Why An Al Fresco Holiday In Aquitaine, France Is On My List

It’s time to get my holiday thinking hat on again. With spring in the air, I yearn for far-flung places, stunning sunsets and succumbing big time to the relaxed, holiday vibe. Living in a tourist hot spot it’s hard not to get holiday envy as you see all the families rock up in their over loaded cars ready for a week on the glorious Devon coast. Bizarrely, I’ve used the same reasoning as to why we’ve not been on many foreign holidays.

Who needs to travel to a beach when its right here on my doorstep?

But this year things are going to change.

I’m ready for sun on my skin, sand between my toes and not having to think about house chores and work schedules for a week or 2. 2017 is going to be the year of the holiday and the South of France is on my radar.

Getting there

Flying into Biarritz, a 20 mile car journey will get us to the Al Fresco toddler friendly campsite,  Yelloh! Village Le Sylvamar  at Labenne Ocean Aquitaine.  I’ve scoured, pondered and analysed every inch of what would be best for my toddler, tween, teenager and I.

That was no mean feat, believe me!

But if my calculations serve me correct a week sunning it up in the south of France, close to Biarritz’s chic surf vibe should see us right.

The nearby beach at AQUITAINE - LABENNE OCÉAN, in the South of France looks the perfect location for a family holiday with toddlers, tween and teenagers

Busy Days Al Fresco

With close access to a large sandy beach my older boys can spend their days learning to surf, (I might even join them, I’ve watched Point Break so can count that as the theory test. We might even have a try at windsurfing or buzzing around on jet skis. And while the big boys are playing, a bucket and spade will be enough to keep my toddler happy.

Sand is such a novelty when you’re use to a pebbly beach.

Looking at family holidays, I like the idea of Staying Al Fresco in AQUITAINE - LABENNE OCÉAN

When mooching about on site is on the agenda, then the water-park with a heated pool, lagoon, lazy river with buoys and a three lane water slide will offer enough entertainment for us all. The toddler can make the most of the new children’s indoor play pool with water games to escape the midday sun.

Looking at family holidays, I like the idea of Staying Al Fresco in AQUITAINE - LABENNE OCÉAN

The Icing On The Cake

In an ideal world I’d take along other family, being a single parent escaping to the jacuzzi or sauna would only be possible with some clever childcare swapping as well as biding me some time at the organised workout sessions. I need to get my thinking hat on as to who’d be the perfect holiday companions. I have a few friends in mind.

They’d be welcome company for an evening at the bar, creperie, pizzeria, restaurant or nightclub. Solo holidaying is always a  little easier with other adults I’m sure even a bbq on the decking will be a welcome change for more relaxed nights too. Just to sit outside on a warm evening would be a welcome change from the chilly British ones. Crikey, I’m really in the more now!

And when the kids are all swim, sea and surfed out. We can pop along to Hossegor – Europe’s surf capital, with it’s trendy shops just 10 miles away, to absorb the relaxed laid back atmosphere.

I think it’s safe to say that  Yelloh Village le Sylvama would make the ideal family holiday for me and mine.

This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Al Fresco Holidays and Tots 100.  

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Our Family Holiday At Trevella Park Cornwall – Part 2

As promised, here’s the second part to our family holiday to Trevella Park in Crantock, Cornwall (part 1 is here if you missed it)

Busy Family Days and Lazy Evenings in Cornwall

As well as staying in a comfortable accommodation, there’s so much to do with Trevella Park as your base. The toddler’s all time favourite thing to while we were at the park was to visit the play park. A short walk from our caravan, it was set on a large grass area taking away an worries about toddler trips or falls. With a coupe of sets of swings, 3 slides and a wooden tractor it kept our boy more than entertained during impromptu trips to stretch our legs or burn off some last flickers of energy.

There’s also a much more adventurous play park with zip wire and climbing frames which was a magnet for older kids to congregate and make new friends. The toddler’s favourite also lead to the swimming pool, accessed via a keypad entry, it was clean and with the weather granting us a full week of sun, the sun beds were in great demand.

The toddler pool was perfectly positioned to allow my boy to paddle on his own with just arm bands to keep him upright and where I could just perch on the side. Both pools were heated and accompanied by some very funky looking old style changing rooms.

the toddler swimming pool at Trevella park is great for a warm paddle while the older kids and adults play in the larger pool

Out and about in Cornwall

We mixed up our stay with a beach day just a minute drive from our caravan, hiring surf boards from the onsite hire shop which were secured with straps by the friendly owner. This meant we weren’t confined to only surfing in Crantock and the boys could check out which beach had the best waves through out the day. Crantock beach is truly stunning, when the tides out your have vast expanses of sand with the Gannel river leaving puddles of water.

checking out the swimming pool in Trevella park, crantock

High tide and it’s a different story, the river fills and the island sand bank which has formed since our last visit disappears. The boys had just as much fun playing in the sand dunes as the waves and with a lifeguard patrol, toilets, small refreshment shop and National Trust car park.

Crantock beach in Cornwall
When the surf wasn’t on our side, we took the boys into Newquay to stop up on skateboard and surf gear spent the day zip wiring, free fall jumping and ride a giant swing at Hangloose  by The Eden Project, a 35 minute drive away, and a quick visit to Holywell Bay Fun Park, just a 10 minute drive from Trevella, where the older boys (and Daz) challenged each other on the go karts, played crazy croquet and panned for gold.

They toddler had his first experience of a bouncy castle here too. Bad move! That was literally all he wanted to do, even with a huge sandpit equipped with diggers wasn’t enough lure him away but with the park closing at 5pm he was dragged screaming for the ‘bouncey” with the promise to find some back in Devon.

With so much on offer, we headed home and planned our next day using the App for Cornwall, A day out at Flambards, sedgeway, another day of adrenalin adventure at Adrenalin Quarry as well as the FlowRider to practice their surfing skills were some of the ideas thrown into the mix. It’s definately worth downloading this app before you go and planning your break.

After busy days, we were more than happy to spend evenings at the park. We did pop out for an early tea to The Bowgie Inn one evening for typical teenage favourite pub food. It’s no frills family friendly sports bar with amazing views of Crantock bay but out ultimate recommendation  for somewhere to dine out is The Smugglers Den near Cubert for a top notch meal. We nearly always pay to a visit when we stay in Crantock but sadly we didn’t get to dine there on this occasion due to the boys being wiped out from their busy days.

Our caravan was a stones throw from the picturesque fishing lakes and a quiet stroll around early evening, or any time in fact, gives you the most amazing sounds of nature. With the ducks waddling around in search of friendly tourist nibbles to watching the swallows skim the lake for bugs, I took myself off for a few moments peace a couple of times and could’ve easily sat and watched the world go by for an hour if I had;t had the pull of wanting to spend time with my boys without the distraction of chores and work wasn’t beckoning.

Trevella Parks boats some amazing fishing lakes, perfect for a family holiday where we all get something to do
The lakes are also home to to resident swan, a number of wild birds and various fish which I won’t attempt to name! as well as the fishing decks, there are picnic benches and an onsite wild life ranger offering activities for the older children.

On our final day and after a last breakfast on the deck, we packed up our car and with heavy hearts (and a pair of sunburnt ankles, don’t ask, I had a packing malfunction) we began the journey home, stopping off for mid morning coffee in Padstow. Our memories of Trevella Park firmly embedded in our hearts with a lasting memory of a happy family holiday.

As ever, Crantock, you have been amazing!

our holiday to Crantock in cornwall where we reconnect as a family and enjoy busy days and lazy evenings

Disclaimer 

We were invited down to Trevella Park for the purpose of this review, all words and photos are entirely my own. 

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Our Trevella Park Family Holiday, Crantock – Part 1

Reconnecting as a family at Trevella Park

Everyone has their go-to holiday place. The one where you know you’re going to have a great time and already holds many happy memories. Mine’s Cornwall, the last county in England, or the first depending on where you’re standing. Where the land ends and the living is easy. It’s my little piece of heaven which the boys, Daz and I come back to year after year and Trevella Park in Crantock is the perfect base to from which to explore.

Set back on the road from Newquay to Crantock, Trevella is a 5 star, award winning holiday park for campers, caravaners and glampers. You can take your own or hire one of their caravans, safari tents or geo dome tents and is just the ticket if, like us, you prefer to avoid any holiday parks with pubs and entertainment. We like to go away to relax and reconnect as a family as well as make the most of our days rather than party through the night.

On site there’s a heated swimming pool and toddler pool, a small cafe, 2 large play areas; one for toddlers and one for older kids, a small arcade, shop, a launderette and resident owl, bunnies, and cockatiel but perhaps the best features though are the picturesque fishing lakes and rangers activities.

We’ve stayed in Trevella once before, it seems like an age ago, but it has remained one of our best holidays with the boys. It was where we first set foot on the beautiful beach in Crantock and couldn’t believe our luck on discovering such a beautiful part of the country (our bonkers spaniel loved it too as it’s one of the few glorious sandy beaches which allow dogs all round.) We’ve been back to Crantock several times since but Trevella is by far our favourite place we’ve stayed and judging by the reactions to my social media updates of our mini break, is the favourite of many of you already.

breakfast on the decking at Trevella Park caravan and campsite in Cornwall

Accommodation

The caravans are set so you feel a real sense of space and security. We stayed in Lake View 20, accessed through a key fob operated security gate and with a glimmer of the stunning lake just a stones throw away. The 3 bedroom superior caravan boasted decking which caught the morning sun and importantly for us, a gate to stop the toddler escaping. (You can read more about the different caravans here)

breakfast time

It was being well equipped for a self catering holiday and enjoying al fresco meals, they’re comfortable enough for a chilled evening playing board games and watching TV after some full on adrenalin fuelled days. Even with 5 of us, it felt spacious and judging by the long lazy lie ins the boys had, we all found it incredibly comfortable!

the beautiful setting of the Lake view caravans in Trevella Park, Crantock in Cornwall

With the weather on our side we made full use of Trevella during our stay. The older teens mooched around exploring the site, playing in the arcade, making lots of snack trips to the shop and revisiting their younger, screen free years in the park as well as cooling off in the pool. After a full day surfing thanks to hiring boards from the onsite Crantock Beach and Bike Hire shop, we didn’t get even a glimmer of the word ‘bored”

the beautiful setting of the Lake view caravans in Trevella Park, Crantock in Cornwall

The toddler was an absolute delight the whole holiday, I’m putting it down to hang so much to do on the park, busy days, Daz and I being so relaxed and being able to explore and play safely and that’s where I’ll leave it for today.

In Part 2 I’m sharing all the activities we did as well as the other things you can do in the area.

making the most of the self catering facilities in the caravan in Trevella park

Disclaimer

We were invited down to Trevella Park to experience a family holiday. All words and photography are entirely my own. 

a fabulous family holiday in a family friendly holiday park in Cornwall. this photo was taken on the local nearly Crantock beach near Newquay

pin me!

 

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How to do Center Parcs on a budget

We’ve been visiting the family friendly holiday hot spot, Center Parcs, for many years now that its become a real ‘we’re home’ feeling as we first spot the familiar landing bay in the reception, yet I’m always amazed at the “ooo, it’s expensive there” response we tend to get when sharing our holiday plans. Yes, you can stay in a state of the art treehouse, complete with all mod cons (I’m talking games room, saunas, hot tubs, you get the gist)  but there are also more wallet friendly villas you can stay in and there is a way to enjoy a break at Center Parcs on a budget

There have been many occasions when our stay has been our only break of the year, but as the boys love it so much, and we can pretty much guarantee a fantastic time, we’ve compromised and budgeted in many areas without breaking the bank.

 

Book early

Out of season is always going to be cheaper. January seems to be the cheapest time of the year to go. Don’t be put off though by the thought of going in Winter, there’s still so much to do. If you’re not tied to school holidays you can get a midweek break for a really good price. As my kids are school age, I get the county school term dates online for the coming years and check for any weeks which are different from the majority of the country or where teacher trainer days have been tagged onto the beginning or end of a school holiday.

We managed a midweek break in the first week of September last year for an amazing price as most schools had gone back and so the prices were considerably less than the previous week. (we also bumped into lots of familiar Devon families that week who had spotted the price difference too!)

Book early after your visit

When you return from a break you’ll get a ‘come back soon’ offer where if you book within 28 days you’ll get free insurance, best price guarantee and £25 in restaurant vouchers. It’s so worth doing the above and booking your next break straight away, giving you plenty of time to save for your next break.

Prebook activities

You can prebook any activities, where it’s also good to check out any special offers section. We’ve managed to get bowling considerably cheaper as well as a few other activities. It is worth pre booking activities as during busy times they get snapped up pretty quickly. It helps also so you plan an itinerary around them. There have been occasions where restaurants have early dining offers too with quite good savings just for eating slightly earlier.

Center Parcs can be done on a budget. here's how we enjoy a break there without breaking the bank

 

Dine in

The restaurants there are very good and the customer service is excellent, but if you are really trying to keep costs down then eat in. We do a supermarket shop en route and top up in the onsite Parc Market which also have good offers. The kitchens in the villas are well equipped so you can easily dine in and make your own packed lunches too. There are plenty of picnic spots around, as well as the beach and a glorious green to sit and watch the world go by.

During the colder months, there are places to sit and eat packed lunches in the plaza. You’ll never be frowned upon and I’ve even borrowed cutlery from one of the restaurants, seriously, they have nailed customer service there and nothing is ever too much trouble.

we've been visiting Center Parcs for many years now, so I've put together some tips on how you can plan a break on a budget

Take your own bikes

We’ve always taken our own to cut down on hire charges. You don’t NEED a bike though, it’s just the Center Parcs thing to have one. There are no cars so you can ride around safely, the company vans you see driving around will always give priority to pedestrians and cyclists, so even if you haven’t ridden a bike for years, you’ll feel safe getting back on the saddle. That said, there are land trains to get you from A-B when you’ve overdone it in the Rapids or are laden down with swimming gear and your packed lunch.

If you don’t own a bike and your brazen enough, ask to borrow one from a friend or neighbour, it’s only a few days and if you get a puncture or run into any difficulties the cycle centre staff are super friendly and have been really helpful when ever we’ve needed any type of cycle maintenance. Just remember to bring a lock though. Center Parcs do sell some for a couple of £’s so if you’re borrowing a bike you could give it to the owner as a thank you!

Swim, bike walk

There is so much to do at Centre Parcs, we often joke that you need a holiday to recover, but you’ll never feel pressurised into partaking in any of the activities and we’ve never experienced any hard sell. You can easily fill your days in the swimming pool, on bike rides or long walks. There’s a  Rangers Lodges for the kids and some fantastic play areas for all ages as well as indoor soft play.

The villas are all very comfortable so you’ll be only too happy to return and relax after the above, many have DVD players included so a relaxing night in watching a film with a Chinese meal kit for 2 is always an option.being in the forest brings the advantage of lots of wildlife. We spend most of our time looking out through the patio doors at the animals and birds which come right up looking for food.

On our last break we were lucky to have a stag sit approximately 25 ft away and watched deer wander slowly past every day as well as a family of ducks watching us through the glass and woodpeckers flying in and out the trees. Honestly, Micheala Stachan has nothing on me when I’m there, I turn into a real nature geek!

we've been visiting Center Parcs for many years now, so I've put together some tips on how you can plan a break on a budget

 

Free baby food!

I know that feeding your baby is not going to break the bank, but many restaurants and cafe’s offer complimentary baby food. They also offer good value kids menus with meal, drink and desert offers, this is where the savings add up.

Share accommodation

It works out cheaper if you can share accommodation with another family, they have villas with up to 4 bedrooms. I’m still trying to convince my sister that we can afford to share a tree house  just so I can experience how the other half live for a weekend but she’s not quite got the Center Parcs bug enough to warrant parting with her hard-earned cash!

 

And that ‘s about it. You really can do Centre Parcs on a budget.

we've been visiting Center Parcs for many years now, so I've put together some tips on how you can plan a break on a budget

 

This is in no way connected with Centre Parcs, all opinions and photographs are entirely my own. 

How to do Center Parcs on a budget,

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Sun, Sea and A Final Family Holiday With My Teenage Son

Watching your children grow up can be defined by one word; bittersweet. You make it your mission to nurture and guide them to the goal of a happy, healthy adult, revelling and marvelling at each milestone they conquer. There’s happy moments, proud moments, tough days and sad. Then just as you start to appreciate the person they’re growing into you realise that your work is almost done.

It’s not that you stop being a parent or guiding and supporting them whenever you can, it’s just there comes a time when your influence is out balanced by many other factors and they’re pretty much free wheeling without you as their stabilizers.

And that’s where I’m heading in my parenting journey with my eldest son, the Teenager.

Our family holiday days are numbered, I’d even say we’re on the final countdown. This sombre fact struck me just this week when I excitedly announced a weekend away and he floored me with his response,

do I have to come?

I hadn’t prepared for a time when our family holidays would be without him and here it was like a slap in the face dealing with that very fact there and then. So I did what every self-respecting, emotionally balanced parent does when they don’t get the response they’re expecting; I resorted to underhand threats and blackmail with a much less appealing option and I told him that he would have to stay with his grandparents instead.

Unfortunately on this occasion my tactics backfired and the thought of a few days away from his computer wasn’t enough to coerce his decision. He took it, a weekend away rejected in return for a few stolen hours with his mates.

Trespass sutton ski jacket reviewed here

 

Then ‘Boom’ and there it was. My light bulb moment. I needed to up the stakes and set about researching the perfect final family holiday for a teenager. I needed sun, sea and activity. My check list would have to be so exciting that he wouldn’t give his skateboard or XBox a second thought. There had to be other teenagers, they hunt in packs and gravitate towards each other or is it repelling  against adults.

I haven’t quite worked it out yet.

One thing I’m sure of is that too much time with the olds could possibly be the nail in the coffin for any future calls on his time, so giving him the opportunity to have fun with his family while allowing some time within company of other teens could be the answer to my quandary.

A final family holiday with my teenage son

The toddler’s the easy one to please, give him a sandy beach, short traveling times and the undivided attention of 2 adults and 2 older brothers and he’s smiling. And while I may crave a week of book reading, swimming and dining out, the reality is there’s a  tween, teenager and husband who need more going on than a week by the pool.

Put simply, we need sun, sea and activity. That’s all. Water sports, sun and food tick our holiday check list.

Throw in a week with out the distraction of computer games, emails to answer and above all time to reconnect and make memories.

And hopefully, fingers crossed, wish upon a falling star, our final holiday with our teenage son, is nothing but a silly worry.

As if we get it right, there’ll be many, many more to come.

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