Cracking the Code to the Perfect Holiday with Kids — September Competition
I have done long-haul flights and short-haul flights.
I have done 4-star European resorts and shower-less camping in damp English fields.
And I finally decided that I needed to fine-tune what works and what doesn’t. And then planned and executed the ideal holiday…for me!
The rules that now apply:
- Keep it simple and adventurous, yet comfortable.
- Eliminate unnecessary complications.
- Avoid unnecessary journeys.
- Plan well enough to know that YOU can get to relax, not just work!
With all of that in mind, here is a synopsis of the best holiday that I have had with kids…
France, beautiful and close.
With no need to fly whatsoever we could ditch the unearthly flight times; packing too much into tiny cases; the long, stressful queues through security, and ruining all the good relaxing by doing it all over again to get home!
For us, France is an easy trip across on the ferry from a port only forty minutes drive from our home. We take our car, so we can pack whatever we want; camping equipment, bicycles, heaps of pillows, the kitchen sink — you name it! We can also take any route we want and stop wherever we like.
It’s a six-hour crossing but we always have a cosy cabin to rest or sleep in and a wide range of entertainment including an onboard cinema, children’s magic shows, and a huge ferry to explore.
The ferry lands in beautiful Brittany, in the northwest of France, with its stunning coastline, delicious food, and countryside steeped in Celtic mythology.
Our main reason for visiting France has always been to stay with my sister and her family in their large property in Charente Maritime. Spending time with family and friends is the most cherished part of my holidays and means the world, both to me and to my kids, who love these times spent with their cousins.
On this particular holiday, my dad was also visiting, and my cousin Andy stayed a few days, along with his wife and two small children.
If you want kids to have a fun holiday, throw them together with a bunch of other kids they love, give them some things to keep them entertained, such as table tennis, rope swings, and climbing nets, keep them fed and watered, and hey presto!
We got to drink wine and chill. A lot.
But that wasn’t all…
La Belle Paris
On a previous trip to France, my eldest daughter had asked if we could go to see Paris. Since it was a long way from where we were staying on that occasion it wasn’t practical to do the trip so, this time, I planned it in.
After leaving my sister’s place, we headed up to the French capital to soak up the Parisian atmosphere and have a real taste of the city. I had booked an Airbnb for three nights which turned out to be in a lovely, quiet part of the city, yet very central and within easy access to all of Paris’s most famous landmarks.
We walked along the Seine and visited Notre Dame Cathedral (though sadly surrounded by scaffolding, following the fire of April 2019), the Eiffel Tower, and Montmartre, and picnicked in the gardens beside the Louvre. A large dose of culture was achieved in two days.
Breton music, food, and camping
The final destination for our trip was Brittany since it was on the way back to the ferry port and, well, Brittany is just gorgeous!
If I was to name my favourite things about France, they would all have something to do with Brittany. I have loved the music scene there for more than two decades; traditional Breton food is delicious, and the land and coastline are some of the most beautiful I have seen in France.
As for the campsites, British campsites have nothing on French ones. Facilities are amazing and you barely know you are camping; many have swimming pools and children’s play areas, and each ‘placement’ is large and spacious, and separated from neighbouring ‘placements’ by hedges, giving privacy and clear boundaries.
We booked a beautiful campsite, complete with all the above-mentioned facilities, in a sweet little village just two miles from the coast. It happened to be close to a Fest Noz that was taking place, where one of our favourite Breton bands would be playing.
Fest Noz is Breton for Night Party and is a traditional night of music and dancing for all the family. While it could be likened to old-fashioned English barn dances or Scottish Ceilidhs, it’s considered very current and culturally important in Brittany. The Breton people take their traditional music very seriously and many young people, even children, are very accomplished musicians.
As with everything in today’s world, the young simply put their own twist on the traditions and create something new and incredible. Try rock-Breton fusion for starters.
I have managed to get my daughters into Breton music and dancing too. My son, on the other hand, is just there for the Nutella Crepes (sweet pancakes), which you will always find at a Fest Noz!
We also got to eat delicious Breton Galettes de Ble Noir (buckwheat pancakes eaten with savoury fillings), accompanied by un bol de Cidre (local cider served in a bowl or teacup — yes it’s traditional).
As if (easy) camping, dancing, eating, swimming, and the beach weren’t enough, we also explored our beautiful surroundings on foot.
The area was made up of green, forested, rolling hills, and we found a beautiful path to follow right from our campsite. It led us through woods and away from roads; not so unlike our native Devon, but with one main difference — the foraging opportunities were tenfold!
The French are much more traditional than we are in the UK in how they eat, preserve, and use plant medicine. This might also be helped by the fact that they have the same sized population but three times the landmass.
Collecting and using wild food is much more a part of French daily life than most British experience. Access to freely available fruits and nuts, among other things, is widespread.
This includes the French love of snails; go out on a sunny morning following heavy rainfall and you will see many people collecting snails from the grass verges.
This one I don’t get — I am a vegetarian!
On our walk, we collected heaps of wild plums, as well as blackcurrants and hazelnuts, and saw many sweet chestnuts becoming plump and getting ready to fall. Of course, we didn’t have the means to preserve them on our campsite, so we just ate them then and there! Usually the best way.
Our adventure came to an end as we took down the tents and drove the one hour to the ferry port, arriving home by nightfall. A wonderfully easy finish to a beautiful, fun, relaxing, and soul-nourishing time with no complications and smooth and easy travelling.
I’d do it all again tomorrow!