Tuesday, November 06, 2018

I know what I did last summer

We went on holiday to France back in July; our first proper trip abroad with the kids. We decided on France because it meant that we didn't have to engage with the shrieking nightmare of flying and could just get a ferry over and take the car to our eventual destination. We didn't want to shell out some lavish amount for luxury accommodation, partly because we were hoping to be either out and about doing stuff or hooning around in the pool most of the time, but also because times are hard and I am as tight as a gnat's chuff.

Fortunately France offers plenty of options in this area and we ended up booking in at Le Clarys Plage with Alfresco Holidays, who offer much the same sort of thing as the better-known Eurocamp. Basically this is a big holiday camp with static caravan accommodation of various sizes; pretty much perfect for our kid-centric requirements and with a pretty decent-sized supermarket right next door. It's just outside St. Jean de Monts, which is in the Vendée, which is basically the next bit down from Brittany on the west coast.

Anyway, it suited us very well, Nia in particular had a great time scooting down all of the waterslides a gazillion times a day, the supermarket is very handy, there are laid-on activities for the kids, and the main town beach (a short drive away) is nice and sandy, absolutely massive and has an extremely shallow drop-off which is great for paddling with kids, though slightly frustrating if you want a proper swim, as you have to walk out about half a mile just to get waist-deep.

We didn't get out and about as much as I'd anticipated, and with kids there's little hope of going off exploring the local geography, which is a shame as this part of the Vendée is a fascinating landscape of reclaimed marshland and drainage ditches. For those without tiny children in tow it'd be perfect for a cycling holiday if you didn't want to be bothered by hills. We did get out to a couple of places, though, most notably Le Château des Aventuriers an hour or so away to the south-east which has lots of mainly pirate-themed outdoor adventure quest stuff which was right up Nia's street. We also went out to Parc des Dunes which is a bewildering array of bouncy castles, luge runs, crazy golf, ball pits and waterslides. Again, great fun for the kids, but adults will want to ensure they've got a few litres of wine in to wind down back at the caravan afterwards.

One of the key considerations for British tourists venturing over to France for holidays is the stringent rules some French resorts apply in the trouser department, specifically the edict that a lot of places issue that long baggy board shorts are prohibited in the pool area and skimpy "budgie smugglers" must be worn instead. I completely understand the rationale here - people are inclined to wear board shorts as regular shorts out and about in town, down to the beach, etc., and then trail dust and dirt and shit back into the resort and plunge straight into the pool. So with a mind to complying with the regulations I purchased a pair of skimpy trunks before we left the UK. On arrival in France I noticed on our first trip to the supermarket that short but slightly less eye-wateringly revealing trunks were available for about four Euros, so I bought a pair of these as a backup, thereby ending up in the slightly farcical situation of having three lengths of swimming shorts to choose from.

As it turned out the rule seems to be largely unenforced at Le Clarys Plage, as plenty of people were wearing long shorts, but it's best to be prepared, and I daresay there are places where the shorts police will haul you off to the changing rooms if you transgress. As it happens the cheapo intermediate shorts offer the worst of both worlds, since they're not as baggy as the big shorts but not as stretchy as the skimpy ones and therefore more restrictive than either. I guess you do get what you pay for.

A modest selection of photographs can be found here; as reassurance for the squeamish I should state clearly that none of them feature me in the red shorts. The book I am reading in the comedy beer photo is this one.

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