Fed up with grey skies and seemingly endless rain, it was the weather in Ireland that really decidedour destination, says Colette Keane.
Regular visitors to France’s excellent camp sites with Keycamp, now Eurocamp, we had always stayed closer to the ferry port fearing our band of young travellers would not be able to manage a long drive, so it was Brittany and the Vendée region that we stuck to.
While we had great family holidays there, going in the early part of the summer meant we were subject to the whims of the weather. One particularly wet May break we half expected Noah himself to make an appearance.
So on our latest adventure we decided to head as far south as we could to try and ensure blue skies and sunshine – we even took the bold step of flying.
We flew from Cork to Bordeaux with Ryanair, taking just one large suitcase in the hold, and carried on the rest. From Bordeaux airport we hired a car, pre-booked on the internet when we made our travel plans to get the best deal, and away we drove for around two hours to Le Vieux Port.
Set in a pine forest, it was certainly the largest park we had ever stayed in and what it lacked in personal space around the mobile home it made up for in pool facilities.
There are two large slides, a pirate cove pool, a wave pool where regular dance sessions are held, a large toddler pool divided into two sections with a slide, another large swimming pool and an indoor heated pool.
It was hard to get our girls to leave it any stage and one evening we stayed in the pool until 8pm, sun still beating down at more than 25c.
I don’t know if it was the fact that we went a bit later in the year – the first two weeks of July – or that we went further south, or a combination of both, but we had the best weather we ever had on holidays and in turn, the best holiday we had had as a family.
It started cloudy most mornings, but by 11am all that cloud cover was burnt off leaving just blue skies and hours of endless sunshine.
And while some days it tipped 40c, being set near the coast ensured a sea breeze on the site and we spent most days either at the pool or at the beach.
The beaches nearby were just simply stunning – miles and miles of white sand and rolling surf as the Atlantic thrashes the beaches with waves made for jumping in.
Most of the beaches have lifeguards and protected areas for swimming as some of the waves can be very strong. My favourite was certainly Biarritz beach, about an hour’s drive away, which was well worth the effort although we mostly went to a more local spot of Hossegor, a town where surfer dudes are king.
Given the size of the camp we were glad of the Kids’ Clubs as it meant our older girls in particular (aged eight and nine) were able to make a few friends, and the four year old loved doing art, singing songs and playing games.
They usually went for the morning session, had lunch in our mobile home and then we all headed to the water for the afternoon as the temperatures crept up.
I’m not sure I would go to such a large camp again but the facilities were superb. There were miles and miles of cycle paths both for families and the more advanced cyclists, all flat, with not a pot hole to be seen.
Given the state of the weather so far, roll on this year’s summer holidays.
* Do you really need to pack it? This is the question that haunts me every time I pack for holidays and I do two or three edits before it’s finally committed to the bag.
* Make sure you have jellies or hard sweets for the flight to help with sore ears
* Earplugs can be bought in most chemists which helps reduce the pressure as ears equalise on the plane – particularly for children.
* Little colouring books from the €2 shop are ideal for younger children to keep them occupied during the flight. Handheld electronic devices or books are also a must.
* One favourite cuddly toy is enough to pack – and make sure whatever they pack they can either carry or pull it along.
* Pack some sun factor with you so you are all set for your first day there without panicking if you arrive on a Sunday and only a few shops are open or your flight is delayed and you get in late. At least that way you are protected straight off the bat.
* Never go anywhere with kids without baby wipes or kitchen roll.
* If you have small children, bring plastic bowls and cups to prevent breakages, or buy them in the local supermarket.
* Bring enough underwear for at least five days so you are not rushing down to the washing machine every few days.
* Bring washing powder or tablets with you. What is the point of buying washing powder on the campsite when you can bring a few liquid tablets with you? Particularly if you are putting a bag in the hold. Eight tablets equals four washes and you are hardly going to do more than that – you are on holidays after all.
* Bring salt, sugar and pepper sachets with you – another few items you won’t have to buy on site
* Yes, you do need a hat.
* It can get colder in the evenings so bring a warm cardigan or pashmina.
* Children will probably need pair of runners, otherwise sandals and crocs for the pool are enough.
* UV protected swim wear for children, with short or long sleeves, will mean you don’t have to panic about burnt shoulders.
* Pre-order the towels from the campsite - one less thing to bring and they can easily be washed.
* We have poncho towels for the kids so they can walk from the pool back to the mobile home straight into the shower without having to get dressed.
* A small medical bag is always handy – mosquito spray, antihistamine creams, Sudocream, lip balm,
ear drops for the inevitable ear infections, Calpol, Neurofen and Paracetmol tablets. Never leave home without them.
* Bandaids will never go astray.
* A couple of small plastic bags for those who suffer from travel sickness will fit in any bag and could save you a heap of heartache.
* Bring toiletries you can afford to leave behind - it leaves a bit of room for some holiday souvenirs.
* Bring a pack of cards and on a rainy day you can always make use of the stock of boardgames in the campsite offices.
* A laptop for the evenings and a USB stick with a few of the families’ favourite films can help settle everyone before bedtime.
* The kids’ club can be a lifesaver - for both the children and the adults - and some even offer evening babysitting for a charge.
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