more English people arrived.
While the children was busy with their activities and socialising, Terry and I had time to read plenty and lounge by the pool in fact we only left the site to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy and one evening a delightful stroll down the beautiful beach of Argelès Sur Mer. In many ways we should have left the camp more, originally we even planned to go to Barcelona for the day (only two hours away) but the children were having such a great time and didn’t want to miss out on their new friends.
Seriously, the activities were superb and we would love to thank Martin, Jess, Kaysha and Laura.
We also had a couple of trips to McDonalds! But not for their wonderfully nutritious food but for their free wifi (or as the French call it – whiffy). Wifi is available on camp but given our family addition to the internet, I like to be without it for the duration of my holiday. I am a shocking example as I am as addicted to my phone as they are, so I knew that if we bought the wifi package, I would be checking emails, writing blogs, updating websites in other words …working.
Holidays are family times, and therefore it does us good to be without it for a few days. However a couple of trips to McDs were in order to ‘just catch up’. The first McDonalds trip was a disaster as none of us could log in for long (it was the rainy afternoon), the second trip I was the only unlucky one. Although it is really frustrating on balance it is actually quite liberating to be detached for a little while. I honestly believe that if we had bought the wifi package the children would not have been so involved in the camp activities.
The accommodation was basic but more than adequate. A 3 bed chalet / mobile home / caravan which a small kitchen and seating area and a lovely shaded deck where we had all our meals. Only one real gripe, the water temperature was impossible to regulate, it was scalding hot or freezing cold so showers were a challenge, the reps tried to help and came out to fiddle with a few things but to no avail. But other than becoming really stinky over the course of 10 days we coped.
The Weather on the whole was glorious and didn’t feel too hot at all, temperatures was late twenties early thirties although on some days it was quite windy which although was warm and comfortable did send a few personal items flying around the pool area. One afternoon we had the misfortune of having rain which was a bit disconcerting – we didn’t travel 1000 miles for that!
Each evening there was a ‘show’ at the camp theatre – yes theatre, I cannot escape 😀
Obviously my expectations weren’t high, but live entertainment is just the ticket after a day of lying around in the sun. Over the course of the week there were several shows on offer. The staff at La Sirène ran a welcome party, there was a night of pop song covers, one night there was a show featuring lots of Disney songs and my personal favourite was a ‘songs from the shows’ evening where songs from hit musicals were sung strung together with a thin storyline. The storyline was in French and was tricky to follow but it involved Broadway and the Moulin Rouge and several people falling in love and having lots of secrets. Other than that I had no idea what was going on but the music was good.
Another troupe they brought in was quite an elaborate show called ‘Simba’, a version of the Lion King. Surprisingly enough it was an entertaining, relaxed, bilingual with had some pantomime elements to it. The place was PACKED with young families and it was a really good introduction to theatre for little ones, without staggeringly high West End prices, in fact with no prices at all – all the evening entertainment was completely free (unless you visited the bar of course).
It did make me realise though how completely spoilt I am with Theatre South Eastt and realise how much I am looking forward to the three productions I am going to next week (watch this space).
We downloaded Harry Potter and the cursed child onto the kindles and read it as a family (it is in play format, so we each took various parts – I was Hermoine!) It was such good fun! I think the children were a little impatient to read quicker though.
We were lucky enough to be at the site on the 14th August which was a public holiday for the French, special activities were arranged a huge feast and a parade through the campsite!
Day Sixteen, Argèles sur Mer to Bressuire
Time to make our long journey home.
A long long hot day in the car, all a bit down in the mouth really. We eventually after 7 hours driving reached Bressuire and yet another AirBnB property. This one was booked at the last minute and in a bit of a rush and we hadn’t read the description properly. When we arrived we realised that we would share the house with the owner which caused an embarrassing moment or two when Terry was trying to ‘dismiss’ him from his own home – oops!
But Fred was lovely and despite our language barrier (I really must learn French) we muddled through just fine.
Day Seventeen, Bressuire to East Grinstead
What can I say, back home! We have had a great time. 6 days travelling was quite a lot and I almost feel I need to recover but the camp was great and more importantly the children have had a great time. Met some great friends and they hope to keep in touch, oh the powers of social media.
A fabulous holiday – just need a rest now