Blackpool, not a pleasure beach

I have to remember this wasn’t the site’s fault but being kept awake until 11pm by rowdy teenagers when you have a 2 year old and 4 month old in the motorhome makes for a less than pleasant stay.

That being said the site at Blackpool South was actually very good.

A relatively small site with very level pitches and about 2 miles out of the centre of Blackpool, it had a great children’s play area for our toddler. It is unusual for sites to have a play area to have equipment that suits toddlers so that was great for us!

The facilities were a little dated but very clean. It had the usual baby and toddler room with small bath, toilet and change table. It also had a hair dryer in there which was useful. The adult facilities were also very good. The main plus point, and I always go on about it, is taps instead of push buttons in the showers. Heaven!

The site had a well equipped shop and a really helpful information shed packed with leaflets, files, maps and bus timetables.

To get into Blackpool at weekends is either a £10 taxi ride or a 20 minute walk and 10 minute bus journey. We paid £4.40 for 2 adult single tickets. We were also offered day rover tickets for £11 each.

There is plenty to do in Blackpool. From the Tower and Tower Ballroom to Madam Tussaud’s, Sea Life Centre and Pleasure Beach.

There are tons of restaurants, souvenir shops and ice cream vendors. If you are looking for a traditional British lunch of fish and chips we went to Yorkshire Fisheries which was rated number 2 on Trip Advisor and was really excellent. There are steps to get in but they were really attentive with the kids and the pushchair. They have a kids menu with kids portions. They also do king size and half chip portions to cater for different appetites. It was really delicious!

All in all Blackpool South was a very good site marred by the actions of a small group of teenagers. If you do visit this site maybe ask for a pitch away from the playground.

One year ago today …

Does anyone else use Amazon Prime Photos? I love how it shows you images from this day in previous years. It’s great with kids to see how far they’ve come and what you were doing exactly a year ago!

This time three years ago I was pregnant with baby number 1, we didn’t have a motorhome, instead we were touring France in a Porsche 911. We started at Lake Annecy in a chalet.

Two years ago our first daughter was 5 months old and we stayed in a gite in the Dordogne.

This time last year our first was 1 year old and I was pregnant with baby number 2. We had the motorhome and we were in Strasbourg on a tour around France, Luxemberg and Belgium.

Goodness me, that was a tiring trip. Being pregnant and looking after a 1 year old. That’s why this year we decided to keep it simple and just go to one main destination with a couple of stops on the way.

Back to Strasbourg though. We have been twice now and we really like it. I can very much recommend Camping Indigo! It’s close to the town centre with easy bus routes a short walk away. The facilities are great and it has a pool for kids to wind down at the end of a busy day.

We enjoyed the town centre with plenty of historical buildings and good food. But if you are there with kids you really must go to the science museum Le Vaisseau. We took the motorhome as it is a little out of town. If it isn’t busy there is plenty of space to park.

It is great for kids of all ages with different zones from water, to construction, to the human body. There is something to stimulate minds of all ages. You could easily spend a whole day there. We certainly did, and we are self proclaimed speed tourists!

Trip to France – Peneyrals

So the main part of our holiday was spent on the Sandaya site Les Peneyrals near Sarlat in the Dordogne region.

What a fantastic site. We booked it because it looked great for kids and we weren’t wrong, the facilities are fab.

It has 4 pools and 1 wet area for kids. The pools are different temperatures so you can pick your pool depending on the outside temperature. There is a warm and covered indoor pool which is ideal in the rain.

Sadly the week we were there the weather was unseasonably wet so we did spend a lot of time in the indoor pool.

When the weather was nice though the outdoor kids pool has lots to keep little ones entertained from slides to water jets and even a big tipping bucket for those brave enough to stand underneath!

There is a great kids play area with equipment for toddlers right up to teens with even an adult exercise area.

Petang can be played as well as badminton / volleyball and the crazy golf course is superb.

There is a kids club with activities every day, however kids have to be 5+ so our little one was too young.

We did find the site surprisingly quiet at the start of June but this meant we could have the pick of the sun loungers. But it did mean the evenings were very quiet in the bar.

The bath facilities are reasonable with a baby bath with a shower over and large counter in the main toilet block. And, rejoice, a plug!!

One thing to be wary of is the steep incline of the site which isn’t clear on the site map. The pitches near the facilities and bar are fine but those further away would take some skill to get a Caravan or motorhome on.

Another negative for us was the cost of the washing machine facilities. At €8.40 for one wash and 30 minute tumble dry we felt this was a bit steep. Especially as the washing machines only took a small load. With 2 small children we would have struggled if we hadn’t brought lots of clothes!

There is a small shop and snack bar serving breads, sandwiches, pastries and ice creams and the bar serves a good selection of food and pizzas that are reasonably priced.

The children’s menu is a bit limited. What was nice was the mocktail menu. A vast selection of virgin cocktails which was ideal for a breastfeeding mother.

All in all I was very impressed with the facilities on this site. The staff were very helpful and friendly. I would certainly recommend it for a family trip!

Trip to France – Les Alicourts

Our second stop was a rather plush 5 star site called les Alicourts set in acres of woodland on the longest straightest roman road I have ever seen. The cornfields with their vibrant poppies and cornflowers on the approach were beautiful. But nothing could prepare me for the perfection of this site.

This really is glamping at its finest. Incredible pool facilities, spa, loads of play areas this place earns its 5 stars. But it comes with a 5 star price tag. €39 for an overnight is a bit steep especially as we didn’t really get chance to enjoy the facilities. However, we were so impressed with this site we decided to stay for 3 nights on the way home instead of just 1. We would also be tempted to return next year for a longer stay.

Things to do

The aqua park is fab for kids and adults alike with 3 separate pools, a wave machine some tame slides and 2 brilliant adult slides!

The kids pool was also incredible with a huge model of a pirate ship surrounded by cannons, sharks and a treasure chest spraying water, as well as 3 slides all in about a foot of water. Our toddler really didn’t want to leave.

There are lots of great kids play areas …

… A skate park, and a tennis court.

You can hire buggies and bikes to explore the site. But again this is quite expensive. My husband rented a 4 person buggy and it was €20 for an hour!

There is a sensory / soft play room for toddlers and a kids club for older ones.

There is a lovely fishing / swimming lake with real sand for the kids to play on.

If you can find someone to watch the kids there is a spa with various treatments. It is €14 to use the spa and treatments start from €35. I managed to get a couple of hours to enjoy the hydrotherapy pools, sauna and steam room – very relaxing!

Facilities

The toilet block and facilities we were pitched next to were immaculate. In the ladies there are 3 hairdryers for you to use and plenty of toilets, showers and sink cubicles. Outside is a large washing up area complete with herb garden.

The baby facilities are also really impressive with a separate block dedicated to babies and toddlers. The only thing I would say is the basins are set quite far back and are quite deep to bend over and bath a newborn. They also have the same problem I have banged on about before, no plug, and what baby do you know that likes showers? Take a plug or cloth to stop the water and use a plastic cup!

The laundrette facilities are again super expensive. At €6 for a 45 min wash and €2 for a 12 min dry I don’t know why it is so expensive?! Also the machines are so tiny so if you think you can just shove it all into one machine, at 6kg max you will definitely struggle.

Eating and drinking

Food wise there are 2 restaurants and a takeaway which serve the usual pasta, pizza, salads and chips. There is a well stocked shop which sells fresh breads and croissants in the morning.

There is a well stocked bar by the pools and a small snack shack which opens in the height of summer.

It really is a site you should stay for longer than one night but if you are just stopping over for one night, why not do it in style!

Trip to France – Chateau Gandspette

As I mentioned in my previous post we broke the 800 mile 14 hour journey into three parts. The first part was home to Chateau Gandspette just outside Calais which took about 6 hours. From here we travel to Les Alicourts near Orléans which will take about 5 hours. The final 3.5 hour journey will take us to Peneyrals. This is travel time not including stops, of which there will be plenty to feed the kids.

We have stayed at Chateau Gandspette before. It is a really lovely site set in the grounds of a 19th century chateau and one you could stay a few days on.

It is great for kids with a huge pool and plenty of play areas. The climbing frames are shaped like utility vehicles and trains and there is even an adult exercise area.

It may have plenty of things for kids to do but it isn’t very well equipped for babies and toddlers. There are no baby bathing facilities so any more than a stop over with young ones would be a struggle.

It isn’t far off the main trunk roads heading south and is a good place to stock up on wine before the journey home. We stayed here on the way down and we will stay again on the way back.

Trip to France – the Journey

We’re all going on our summer holidays!

And by ‘all’ I mean mummy, daddy, a 2 year old and a 13 week old newborn. And by summer holiday I mean France, the Dordogne to be precise.

But before we get there let’s deal with the journey. The newborn is easy as she just sleeps. The key to a (relatively) stress free journey (when is it ever stress free with a toddler) is preparation.

First of all it is worth checking french law for rules on travelling with children as some rules are different to the UK such as placement of car seats, and the penalties can be severe. The RAC website gives a good overview.

Regular breaks

The journey to the Dordogne from North Yorkshire takes 14 hours. We have planned 2 stop overs, 1 near Calais and 1 in Orleans. We are using the channel tunnel as it is quicker than the ferry. We will also break each journey up into time slots of 2.5 hours. That way the baby can have regular feeds and will sleep when we’re moving. And if planned right the toddler will sleep for one of those stints as well.

Prepare your child a couple of days in advance by telling her you are all going on holiday and we she will need to be patient in her car seat for a couple of days but it will be worth it.

Reward good behaviour, if she travels really well a treat like an ice cream when you arrive will work wonders.

Entertainment

Entertaining a 2 year old on a long journey is tough. We decided to let her ride up front with daddy so mummy can travel with baby in the back. Daddy makes an event of it by waving at other motorhomes and giving the horn sign to lorry’s to get them to sound their horn. Spotting lorries and tractors and other large vehicles is a fun game.

Keep each activity to about 15 minutes to avoid boredom setting in.

If all else fails, we have a trick up our sleeves. We have downloaded back to back episodes of Postman Pat and Fireman Sam to an iPad which we have fixed in the visa above her seat.

I feel sick

Travel sickness can make travelling really difficult. We made the error last week of going for ice cream in the Yorkshire Dales. The combination of creamy desert and twisty roads led to a big mess in the back of the car. Having learnt our lesson on the day of travel we had a small breakfast of toast and water. Probably best to avoid milky drinks and deserts when travelling just to be on the safe side.

Make sure they have a drink of water or juice to hand to sip throughout the journey.

Music

Singing songs and getting the toddler to do the actions will also pass the time. There are loads – jump on YouTube for some inspiration. Listening to music can also while away the hours. Download a selection of their favourite Disney songs to keep them entertained.

Go bag

We always travel with a go bag to hand with wipes, nappies, snacks, water, spare clothes, toys and books. That way you can quickly react to any situation to stop it from escalating.

Above all, remember the journey is part of the holiday so make it fun. And be prepared that you may need to deviate from your plan by changing your route or planned stops. At the end of the day, happy children, happy holiday.

4 go to Chester

I write this blog slightly bleary eyed from lack of sleep but having had a great time in Chester. Due to a combination of us having recently ditched the dummies and her not being used to sleeping in the motorhome, our toddler didn’t sleep much. Baby on the other hand was a star!

We stayed on the Chester Fairoaks Caravan and Motorhome site.

The site facilities are as you would expect from the Caravan and Motorhome Club. Friendly staff in a well stocked shop:

The toilets are very clean and the baby facilities are excellent. They had the radio playing in there so we had a little party at bath time each night!

There is a good playground with facilities for all ages:

When you are hungry there is a pub 2 minutes walk down the road called The Rake. It is a Hungry Horse chain. The food is average but they have indoor and outdoor play for the kids and a reasonable kids menu to keep your little ones fed and entertained. There is also a local chippy van that comes to the site on a Monday and Thursday between 5 and 7pm.

Locally there is plenty to do from Chester Zoo to the Blue Planet Aquarium as well as Chester city centre right on the doorstep. It is around a ten minute walk to the aquarium from the site but you do have to walk down a country lane and cross a busy duel carriageway. From the aquarium you can get a bus to Chester city centre or the zoo. Around £4 per adult. Alternatively you can use taxis which cost around £11 into Chester and £7 to the zoo.

We went to the zoo which was a great family day out! Booking online offers great savings. Online quoted £40 and we paid £52 on the door for 2 adults as under 3 are free!

It was worth it though, we spent most of the day there and saw most of the animals we wanted to see (animals don’t always want to come out especially when it’s cold and wet). To minimise costs you can take your own food and eat it at one of the many picnic areas. The food on site isn’t unreasonable however, but it does get busy at lunchtime.

Take your walking boots, we walked 4 miles in the day! Also take a pushchair for little legs, although they do hire buggies if you can’t.

I would give this site and Chester a 5 out of 5. Well worth a visit.