What of the dream?
The holiday brochure looked so appealing. Those descriptions online were incredibly irresistible with their crystal clear waters and multi water slides. Shops, bar and take-away all there on site so you do not have to move from your accommodation. Just look at the photos and check out that deep azure sky, not a cloud in sight. So what are we waiting for?
Hours on the phone negotiating ferry times and co-ordinating which accommodation will be available on the dates the ferry allows us to arrive. Of course if madam wishes to upgrade to the deluxe chalet, that is available anytime!
No madam, you have to book a seat or cabin for the ferry crossing. Yes I know madam that it is a daytime crossing and with such an early start you will be in the restaurant to start with, but we have to charge you for a cabin or seat.
Oh and does madam need bed linen and towels?
Can we not bring our own towels? Of course you can bring your own but if you require bed linen then the towels come as a pack.
The one concession I do agree willingly to is the welcome pack: – tea, coffee, milk, washing up liquid, tea towel and matches, the essentials in life, just waiting when we arrive. The extra cost will be worth it and Sexy Sporty Dad need not concern himself too much over little details such as cost.
It does not matter what the starting price in the brochure or on-line says. The final pay up front deal will always be more than you budgeted for, whether you fly, ferry or remain firmly fixed in this country.
The deal is done and we have 6 wonderful months planning it, what it will be like, what we will do and eat while there. How we will use the facilities and all the French we will talk, how many friends we will meet and make. Those French teenagers ooh la la!
With six weeks to go the final payment is handed over and the travel documents arrive. The car is booked in for service to check that it is up to the journey. The insurance is checked, we are covered by our car insurance and by our travel insurance. A search reveals we have not lost the paper parts of our driving licences and all our passports are current with the E111 which now has an expiry on them but are still in force.
A week to go and I remember to order the Euros, we check whose swimming kit still fits and who needs new shoes. Suitcases are dusted off and packed. The old travel wallet is dug out from the back of the wardrobe where it has languished idly since the last European trip. A zipped compartment reveals £30 worth of Euros which were not worth changing back into sterling so have been forgotten, together with £20 worth of Turkish money which we will not be requiring on this holiday.
All of a sudden our holiday is upon us and with a very early start we arrive at the ferry point for 7 o’clock in the morning. Despite the only half wakefulness, crammed into the car with three growing boys and enough luggage I swear for a month away, emotions are hyper, expectations are hopeful and excitement is heightened. We creep slowly onto the ferry and into the allocated parking spot. Unload what we think we may need for the crossing and follow the tide of passengers surging up the metal stairwells.
We have ordered and begun breakfast even as the ferry edges its nose away from Portsmouth Harbour out into the clear open sea ahead. Apart from a few seagulls and breaking waves the view is uninterrupted sea, to the front, to left and to the right; sea.
As mid-day approaches we discuss what we should do for lunch. After all we do not know how long the journey may take and what will be open at the other end on a Sunday evening. We tucked in to a second meal on board the ferry before being ushered off the boat and onto the continent.
From this point on we were in the hands of the tour operators. My tom-tom is unable to get European roads so I had printed off detailed directions from the operator’s web site. They are; one would assume the most experienced at directing all and sundry to their campsites. They had also sent us with our documentation, a map to guide us. Naively, I now realise; I should have double checked the map. It only covered the small area of Brittany that the camp site was situated in. According to the illustrated map of France on the back cover we need two adjoining maps to find our way from Caen to Quimperle. Thank goodness I had printed the directions.
After 2 hours hesitatingly following the directions, discussing and debating why we needed to go to Cherbourg to get to the bottom of Brittany; we pulled off the road not far from Mont St Michel and finding a little tabac still open we managed to buy a road map of the whole of France. As we suspected we had no need to be anywhere near Cherbourg or Mont st Michel; so under our own steam we turned tail and trekked back down to the right route.
Delayed as we were, we looked out for a service station to break up the journey and enjoy un tasse du thé and
a biscuit; at the very least to use the facilities such as they might be. We left the main road following the signs two or three times to be met with ramshackle old buildings that had long since closed for the day. One man would not let us in but was kind enough to direct me towards an old lean-to shed; I hesitated to close the door in case the whole structure collapsed. The family convinced I would be hoisted in to the air chitty chitty bang bang style waved a furious good bye as I entombed myself in the dark. At least there was a toilet and not just a hole in the ground.
Much relieved I dug around the depths of the packing to find a packet of biscuits meant for the morning but needed now and we picnicked in a very dodgy car park described as services, on biscuits and squash. Onwards and downwards, we climbed back into the cramped car and resumed our journey south. It got so late that I phoned ahead to inform them we were on our way and were near L’Orient and hoped to be with them before 11pm. That was fine they did not close the barriers till 11.
Finally reaching the local town we didn’t dare stop to grab a pizza in case this brought us over the 11 o’clock deadline. We got in just after half ten, having tried again to follow their directions only to be directed one way, while eagle eyed children insisted the sign said the opposite way. We went with the children on this; only for them to be proved right.
Fearing we were too late we stood bewildered in the reception waiting for someone to turn up. Finally the girl arrived, gave us a barrier code to let us drive through and led us to our chalet. As she opened the chalet for us I asked about the take-away. No that was all closed for the night now. Ok could she point me in the direction of the shop and we could get something to make a snack. The shop was back near the main reception and was all closed now. What about the bar? Yes that was open. Did it sell food? Only ice-cream!
We entered the musty chalet; I suspect we were the first to use it this season by the old smell and dusty feel. At least I knew a cup of tea would not be far away now. But where was my welcome pack. Deep apologies she would go and get one. Suspiciously I wandered into the bedrooms; where was the bed linen and towels? On the table were four swimming wrist bands, why only four when the chalet slept six and we had requested five sets of everything.
Had I really ordered all that? Oh yes and paid for it, I produced my travel documentation and found the receipted list of extras. Again deep apologies and she would be back in a few moments with it all. True to her word she was and with her a bottle of placatory wine, although I am not sure that shouldn’t have been included in the welcome pack. Only when I emptied the pack out did I realise the milk came in tiny packs of cream powder, the coffee was a tiny pack of filter coffee and the two tea bags were not going to go very far. At least the wine was welcome.
Starving and shattered we all fell into the welcoming beds having made them first and were instantly asleep. I woke sometime in the night to find torrential rain beating relentlessly on the roof of the chalet, matching my mood. So much for deep azure blue skies!
The old junior choice song “Camp Granada” springs to mind. “Mudda, fadda kindly disregard this letter!”
We overslept deep into the morning, then wandered leisurely to the shop in glorious sunshine to fetch fresh croissants, pain au chocolate, baguette and milk a plenty. Laughing and hilarity from the water slides and swimming pool area hinted at the fun we were about to embark on. Music already blaring from the bursting bar beckoned us to join in. Suntan lotion smothered over our winter whitened skins, swimming togs under our clothes we followed the sound of fun.
Have fun on your holiday this year wherever you decide to go.
Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy