So we’re in the final throws of preparing to go on holiday to France tomorrow. We made a last minute decision on Wednesday evening that we were going to book a holiday.
We have had two holidays to France in the past; once in 2013 and another in 2015 and lots just say, they were a disaster in one way or another. So this holiday could put to bed the demons of the last two visits OR it could confirm that we should not under any circumstance visit France ever again. I’m hoping that it’s the former!
So our visit to France was in the summer of 2013. At this time Albie was only 4 months old, Mabel was almost 3 and Oscar was 5. We didn’t realise at this time but Albie was cow’s milk protein intolerant which, as I describe our holiday, will become more relevant.
The Euro Tunnel train
We set out from home to the Euro Tunnel in Folkestone which is about 3 and a half hours from home. All was well until we got in line to board our train when we were told that there would be a delay in our crossing. The delay was about an hour all in all. This became a problem as we were an hour later getting onto our onward journey which would be about another 5 hours! Our final destination was the island of Oleron which is a beautiful place. However we had booked an campsite part the way down into our journey just for one night to break it up. Well time was getting on, it was getting dark & the kids were getting more & more ratty in the back of the car. We eventually found out campsite at about 1am. All completely exhausted & lacking in a sense of humour we piled into our trailer tent & got our heads down.
The next morning we woke on a beautiful campsite, which we were unaware of at or very very late arrival time. Keen to get on our way again, we packed up the tent & started the next leg of our journey. That (undiagnosed) cows milk protein intolerance meant that when Albie filled his nappy, EVERYONE knew about it. It was vile especially when trapped in a hot car for hours on end. I should also mention that Mabel had not long potty trained and so our journeys were punctuated by many toilet stops. What we hadn’t realised is that we had chosen to travel on the French bank holiday. The roads were bumper to bumper as French holiday makers made their way to the coast (as were we). The journey should have take us around 5 hours but instead took us…..8 freaking hours!
Thankfully we were meeting our very good friends and their 2 children on the campsite in Oleron. When we finally arrived, we were greeted by our friends, a beer and a barbecue on the beach. Bliss!
Looking back, I think that I was suffering with postnatal depression which wasn’t diagnosed for another 5 months after this. I can remember feeing as though everything was passing me by, like I was looking down watching myself in a haze whilst everyone else was enjoying their holiday. I can’t look at the photos from this holiday as it takes me back to the those feelings & makes me feel sad that I couldn’t enjoy it.
Our second holiday to France was 2 years later. We felt that we’d leant from a few mistakes from our first trip. We booked a hotel on the way down to the campsite we were going to be staying in. The kids loved it & were very excited for a hotel breakfast! The drive from the hotel to the campsite was fairly uneventful, just the usual wee stops. The area we were staying in was so beautiful & we were looking forward to exploring during our week there.
We arrived at the campsite & we felt as though we’d hit on gold. The campsite was lovely. It had a swimming pool, a bouncy castle, go karts and the kids whizzed up and down on their scooters. We put the tent up and made a quick trip to the supermarket to buy milk etc for our breakfast. We then chilled for the evening. We stayed on the campsite the next day with the kids enjoying the pool and exploring the campsite. We’d decided that the next day that we might go out to visit one of the many nearby castles.
Once we were ready we readied our van for our venture out. One small problem, we couldn’t get the van key into the ignition. We tried & tried but something was up with it. We had to resort to phoning the AA for help. Luckily James remembered at the last minute that we needed European cover for the van. Many calls back & forth which could only be made from beside our tent because the reception was so bad, revealed that an AA van would be in the area in the next day or so! So we were stranded for the next couple of days. We were stuck on the campsite with virtually no food but that wasn’t the end of the word because the restaurant on site served take away pizzas. BUT the restaurant was shut because of a family bereavement meaning we had 3 kids to feed on biscuits and cereal!!! Eventually the kind owner of the site took pity on us & went for to collect a takeout pizza, bless him!
The day came for the AA man to come out to us. Phew! He looked over the van & told us that it was something very simple. The ignition lock had dropped down meaning that the key wasn’t inline with the mechanism. Fab! BUT NO! The AA man couldn’t move our van out because the wheels were locked & we couldn’t turn the steering wheel. SO….we were to wait for a pick up truck from a local garage to collect the van & take it to be fixed. It couldn’t be fixed on site as the dashboard had to be taken apart. The pickup arrived, well it was supposed to be a low loader but instead they just brought a van! So they then tootled off & said they would be back the next day to collect the van, that day arrived & they didn’t come! When we knew that our van needed to be fixed we arranged a hire car so that at least we could get out and about.
The next day arrived & our van got taken away to be fixed. By this time we’d had enough. We had all the camping gear & knew that none of it would fit in the teeny car we had been given (luckily this was covered by the AA). So there was nothing for it but to pack up the tent & all the camping gear so that it could be put into the van. We had also been told that it would be about a week before the van was fixed and that we’d have to come back out to France to pick it up! We were livid but so utterly exhausted from the whole process with lots of tears being shed for the lack of holiday we’d had & the frustration at having to entertain 3 children.
Once our van was taken with all our camping gear loaded into it, we decided to try to pull back the holiday somehow. We decided to drive to Paris and spend 2 nights there. Again, thank goodness this was paid by the AA! So we stayed in a Raddison Hotel very close the the Eiffel Tower. We also made the snap decision to go to Eurodisney to try to redeem this holiday for the kids sake. So we spent the next 2 days in Paris waking up to the view of the Eiffel Tower. We then made our way back to the Euro Tunnel bit first we had to swap hire cars as the car we had couldn’t go over to the UK.
Oscar enjoying a room service breakfast!
I have NEVER been so glad to get home from a holiday! The annoyances didn’t end there though. A week later, James had to fly to France (paid for by the AA), pick up the van, stay in a hotel overnight & then make his way home.
So as you can see, our track record with France is not good at all!! I think I have enough distance between our last disasters to visit again! This time we have booked with Airbnb.
Wish us luck & keep everything crossed that our luck had changed for the better.
See you on the flip side!
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