Tag Archives: family holidays

Beautiful Burgundy. Family cycling in France.

9 Oct

France is a great location for a cycling holiday. We are not quite ready for on-road cycle routes and travelling miles and miles each day so this year we opted for one base that was in easy reach of family friendly rides.

The canal paths and sleepy waterways are perfect for cyclists of all abilities. We set off for the day, loaded up with picnics, drinks and sun cream and just loved the relaxed and easy way of life. No one rushes anywhere in Burgundy. The colourful canal boats drift along with ease, the crew giving a wave as you ride by or perhaps lifting a glass of wine in your direction to say ‘Bon Soir’. The beautiful villages along the way are very welcoming with their boulangeries and cafes.

canal-collage

Our accommodation was on the edge of Vermenton. A lovely small town with all amenities and a very good campsite by the river. Friends of ours stayed at this site for a few days and loved it.

We stayed at Le Moulinot. This is a wonderful property that provides everything a family needs for a fun-filled holiday. The property is spacious and welcoming, has all mod cons (including a DVD player with English films) and is situated next to a beautiful millpond and swimming pool.

collage-pool

There is a canoe on the pond which we made use of every day. The swimming pool was cool and inviting during the scorching hot days and there were plenty of loungers for relaxing and reading.

You feel completely free here and are surrounded by fields, streams and wildlife. Other than the owners who live in an adjacent property, there are no other neighbours and it felt very safe for the children to be wild and free. It is a bird spotters paradise, with a resident Kingfisher, Dippers, Herons and Buzzards flying over-head and beautiful dragonflies flitting about on the water.

Wildlife Collage.jpgOur favourite wildlife were the Coypu who doggie-paddled across the pool at dusk and entertained the children for hours. Although they are from the rodent family they are very sweet and look like little otters or beavers. They  have been eradicated in the UK so we were quite excited to see them. There were also red squirrels and  Loir (Edible Dormouse). We had a brief glimpse of a red squirrel but sadly never spotted a Loir as they are nocturnal. We did however hear them in the roof space at night!

Coypu Collage.jpg

Coypu spotting!

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The beautiful and tranquil, Le Moulinot

Vermenton is an excellent base for exploring Burgundy. Here are our recommendations for places to visit.

  • Noyers-sur-Serein. A beautiful medieval town with an old castle to explore. Try lunch at Rouge et Blanc where you can get a fantastic platter of cheeses and cold meats.
  • Grottes de St More – Quite an energetic hike to these and you do need to be a bit of a mountain goat at times! If you are feeling adventurous though they are definitely worth exploring. Good for spotting sleeping bats!
  • Avallon – Another medieval town with some great restaurants. Thomas had his first taste of snails here. L’horloge restaurant on 63 Grande Rue Aristide Briand was really good at accommodating my gluten free requests. The owner spoke good English and was very reassuring in talking me through their menu.
  • Chablis – The only place I have ever been where it seems normal to have wine with breakfast! Check out the wine tours here, there are plenty to choose from. The open air market is excellent too.
  • Vezelay – A trip to the Basilica is definitely worthwhile. We had lunch at Restaurant le Dent Creuse which was very reasonably priced and despite looking like a tourist trap was actually very good.
  • Grottes D’Arcy – These are excellent caves with a guided tour in French (my husband and children enjoyed a spontaneous translation from a lovely Parisian English teacher). Look out for the second oldest cave paintings in France and amazing geological formations.
  • Auxerre – We visted here on our last day and I wish we had discovered it earlier. It has the best market of any we had seen. Do not miss Cathedral St Etienne, it has stunning stained glass windows, statues, gargoyles and paintings that take your breath away.

auxerre-collage

grottes-de-st-more-collage

vezelay-collageAs well as site seeing there are plenty of other things to do in the area…

Kayaking

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There are quite a few options for Kayaking the Burgundy rivers. We decided to head to St Pere in the Morvan Valley and chose AB Loisirs. They were helpful and friendly and spoke English which was very useful for us! Our route was a five mile fairly easy paddle and was easily managed by our 7 and 10 year old who shared kayaks with us. This was a great way to explore the river Cure and get up close to the wildlife.

Two minutes from AB Loisirs is Brasserie de Vezelay where you could buy a perfect, cold, gluten free beer. They also serve bar snacks. Definitely worth a visit if you are a coeliac like me.

Markets

We love visiting French markets with their atmosphere, sights and smells and stocking up on local cheeses and pastries. You can find a list of market days here.

Ecluse Des Dames on the Canal du Nivernais

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Ecluse Des Dames – a wonderful find!

I have to mention Ecluse Des Dames which we happily discovered on a bike ride. This is a play park in the trees! For just five euros each your little ones can play tarzan for as long as they like whilst you enjoy the picnic areas and hammocks and keep a close eye on them. (Children under 6 must be accompanied by an adult). The owners also have a small bistrot here where you can enjoy a glass of Chablis and a goats cheese salad. What a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Burgundy was a delight for all the family and we would definitely recommend Le Moulinot. We will have some very happy memories of this trip.

What is your favourite holiday destination as a family?

Aside

Center Parcs Competition. I give you… Treefall!

24 Nov

I am sooooooo excited about the latest Center Parcs competition over on Tots100.  Anyone who read my review of our holiday there last year will know that I am a huge fan and would love to go back again.

Center Parcs have recently launched a fantastic new water slide at Elveden Forest and to celebrate ‘Tropical Cyclone‘ and also their 25 year anniversary, they are asking us to put on our thinking caps and come up with what we think would be our perfect water slide.

We put our heads together as a family and came up with what we think would be a pretty cool water feature.  I give you…… ‘Treefall!’

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We wanted this water feature to represent everything that we love about Center Parcs. You start your ride in the entry pool where you board your family dinghy which is actually designed to look just like a bird’s nest. The pool currents take you around the pool and into a lift area where your dingy is transported skywards using a technique similar to that you would see in a canal boat lock system. You are transported higher and higher up into the giant redwood tree passing some treetop creatures along the way!

When you arrive at your destination (an amazing treetop house), you choose which of the three slides you wish to go down by grabbing the ropes at the entrance to the slide and pulling yourself over the edge and into a super cool exhilarating ride. The slides each look like a tree branch from the outside so for anyone that has read ‘The Faraway Tree’ this will be just like the ‘slippery slip’!

When your ride is almost finished you will fly through some reed beds and finally, enter an underground cave where you can either depart the ride OR if you’re feeling brave, get right back on again!

Camping holidays with children

26 Sep

Our first camping trip with two small children was when my son was 6 months and my daughter was 3 and I think I just dived into it without really thinking about the consequences!  It was actually a really fun trip, we went with our neighbours and they helped out with Lily whilst we set up the tent and got organised.  Our second trip was when my son was 2 and my  daughter was 5.  I’ve now come to realise that camping with children is totally different from when we used to go on our own with our little two-man tent.  Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful:

Check out the weather forecast

With 5 day forecasts being pretty reliable these days, you can plan your trip according to the weather.  If it’s forecast to rain for 4 days non-stop then it may not be the best time to go camping.

Layers, layers and more layers!

It is COLD if you are sleeping under canvas in the UK. Never underestimate how cold your little ones will get and make sure they go to bed with loads of layers on.  It’s also worth investing in winter thickness sleeping bags so that you don’t need to worry about the blankets falling off.

Take a potty!

Whether you have a child that is just potty training or one that has been dry for sometime, a potty is a definite bonus if you don’t want to hike off to the toilet block with your little one in the middle of the night.

Toys

Hopefully the weather will be great and the children will be outside most of the time but if you do have bad weather and you end up spending an amount of time in the tent you will need amusements for the children.  Games, Toys, cards and drawing stuff are all a good idea.  Don’t forget the toys for outside too.

Choose your site carefully

We started off by thinking that we needed a site with lots going on for the children, so an indoor pool, playground, maybe a games room.  After a few hectic camping trips chasing the children around from activity to activity we decided to try a very basic site without all of these amenities.  After searching the web for hours we came across Treveague Farm.  It still had a play area (a lovely handmade wooden fort playground) and it had a fantastic cafe that served food produced on the farm.  Other than that it was basically just a few fields and a shower/toilet block.  It was very small and just a short walk from the coast path.  This was by far the best camping trip we have had.  The children didn’t notice the lack of swimming pool or games room and made their own amusement.  The result was some real, quality, family time and some very happy children (and parents).  Treveague arranged a story-teller for two hours on one of our evenings there and the children sat mesmerised to the lady for two hours as she captured their imaginations with tales of dragons, princesses and magical creatures.

Tents

Our little two-man tent is now gathering dust and cobwebs in the back of the garage and we’ve invested in a decent family tent.  We’ve realised after many rainy stays in Cornwall that a bigger tent is definitely better.  If you have a large central area you at least have somewhere to play/eat when it’s pouring with rain outside. It’s also nice to be able to stand up straight and not leave the camp site with a stoop at the end of your stay. Check out ebay for some second-hand tents, you often see tents on Freecycle so there’s always a possibility of getting one for free!

Cooking

Make sure your gas bottle is full (ours ran out during our trip and there was no-where to fill it nearby).

Plan your meals beforehand and pack accordingly.  You can cook really nice meals using just a camping stove.  What we tend to do is make meals beforehand that can be reheated. We’ve pre-cooked things like stews, casseroles, chillis and curries.  If you want convenience then you can take tinned or packet foods. Chilled foods can be kept in your cool box or the campsite may provide a fridge – check beforehand.  You can get coolboxes that are re-chilled via the cigarette lighter in your car. You can usually manage with a bulk standard coolbox for a few days though.  Freeze your milk and anything else that you can before you go so that it will stay chilled for longer.

Accept that your children will be dirty from the moment you arrive!

Whatever your routine is at home, try to forget about baths before bedtime or changing their clothes on a daily basis.  Children will get dirty when you camp, the dirtier they get the more fun they are having so just go with it.  We always take a washing line and pegs with us. If you do get any major disasters you can at least rinse the worst off their clothes and hang on the line to dry.

Go with friends

If you can, arrange to go camping with friends or family.  We recently went on a trip with good friends of ours.  The children all played together and amused each other and we had other ‘grown ups’  to stay up drinking with when the children were asleep.  You can’t beat sitting under a star filled sky with a nice bottle of wine whilst the children sleep a happy, fresh air induced sleep inside the tent.

Can you recommend any family friendly campsites or camping tips?