Les Vacances Part 1

Ah the big family summer holiday. So much preparation, so much expectation, so much time with mommy around to help with the kids! This year, after a break of three years we had decided to return to France. I think the boys would have kept on going to Killarney indefinitely but Niki in particular wanted to improve the odds of seeing the sun so we had decided on a two week camp-site holiday in Brittany.

Our previous trips to France had involved less kids, longer journeys south (this being related to the first point) and holiday rentals with friends. They had also involved the ferry departing from Rosslare so it was a bit discombobulating to stare at the Bull Wall and Dollymount beach from the top deck of our ferry as we began our journey south, with Dublin being Irish Ferries new starting point. The crossing itself was a calm one although I (being a very bad sea traveller) kept on imagining the ship moving up and down even before we had left the port! The best that can be said for the sleeping arrangements was that we all got some level of sleep although I would never recommend the six in a cabin approach (I think we broke the world record for the number of times saying “be quiet” in an 8 hour period). Niki woke up early the next morning to say how badly she had slept but was quickly berated by four of us for her loud snoring during the night (Ella remained strategically quiet on the matter).

The first thing we noticed when we got to France was the heat. The car thermometer immediately headed towards 30 degrees and didn’t budge for the rest of the day. This was quite a relief for yours truly as I had pushed hard for Brittany despite having first hand knowledge of how erratic the weather can be from my own childhood holidays. A fortnight listening to rain on the metal roofed mobile home would not have been fun. The 4 hour drive to Carnac went smoothly with Niki taking up her customary role as driver and me as navigator (basically confirming that the sat nav was correct and handing out sweets to those in the back). We did switch for one hour of the drive but my slightly more gung-ho approach to the numerous French roundabouts had Niki quickly suggesting that we return to our original positions.

We made it to La Grande Métairie in Carnac just as “rush hour” traffic was kicking in i.e. plenty of campervans on a narrow road. I had been to La Grande Métairie twice as a youngster so it was with a fondness that I spotted the alignements again just outside the campsite. These standing stones or menhirs for Asterix and Obelix fans are the main tourist attraction in the Carnac area. Our three bed mobile was a bit cramped but we quickly realized that the covered decking outside would in fact become our most used “room” and added significantly to our space. We had planned an early night but the noise from the soirée in the camp bar (they still love their cheesy dance songs in France) kept us all up until close to midnight which the boys loved and the adults just about tolerated.

The next morning we were faced with the cool empty shelves of our new accommodation so there was only one thing for it, L’Hypermarché!! I love hypermarkets, I remember being astounded as a child that you could buy car tyres and bread in the same shop! I still have the same sense of wonder but now it is mainly focused on the cheeses, so many cheeses and only 2 weeks to eat them!! It’s also a good place to legitimately lose the family for five minutes of quiet time, oh a free crepe sample, merci beaucoup! We loaded up on €200 of top French produce (Niki had pillow cases on top of her list, Lochlan an inflatable stingray, Ella a pain au chocolat, Aaron & Oscar icecreams and I was only allowed 5 types of cheese) and made our way back to the camp site.

La Grande Métairie has been significantly upgraded since my last visit and in particular, the addition of water slides and a lazy river has been a real bonus. There are lifeguards near the water slide but let’s just say it’s no coincidence that laissez-faire is a French word. You’d want to be trying something pretty Evel Kneivel-esque for those boys (and girls) to get involved. At one point Lochlan was about to head down backwards on his back before I grabbed him. This level of enjoyment has meant daily visits to the pool are the very least of the boys’ requirements. While this is great on many levels, I had not been prepared for the amount of sun cream this would involve. Being married to a true Irish freckled cailín means that we are extra careful with the kids and we need a good half an hour each day set aside to it. Oscar seems particularly aggrieved at this, maybe because he senses that he wouldn’t look out of place in a Swedish travel brochure. I also grumble occasionally but honestly my skin has never been so moisturised in my life as a result of the sun factor regime!

Otherwise the week has flown by with the experience being generally positive. Although there have a few standout peculiarities along the way, such as why Aaron didn’t specify the difference between feeling sick and feeling like he was about to get sick (vomit in a mobile home is not pleasant), my puzzlement at what smurf flavor ice cream tastes like (in Quiberon the kids went with all the plain and normal flavors much to my dismay) and the look of disdain and disgust the creperie waiter gave us when we asked if his chocolate crepes contained Nutella! Ah France, never stop being French! Really looking forward to another week of it!

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