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
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