Camp­ing’s less in-tents than when we were kids

finds that cam­paing ain’t all it used to be on a visit to France

The Sentinel - - GETAWAY - PAMELA HOEY

ILOVE camp­ing. Stay­ing on camp­sites brings back happy mem­o­ries of fam­ily hol­i­days in far-flung places like Newquay and Tenby. Then, as I got older, trips to France with friends un­der can­vas be­came the fort­night I looked for­ward to most ev­ery year. But creep­ing age and a bad back, which saw me rolling round on the floor be­fore manag­ing to get up, meant my time sleep­ing on airbeds had come to an end.

I never lost the de­sire to stay in what could, by some, be de­scribed as a glo­ri­fied field, an en-suite meadow so to speak.

And that’s why I ended up at La Garangeoire in the Vendée re­gion of France.

My friend Jane, with whom I had hol­i­dayed many times across the Chan­nel, with her daugh­ter Orla and my daugh­ter Ella, ar­rived at the five-star Les Cas­tels site and were shown to a Taos three-bed­roomed, two-bath­roomed chalet called Roses.

The hol­i­day home came with cov­ered deck­ing and a gar­den area with fur­ni­ture. There was even a pop-up tent for younger chil­dren.

As Ella and Orla are teenagers they were more in­ter­ested in head­ing to one of the two pool ar­eas. The main wa­ter park had three pools: a child’s pad­dling pool, an open-air swim­ming pool and a cov­ered pool used in the morn­ings for aqua aer­o­bics.

There were also a cou­ple of wa­ter­slides which proved pop­u­lar.

Away from the main pool area, next to the pedal cart­ing there’s the La­goon, a shal­low pool sur­rounded with sand – a mini-beach where younger chil­dren can build sand­cas­tles and pad­dle safely.

The per­fect way to ex­plore the site, which also has camp­ing pitches, is to hire bikes. The girls hired two for three days which cost €25 each. They were per­fect for send­ing them off to the site shop in the morn­ings for crois­sants.

It would have been easy to spend all our time on the site, but part of the joy of France is driv­ing along the quiet roads and dis­cov­er­ing beau­ti­ful vil­lages, sea­side towns and har­bours.

At Saint-gilles-croix-de-vie we parked for free across the river, next to a merry-go-round which seems de rigueur for French hol­i­day re­sorts.

In the church square, a mar­ket sold lo­cal pro­duce, fruit, fresh fish – which may well have been landed that morn­ing in the har­bour – belts and bags and the kind of knick-knacks that keep you brows­ing for hours.

The Vendée has a num­ber of beau­ti­ful stretches of sand to choose from. On an­other day we chose Les Sables d’olonne, where the town has a bustling har­bour, plenty of fish restau­rants, a wide va­ri­ety of clothes bou­tiques and gift shops.

The beach it­self is a per­fect cres­cent of golden sand and the shal­low drop into the warm sea makes it ideal for those with small chil­dren.

But if you’d rather not drive (it’s not scary as long as you keep right!) there’s plenty to keep both young and old en­ter­tained at La Garangeoire.

A wel­come pack con­tained a list of daily ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing a ta­ble ten­nis tour­na­ment, tram­polin­ing and archery. You could en­joy a wine tast­ing in the chateau and on Fri­day there was a quiz in English.

Look out for the crepe party on Mon­days and Wed­nes­days where you buy a jug of bat­ter and sit round a ta­ble to cook your own crepes on a hot plate – it’s great fam­ily fun.

Ev­ery morn­ing from 10am to noon there’s a kids’ club, leav­ing par­ents with two hours to en­ter­tain them­selves. One pop­u­lar way to is to book a ses­sion in the spa, where ses­sions cost from €30 (£26) for an hour.

The Roses was self-ca­ter­ing and came with all the nec­es­sary equip­ment, in­clud­ing bed­ding, tow­els, all kitchen equip­ment, and a dish­washer. When I used to go camp­ing, we’d fight over who was go­ing to carry the dirty dishes to the com­mu­nal wash area!

A beau­ti­ful restau­rant of­fered two sit­tings through the day as well as take­away, but the site shop was well-stocked and even sold those lit­tle things that make you feel at home, like Heinz baked beans and Patak’s curry sauces.

For a vast ar­ray of cheeses and fruit and veg, there was al­ways the Su­per U in the pretty town of Saint-julien des Lan­des.

With full days and evenings spent sit­ting out­side in the warm air in a glo­ri­ous part of France, we had a re­lax­ing week and it was with a heavy heart that we left La Garangeoire, more with an au revoir than an adieu.

The la­goon and beach is a safe play area for young­sters

Camp site re­cep­tion

One of the many chalets avail­able

The manor house at La Garangeoire

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