Travel review: The perfect place to get some late Summer sun - and avoid the dreaded 'are we nearly there yet?' questions
PUBLISHED: 16:01 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:01 31 October 2018
Center Parcs Europe, Pierre et Vacances
Fancy a bit of late Summer sun in France - but don't want to face a long and arduous trip with the children in tow? Then this family site in Normandy could be just the answer, as David Powles found out.
“Are we nearly there yet?”
It’s a question familiar to every parent who has faced an epic journey to get to their holiday of choice. And sadly, all too often, the answer is no.
With two boys aged five and two, the wife and I had pretty much avoided holidays in far flung destinations in recent years for fear of the stress outweighing the relaxation that would come at the end of it.
However, desperate to enjoy one last dose of Summer sun, we thought that an early September trip to northern France might just be short enough to avoid any mid-car tantrums – but far enough away to almost guarantee nice weather.
And I’m delighted to be able to report back to you that turned out to be the case, the UK drive, followed by a short ferry trip and a couple of hours on France’s dual-carriageways easily manageable on the same day.
Our destination was Le Village Normandy Garden in Branville, Normandy, which is about a 15 minute drive from the coastal town of Villers-sur-Mer – but more on that little gem later.
The holiday village is run by Pierre Vacances, a company which also runs Center Parcs, but we were able to book through local operator Hoseasons. The benefit of that was they were able to easily sort any pre-holiday queries and questions we had.
The mention of Center Parcs is appropriate because I’d describe the site as a lite-version of the popular family destination. Self-catering accommodation consisted of quaint little holiday homes set over two floors with two decent sized bedrooms, kitchen and living room.
The best bit, however, was that it looked out over a large sloped grass area, perfect for the children to wear themselves out with late afternoons and early evening adventures, while the parents relaxed over a glass of something chilled.
As night came it also offered wonderful sunsets and perfect star-filled skies best enjoyed under a blanket for warmth and a glass of something chilled.
We travelled in a group of eight (four adults and four children) and found the village an ideal spot for families with nippers. For the young ones, options included a brilliant indoor play barn, various activities and a games room.
Adults and older kids, meanwhile, could partake in tennis, badminton, crazy golf a spot of boules.
But the undoubted highlight was the swimming pool, which soon became the destination of choice on most days of the holiday. It included two outdoor heated pools, a main indoor pool, toddler splash pool, hot tubs, jets, sauna and steam room. Needless to say all four children loved it and never wanted to leave – neither did the adults.
In truth there wasn’t quite enough on site to keep everyone entertained for the full seven days of the trip – but that mattered little because there is more than enough going on in the area to stop everyone from going bored.
Of course many people will be familiar with this part of Europe due to its history as a focal point of the Second World War. Three days in, therefore, we decided to attempt a ‘serious day’ and explore the many spots along the Normandy coast where the conflict loomed large – and in some respects still does.
Having never visited the area before I didn’t quite expect the focus to be quite as war-heavy as it is. As you enter almost every village and town you are welcomed by some type of military vehicle, both German and allied, and pretty much each one has its own dedicated museum.
But it’s truly fascinating and inspiring stuff and while an occasional challenge with two toddlers and two five-year-olds, we did not regret the trip out for a second. Particular highlight was Arromanches and a trip to the D-Day museum to learn all about its man made harbour, which helped provide a turning point for Winston Churchill and his troops.
Our other day trip took us to the aforementioned town on Villers-sur-Mer and what a surprising treat it was. A quaintly beautiful little town with a long, pristine beach, clear blue water and a lovely little centre made up of cafes, restaurants and little independent shops. A must if you are in the area.
Given more time it was clear that there is plenty more in this area to be explored and both the wife and I vowed it was somewhere we would happily return to.
But it was hard to keep leaving the site when that pool was so appealing.
A week break for a family four at Le Village Normandy Garden Village in Normandy, France, off-peak costs from £625, peak costs from £825. hoseasons.co.uk or 0345 498 6130.