2 adults, 2 children, 18 days, a shed load of luggage (too much some might say!) lots of snacks and a drive the length of an entire country.
It feels only right to blog about our Summer Road Trip Adventure in France, the wonderful things we got to see and do, and things we learned along the way.
Now it is definitely to be noted that there were also a significant number of ‘misadventures’ which, really, in my mind, any good family holiday should also have. My feeling is that we should be totally open about these and have a bit of a giggle at them to be honest. Not always easy at the time, when you feel like you might explode from the stress or cry from the exhaustion! But more so now when I look back with my rose tinted glasses! Sooo with that in mind, there’s a follow up blog on its way charting the ‘Misadventures of a French Road Trip’. Watch this space.
For now let’s talk adventuring highs…
Time to board the ferry.
We are fortunate enough, living in beautiful Exeter, to have the port of Plymouth just an hour away so a ferry to France doesn’t seem too horrendous a deal to us. As we had chosen to visit the South West of France this year it did mean a hefty drive on the other side, but hallelujah for a short distance on this side of the continent – especially when we got back home and everyone wanted to cry because they were tired and sad that the holiday was over…I always mourn the end of a holiday. You look forward to it all year and then suddenly poof it’s gone, and you have to annoy your other half by immediately starting to talk about what you are going to do next year, just to have something to keep you going!
Anyhoo Plymouth to Roscoff was the name of the game, and for the first time ever we chose to do an overnight crossing. This was a major win on the whole. I had my doubts, but the little cherubs actually slept! Which meant we did too…and then we got to wake up all excited to be suddenly in France, in what felt like the blink of an eye. Much much better than my last experience of a ferry 3 years ago when H threw up everywhere in the restaurant area and we had to sit outside for 3 hours because fresh air was the only way to cope…So lesson 1? If you think you can cope with it, night crossings are great! We managed sleep and it felt like we were there in no time, plus we had an entire day to get to our first destination. Boom.
Motorway services and rest areas.
Now I don’t know about you but aside from the glorious Gloucester services in England (which I love – anyone who has been will understand this – I hope) services here are a bit naff right? In France they are amazing! They all have plenty of outdoor space, picnic areas, lovely fresh food, parks for the kids. It is brilliant. So even a toilet stop felt like a little adventure to the boys. Adventuring has never been so cheap and easy!
A mini stop-over. Toulouse.
Now this will likely feature quite highly in the ‘Misadventure’ blog, for reasons you will see. But for now let me say. Visit this place. It is beautiful. It is not a city you hear a lot of people talking about really. But my word is it lovely. I could walk around it quite happily for days. Gorgeous architecture and wonderful food. It ended up being very late by the time we checked in and got to search for food. We found the most amazing pizzeria and sat outside watching the city as it got dark. Some very fond memories of the boys scoffing their faces and staining their clothes with pizza sauce.
I will also say here – that we could, I suppose, have just stopped at a cheap hotel near the motorway on the way down or tried to get all the way to our holiday village in one go. But to be honest this was a real highlight of the trip – it was like having a mini city break as well as the holiday, which is a bit of a bonus! And it was really lovely to explore somewhere different, that we might not otherwise have got to see. Plus it really felt like its own little part of the holiday – it was exciting getting to the hotel and going out to eat, and the boys really loved it. We stopped at La Rochelle for a night on the way back and loved that too. So definitely an adventure boy recommendation; when road tripping through France take a look at the places you could have a stop over at on the way down or back… makes for some unexpected and lovely adventure time.
We are a bit prone to this. My husband and I definitely live in the spirit of ‘let’s just try this road and see where it takes us’. I know I get this from my parents – they have always been explorers of new places. It is so much fun (most of the time). I will state here that this is to be done with caution – my Dad once did this when we were young and on holiday in Spain, and it involved driving a car down a serious set of steps…so you know…be careful. But on this occasion it was avoiding a very busy and slow motorway heading South on a Saturday. The kids has had enough and so had we – so we checked the map and hit the road… It ended up being the most glorious drive through vineyards all the way to our holiday village. I can close my eyes now and be sat in the car, window open, watching the vineyards go by. It was magical. So every now and again? Take the road less travelled. Henry thought it was amazing. He had his window down and was sining his heart out. Adventure can come in so many forms, and sometimes it is just about looking at things differently. Plus I got to video him singing and will show him when he is 18.
Mega Holiday Village
When we booked our holiday the options for accommodation were a bit overwhelming and we changed our minds approximately 300 times. However, we are so pleased with the decision we finally made. We went with a pretty mega holiday village in terms of facilities. It was really highly rated and our thinking was that, having travelled so far, we wanted somewhere with lots of lovely stuff on site and close by, so that we didn’t have to travel every day once there; that actually there was enough adventure there without being in the car all the time (Ralph’s least favourite place in the world it has to be said).
It was the right decision – the pools, splash park, beach, bakery (total highlight), parks, sports facilities were all incredible. The park was sooooo clean and well maintained. And whilst it was busy, there was enough space to feel like you had your own piece of holiday heaven, so it could be as full on or as relaxing as you wanted it to be. This meant every day could be different and the boys were free to live a life of adventure. We stayed in a really lovely region and this particular holiday village led straight on to its own stretch of sandy beach with safe waters. The boys could honestly not have asked for anything more! We stayed at Serignan Plage and booked through Al Fresco Holidays, although it is technically a Yelloh Village. All paid for so this is in no way an Ad – but it was awesome so thought it was worth a shout out. Especially if you want to have a little nose or do your own research on the location…
Adventures in France
Whilst we did spend a lot of time on site to make the most of the gorgeous sunshine (hooray) and fab facilities (it meant they slept well so double hooray), we simply aren’t the kind of people who can just stay in once place for two weeks. We like to explore a region, and love nothing more than going somewhere new, so we did have some awesome days out. These were sometimes full days (although rarely it has to be said) and sometimes a morning, so we could get back for a swim naturally.
- Markets. Is there really anything better in the entire world than a French market? I think not. Such a lovely way to spend a morning, especially the more traditional ones. Amazing fresh food, lovely colours, proper France. We found this to be one of our favourite adventures whilst there, even for the boys. It was a great way to get Henry to speak some French, and to try some local foods, and he got really in to it. We bought lots of nice local produce and then barbecued our little hearts out when we got back. Absolutely a highlight of the trip.
- History. I am a bit of a History nerd, and quite happy to admit it. I taught History until a few years ago and it remains one of my most favourite things. Henry adores it too so we really enjoy, when we can, exploring something with some kind of historical reference. This particular region of France is incredibly rich in History, and to Henry’s delight, specifically Roman History. Nimes and the Pont Du Gard, for anyone heading for the Landeouc Roussillon region of France are absolutely spectacular and really worth a visit. The amphitheatre was breathtaking, and the boys got to swim in the river below Pont Du Gard. It was like going back in time, and all the more memorable for it. Such a cool adventure for the children (and me!)
- Trains. Our boys are fascinated by trains and there’s something very nostalgic about an adventure on board a train. We spent a day adventuring on Le Petit Train Rouge, just north of Perpignan. It took us up in to the mountains, where we spent the afternoon swimming in an outdoor pool and scoffing massive ice creams. It was so brilliant! We traveled through vineyards, across viaducts, and past beautiful little mountain towns. It was such a lovely change of pace and was a really special way to see a different area of France. Plus we didn’t have to drive or walk! Woohoo. Shame it rained on the way up and the carriages were open… It may have been 32 degrees the rest of the holiday but I was glad we had had the brains to pack coats on that occasion!
Well I feel like I’ve waffled a bit there… but you know it was a great trip to do with children and it was totally full of adventure, so seems worth spending some time reflecting on it.
Like I said there were also lots of ‘misadventures’ and general boo-boos which I will blog about very soon. Honesty is the best policy. In my experience, no outing with children is perfect, let alone an outing which includes hundreds of miles of driving…
I hope your Summer adventures were just as awe-inspiring and full of fun. With Autumn very much here it would seem, it is nice to look back at photos of summer adventures and smile at the memories.