Alternative titles for this post included ‘I will never get on another ferry in my life EVER’ or ‘That time I nearly divorced my husband’.
Feeling on top of the world six days after I handed in my final project for my Masters degree we set sail on the Pont Aven from Cork to Roscoff on the west coast of France. The kids were ridiculously excited about their first time on a ferry and they bounced from the soft play area to the face painting to the magician and disco. My husband, happy that we had actually made the ferry on time after a late start, relaxed and headed straight to the bar. After a quick bite to eat in the buffet restaurant (which was very overpriced and cold) I sat and gazed out of the window over the glistening ocean and thought…..I’m going to be sick.
It wasn’t a rough sailing but the sea sickness was rough. I popped on some sea bands (acupressure wrist bands that are designed to relieve nausea) and felt a tiny bit better. The only thing that really helped was lying down so I was quite happy to go to bed at 11pm, dragging the kids away form the dance floor. We were woken at 5am, docked around 7am and we were off on our two day drive to Frejus in the Cote d’Azur.
Niall did all of the driving and it went fine, the kids had separate iPads to keep them busy, we made a couple of rest stops and arrived at the budget hotel Kyriad in Clermont Ferrand at around 5pm. It was perfect for our overnight stay, had an indoor swimming pool and was a short walk to a variety of restaurants and bars. It also had a nice buffet breakfast the next morning. So day two in France we had a little lie in and got back on the road around mid-day. Six hours later we arrived at our campsite Holiday Green in the pretty coastal town of Frejus.
This was our second time visiting Frejus as a family but our first time at Holiday Green and I immediately liked it. We booked with Eurocamp and had a brand new modern three bed mobile home that was a five minute walk to the pools/restaurants/entertainment but was far enough away to avoid the music/general noise at night. It was well laid out, had a wooden deck with sun loungers, dining table and an umbrella. The mobile home itself was located in a very peaceful area of the site surrounded by pine trees.
The pools and facilities
I loved the pools, the main California style pool takes centre stage and has plenty of room for everyone. Lie-lows and inflatables are only allowed in the pool from 12pm-3pm which is a good idea in my opinion. There’s a separate baby/toddler pool and also an indoor heated pool and water slide. Most mornings they hosted aqua aerobics in the main pool, followed by a midday dance where everyone gets out of the pool to dance around it (it’s more fun than it sounds). Then depending on the day there’s a range of afternoon pool activities including scuba diving, pool water skiing and water volley ball.
There were plenty of sun loungers at anytime of the day and a small poolside bar to buy drinks and snacks. The playground was situated above the pool, it’s minimal but spacious and had enough to keep our two busy. There’s a miniature golf course on the main terrace, table tennis and a mini-amphitheatre with nightly entertainment which was always excellent. There was also a small nightclub which hosted junior discos for the under 12’s. The onsite shops and restaurant were very reasonably priced and there’s free WiFi everywhere on site.
What we ate
We didn’t eat in the restaurant on site but we did get takeout pizza twice which was tasty. We opted to do a big shop on our first day in the nearby Carrefour and to come up to the mobile home for lunch and dinner each evening. Some days we had an early lunch and spent the afternoon down by the pool with a pack of babybel cheese and crackers for snacks. In the mornings Niall and one of the kids would trek up to the shop to buy fresh croissants and orange juice.
There was no oven in our mobile home so everything had to be cooked on the hob or in the microwave. I didn’t cook anything too complicated, hot dogs, fajitas, spaghetti bolognese. Burgers and salad, pastas and stir-fry’s were also popular.
Honestly there’s not much I could complain about, I really loved the campsite but if there were any downsides I suppose it would be that it is quite hilly (as most site’s are in Frejus) and some of the roads/footpaths around the site are in need of repair meaning I couldn’t let the kids out of my sight for a second when walking to and from the village area in fear that they would trip or fall in their flip flops. Also if you’re visiting France in August it’s busy everywhere as it’s the month when most French holiday and the entertainment is catered for this audience and mostly performed in French. But neither of those things would put me off visiting the campsite again.
The kids had such a great time, we didn’t venture to the beach or on any day trips as they were quite happy to simply go to the pools each day. Neither of them wanted to do the kids club but they made lots of friends which really made the trip for them. I got to actually relax after a long hard summer of working and finalising projects and actually enjoyed reading a book (that wasn’t academic in nature) for the first time in a very long time.
My favourite family memories from this trip are of the simple days when we slept in, ate croissants and orange juice for breakfast on the deck and lazed about by the pool all day. No schedules or rushing or stress. Just watching the kids play and have fun and getting to sit and relax even if it was for five minutes until one of them called us.
In the evenings my favourite memories are of watching the kids play in the playground after a show, having a drink at the bar and not caring about getting them to bed early. They enjoyed the freedom of playing, meeting up with friends and eating late night crepes or chocolate covered waffles from the crèperie.
The trip home
So after 10 nights of sun, fun and relaxation it was time to make the trek back to Roscoff. We decided to do the trip back over two nights so stopped in Lyon on night one and Tours on night two. In hindsight this wasn’t the best idea we’d ever had.
We arrived in Lyon during rush hour traffic and it took two hours to reach our hotel, the Novotel . The hotel itself was very pleasant and very child friendly. The reception staff gave the kids little toys on arrival, the rooms are very spacious and the beds are probably the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on. We ate in the hotel restaurant which was very reasonable priced and had a great kids menu. There was also a small kids play room in the reception area.
So on our last full day in France we drove to Tours and as we drove North the blue skies grew grey and it wasn’t long before we were sitting in traffic in torrential rain, all the way the Hotel Mercure. This is a small business hotel in a quiet area of Tours, there’s not much to it and nothing much to look at as it’s located beside the motorway. The room was small, the beds weren’t as comfortable as the Novotel and there was a small outdoor pool that was unusable as a result of the rain. So we didn’t venture further than the local KFC for dinner on our final night and decided to have an early night rent a movie in the room instead.
What are we missing?
We were up early for the last leg of the return trip to Roscoff. Google maps estimated 4.5 hours driving time and the ferry was due to depart at 4pm so we set off relaxed in the knowledge that we had plenty of time to get to the port. After three hours of driving we decided to grab some lunch at a nice Italian restaurant and enjoyed the last of the summer sunshine. Then it was into the car, onto the motorway and about twenty minutes later I decided to gather all the travel documents.
“Where are the passports?” I asked my husband, confused as I looked into the glove compartment. I wasn’t too worried as I knew I had put them there the night before and my immediate thought was he had moved them into my bag. The look of fear on his face was immediate.
“Oh no…” he replied. “I put them into the hotel room safe last night.” I mentally re-traced leaving the room, packing the kids bags, checking under the duvet cover, under the beds, the bathroom, one last sweep of the room before declaring “All clear, let’s go.” No, no safe. I didn’t even know where the safe was. Panic set in.
At that stage it was approximately a two hour journey to the ferry and three hours until it sailed, it was a three hour journey back to the hotel. We pulled off the motorway and frantically tried to figure out a solution. Ring the hotel and try to determine if we definitely left them there, yep! Next we ring Brittany Ferries and explain the situation, a very nice lady tells us if we can get the hotel to photocopy the passports and fax them to them this might be all they need. They need to confirm with Irish immigration first if they will accept this and will ring us back. So back onto the hotel, they will kindly photocopy the passports and fax to Brittany Ferries for us. Oh the stress!
We get back on the motorway to Roscoff waiting anxiously for Brittany Ferries to phone back. I google alternative sailings just in case, not another one to Ireland for a week. We would have to go through the UK. Brittany Ferries ring to confirm Irish immigration will accept our photocopied passports. Phew!
One hour away from Roscoff and traffic comes to a standstill. We listen to the French radio station and don’t understand anything other than there’s some sort of accident. We notice other drivers doing a u-turn and driving the wrong way up a slip-road. Niall decides to follow them and we find a back road around the motorway.
Finally arrive in Roscoff, everyone is stressed and cranky and after eventually finding the lady we were speaking to they let us on the ferry. Turns out it’s delayed anyway as the Captain waits for those stuck in traffic.
A surprise ending
The relief of actually getting onto the ferry quickly eroded, the crossing was rocky as the Captain made up lost time on full speed. I spent most of the time lying down in the cabin swearing that I would never, ever, EVER get on another ferry ever again. The sea-bands were useless. Fifteen hours later the ship finally docked and I still felt sick. Four hours later, home and unpacked my head was still spinning.
Maybe it’s morning sickness Niall joked. One hour and two pregnancy tests later…..maybe it was! Perhaps the title for this post should have been ‘Our lovely summer holiday and a surprise ending!’