NORMANDY, FRANCE – JULY 2012
This delightful area of France has much to recommend it as a holiday destination. Not far from the main ports you will find many a British family who have chosen to spend longer on the ferry and less time driving in France, so as to entertain small children and babies in a manner less likely to resemble roasting a trussed- up-chicken-in-a- car. That would be a terrible idea. You can save that for the second leg of your journey. The tiny hamlet of Le Vey, near Clécy in La Suisses Normande is the perfect place to stop, take stock and adjust to La France. Follow these recommendations for a unique holiday experience:
- Prepare for holiday.
Resist the temptation of the many mega-sales in the UK of nice big tents and cool camping equipment and a friendly offer from Halfords to put an el-cheapo roof box on the top of your car. Instead opt to use the same old crap you’ve been using for years.
- Get lost driving from Caen.
Well a family holiday wouldn’t be a family holiday unless you got lost, would it? Finally arrive at camp-site in full sunshine and erect tent. Assemble ASDA table, and make sure the lantern is working. If the elder member of the family fails to complete any of these tasks, get the one who did the Duke of Edinburgh Award to do it. (This is the moment when you realise the school fees were worth it).
- Allow the 7 month old Bébé to assist.
Straightening the tent poles, pulling over the cover sheet and selecting the correct pegs, are all tasks you can share. You will need to dismantle and assemble the tent several times. However, you and your daughter are less likely to SCREAM AT EACH OTHER whilst the little Darling is doing his best to be helpful. Allow 2 hours for this task.
- Walk around the beautiful camp-site
Say “Bonjour” to your neighbours. Use Bébé (in cute mode) as tool for gaining popularity points. You will need these later on.
- Brew your first cup of tea on the camping stove
Lie back and look up at the beautiful blue sky through the poplars, oaks and willows. Enjoy this moment. This is why you came here.
- Remind yourself of the strict codes for ‘Faire les Vaiselles’, ‘Faire les Douches’, and ‘Faire les Vetements’.
Kick yourself for forgetting the loo roll. If Bébé has poo-ey bum, ignore all of the strict codes and just wash it where ever you can access running water. Just don’t tell the French.
- Go for slap up meal
In tranquil setting, next to the beautiful River Orne. Expect Bébé to be fully awake and active au restaurant. Indeed, if he is being weaned, introduce him to some new flavours and textures: smoked eel, lettuce and baguette will all go down well.
- Cosy up on the Big Air Bed.
This is a great opportunity to get to know your family more intimately. Just make sure when your sleeping partner gets up in the middle of the night she gives you some warning, otherwise you will head butt the ground as she does so.
- Health and Safety alert!
Dans le matin do a quick reconnaissance of the camp site for social workers and/or health visitors. They may not share you and your daughter’s alternative, slightly hippyish approach to child rearing – not everyone will allow Le Bébé to chew sticks and leaves, fiddle with gas canisters or play with hub caps.
- Explore the local village.
Could it be any quieter? Any sunnier? Any Frencher? Non. That’s OK then. Buy barbecue supplies avec Le Bébé and continue to speak more French to all the locals who admire him. Return to camp and prepare barbecue. No e mails, no internet, no phones. Crikey. You must be on holiday. Sample local cidre: it’s rough as rats but for that price who’s complaining?
- During the night, expect a deluge.
Make sure Le Bebe wakes at 03.30 and screams and screams, waking neighbours. Cash in popularity points (see no.4). Regret decision not to purchase a bigger tent you can stand up in (see no.1). Take Le Bébé to the big tent near reception. Only the Mother of Le Bébé should do this. Grandma’s are exempt from this kind of responsibility. Besides, there’s no way anyone else is getting out of their sleeping bag in the middle of the night in that rain.
- Go for picnic in stunning Normandy countryside
Camembert, pain rustique, fresh ripe juicy peaches – you get the picture….. Experience another downpour. Use your imagination and initiative to create games for Le Bébé whilst taking shelter in the car: pulling ‘funny faces in wing mirror’; playing ‘peek-a-boo behind drivers seat’ and the ever trusty ‘play with the windscreen wipers’ are all effective methods to share some comedy moments.
- Abandon all hopes of kayaking down the river
They won’t let you do it on your own and you can’t take Le Bébé with you (no sense of adventure, the French…..). However, compromise by taking a tranquil cruise in one of those little phut phut electric bateau. You, your daughter, her ruck-sack, Le Bébé, the push chair, umbrella and various hand bags will all fit into one of those.
- Cruise up the River Orne.
Take in beautiful scenery. Run aground in the shallows near the viaduct. Yes that’s right. Get stuck in the middle of a river (with 3 other electric bateaux!!!). Hop out of boat into the water and push boat and precious cargo to deeper waters. Hop back in (secretly pleased at the speed you can do this!) Re start engine. Fight off the other boat trippers who are now grabbing onto your ropes and rails and asking you to pull them along. – get wet and push your own boats you old biddies.
- Get up v. early and begin second stage of travels on empty roads with the sun rising.
Share this moment of possibility, excitement and adventure with your daughter whilst Le Bébé sleeps. Have warm feelings as your daughter falls asleep. Play some U2. Head for Burgundy. Round about Tours, stop for coffee. Buy a decent map. You’re going to need it…………………