Ex­plor­ing France on first fam­ily hol­i­day

JAMES ROB­SON packs up his not in­con­sid­er­able baby kit determined to have a great sum­mer va­ca­tion...

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

RE­MEM­BER when trav­el­ling was as easy as get­ting in your car and hit­ting the road?

When a city break could be done with lit­tle more than an overnight bag?

Those days were con­signed to mem­ory the mo­ment Al­fie was born.

Just 8lbs 5oz – al­beit with a larger than av­er­age head, ac­cord­ing to the mid­wife – when he en­tered the world, who could have known that some­thing so small would re­quire so much ap­pa­ra­tus?

At last count my baby boy had gone through three beds, the same num­ber of high chairs and two baths in less than a year.

Out­fits have lit­er­ally been worn for min­utes be­fore be­ing vom­ited on and grown out of with­out even get­ting through a laun­dry cy­cle.

Par­ent­hood meant that just leav­ing the house sud­denly re­quired an in­ven­tory check be­fore lock­ing the front door.

Dummy. Back-up dummy. Nap­pies, muslin cloths, ster­ilised bot­tles. That gi­raffe for teething. For­mula! And that’s just for a trip to the su­per­mar­ket. So when my wife sug­gested we go on our first fam­ily hol­i­day, just months af­ter Al­fie was born, I was un­der­stand­ably re­luc­tant.

I had vi­sions of wrestling with a pram at the air­port check-in.

The shop as­sis­tant had made it look like close-up magic dur­ing the in-store demon­stra­tion.

Throw in a scream­ing baby, a sud­den down­pour and car park ticket rapidly run­ning out of time and the sim­ple act of col­laps­ing a pushchair feels like a chal­lenge in The Cube.

Still, we wanted a hol­i­day. And the Bri­tish weather be­ing what it is, we agreed it had to be abroad.

The com­pro­mise – we’re driv­ing. And so, with the car re­sem­bling the open­ing ti­tles of the Bev­erly Hill­bil­lies, we set off for north­ern France – with its beau­ti­ful coast­line and coun­try­side.

With a va­ri­ety of towns, vil­lages and cities within easy reach, it would also give us the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore.

Our Can­vas Hol­i­days com­fort plus twobed­room mo­bile home with deck had more than enough room for the two of us and a baby – and could have com­fort­ably fit a larger fam­ily.

The deck, com­plete with bar­be­cue, was per­fect for catch­ing some sun while Al­fie napped in­side.

Fa­cil­i­ties like the ten­nis courts, heated swim­ming pools – cov­ered and out­doors – and ac­tiv­i­ties like mini-golf and cy­cling are per­fect for fam­i­lies.

In morn­ings we’d tuck into some French bread, smoth­ered with brie – and in the evenings it would have been easy to throw fresh meat and fish from the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket on to the bar­be­cue for the en­tirety of our stay.

But while we had our mo­ments re­lax­ing on the deck, we also wanted to ex­plore.

In the me­dieval vil­lage of Saint-Valery-surSomme, moules mariniere is a must at one of the wa­ter­front restau­rants – served up with lash­ings of creamy sauce.

It can be dif­fi­cult to park down by the port, but there are free car parks within walk­ing dis­tance of the bars and restau­rants.

Else­where, the sea­side town of Le Tou­quet – a one-time favourite haunt of Bri­tish high so­ci­ety in the early 1900s – is like tak­ing a step back in time.

Its vin­tage feel, with art deco build­ings and golden beach-lined seafront, whisks you back to an­other age when Noel Cow­ard would hol­i­day there.

The streets are lined with pretty houses, while moules-frites are on of­fer in the nu­mer­ous cafes and restau­rants in the bustling cen­tre.

Buy a de­li­cious ice cream from one of the many par­lours and while away some hours gaz­ing at the Cote d’Opale.

But be­fore you leave, mac­a­roons are also a must – with Arts Gour­mands on Rue de Metz of­fer­ing a dizzy­ing ar­ray of colours and flavours.

The pretty port town of Le Cro­toy is qui­eter than Le Tou­quet, but again of­fers a de­light­ful set­ting for a spot of lunch, where again, fresh fish is the or­der of the day.

Al­ter­na­tively patis­series along the street serve up crepes and pastries, while a peace­ful boat trip can of­fer some won­der­ful views.

If cy­cling is more your speed, you can hire a bike or – as many fam­i­lies do – bring your own to ex­plore the coun­try­side on two wheels.

With Al­fie, we’re still very much bound to car and de­cide to drive to Amiens, where the Zoo­log­i­cal Parc of­fers a great photo op­por­tu­nity.

There you can get up close to mon­keys, ele­phants, wal­la­bies, ostriches and more at the site set in at­trac­tive park­land.

While Al­fie might not re­mem­ber the first time he saw a monkey in the flesh, we’ll have the pho­tos to re­mind him in the fu­ture.

The hol­i­day was never re­ally about him – rather a case of prov­ing to our­selves that we could still travel – even with a baby on board. France proved the per­fect trial run – and a place we will re­turn to when he’s old enough to truly ap­pre­ci­ate it.

●● Pools at Yel­loh! Vil­lage la Vallee, above, and the mo­bile home, be­low right

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