This year, we decided to repeat one of our favourite family summer holidays and booked a lovely stay with Eurocamp in the Provence/Alpes Maritime/Cote d’Azur region of France.
As you may have guessed already, France is my favourite country in the world to visit. Everything you could possibly want in a holiday can be found in France, whether that be great food, tonnes of culture, mountains, beaches or vibrant cities. The Cote d’Azur, for us, has it all. Within an hour or two’s drive of Nice’s airport (the second busiest airport in France after Paris CDG) you can:
a) Visit the fabulous and very beautiful resorts of Cannes, Antibes and Saint-Tropez
b) Drive up into the Alpes Maritime mountains to visit the famous “Villages Perches”
c) See vineyards, lavender fields and perfumeries for a true taste of “Provence”
d) Visit Monaco, the second smallest sovereign nation in the world, and its famous casinos, marina and grand prix roads.
e) Drive over the border to Italy and spend a day in the charming resort town of Sanremo.
Oh … and much more!
This was our third family trip to the region following a short stay when our eldest was a baby in 2008 and a family holiday to Frejus (a popular resort on the coast between Saint-Tropez and Cannes) in 2012. This time we elected to stay in a holiday park with Eurocamp and we chose the town of Puget-sur-Argens which is just 5 minutes drive north of Frejus.
DAY ONE – Thursday
We arrived in Nice from Newcastle around midday, picked up our car and headed straight for Puget. Unfortunately … epic fail no.1 … we had forgotten to download the directions to the park sent by Eurocamp so although we found Puget easily enough we had no idea how to find the park once there so had to stop off at a bakers, then a different campsite, for directions.
Once there we were a bit surprised that we had to make our own beds (I’m sure we didn’t last time we stayed) and the mobile home we hired was a lot smaller than I remembered from our last trip three years ago. Maybe this is because we have added one more small, but very loud, child to the family! 🙂
The mobile home had two bedrooms – a double and a twin with bunks and an extra bed. There was a separate loo and shower room, a corner sofa with table, a fully-fitted kitchen with all we needed (the gas oven took a bit of getting used to) and a good sized decking area with loungers and patio table/chairs. The best thing about staying in a holiday park are the facilities and although our kids were too young to use most, the pools were fabulous! There was a large splash pool with fountains, a large spa pool, a main pool with inflatable slides, a further pool with a lazy river to float around and a wave pool. Perfect for kids of all ages!
Downside: the park enforced the wearing of Speedos which meant a trip to the supermarket for three pairs for husband and boys. Well, I’m saying downside, but oh how I laughed as husband had to resign himself to a week of very brief swimmy-knicker wearing!
DAY TWO – Friday
On our first proper day we took a trip to the very large Carrefour in Puget-sur-Argens. We were very familiar with the supermarket as we used it during our last trip. All three kids had a ride on a little merry-go-round in the mall attached to the supermarket which our eldest had fun on three years ago.
French supermarkets are pretty awesome. Chris and I could have spent hours and hours trawling the seafood section and I think Chris did spend close to an hour at the enormous cheese counter! There was also an attached beer tent/greenhouse stocked with all the best stuff (according to the husband). Asda and Tesco could certainly learn a few things!
The rest of the day was spent in the pool. Charlie, our eldest, is a competent swimmer so had a great time. Henry, the middle one, is less sure, but enjoyed splashing about in the shallow end while Mathilde, our toddler, loved “jumping” in.
DAY THREE – Saturday
Today we travelled to a place I hadn’t been before – Aix-en-Provence! I had always wanted to visit Aix since studying art at university and learning about Post-Impressionism which remains one of my favourite artistic movements. On the way I bored the non-arty husband about Paul Cezanne whilst pointing out Mont-Saint-Victoire. Hey, at least I was happy! 🙂
As we had visited most of the towns and resorts along the coast from Saint-Tropez to Sanremo on previous trips I was so pleased to get the chance to go somewhere new.
Aix-en-Provence wasn’t as “rural” as I’d imagined, but it was definitely more glamorous! We walked the tree-lined boulevards, had an ice-cream in a lovely shop and I took the chance to do some research by popping into a couple of toy boutiques. I was so pleased to find “La Farandole des Jouets” toy shop and have a chat with the owner, comparing notes on what we both found were our best sellers. The owner had just introduced some English toy brands to his line and I was pleased to see he stocked a large collection of Moulin Roty, Vilac and in particular, Djeco, which is the newest company I am just about to introduce to Tilda and Tom. I had a good look at a few of their Djeco toys and the quality is outstanding! Really can’t wait to get my shipment in 🙂
Today we visited Frejus and the adjoining coastal resort town of St-Raphael, which is our favourite small resort on the Cote d’Azur. Frejus and St-Raphael have lovely sandy beaches and a very lengthy street of good shops and restaurants – all of which we remembered fondly from our last visit.
We treated the kids to new buckets and spades after lunch and spent the afternoon on the beach. Unfortunately I was a bit poorly today. After battling the unset of a cold for the past couple of days it finally got the better of me, so I sat in the shade trying not to feel too sorry for myself while the kids built sandcastles with Daddy.
Today we chose to go into Nice which, for me, rivals Paris as my favourite city in the world! This was our third trip to Nice and we had unfortunately picked the hottest day to go as the temperature rose to a sweltering 41 degrees! I have visited many different regions of France many times and this was the warmest weather I have ever experienced in the country. All the children wanted to do was drink water and sleep and we probably headed off back to our “holiday house” (as the kids call it) quicker than I would have liked.
After lunch we ventured to one of my favourite places – the Old Town of Nice. If you’ve read my story about why I started up my lovely little toy-boutique you’ll know that a little shop in Nice gave me the idea! I was very pleased to find that very same shop “Atelier des Jouets” again and spent a little time talking to the owner and telling her about Tilda and Tom.
Our penultimate day became a rest day as it was still very hot and we didn’t relish another excursion to a town. We spent the morning by the pool, had a walk around the park, then the kids got a trip to pick a toy from the giant supermarket in Puget, followed by lunch in ….. McDonalds, lol. What can I say? It was the kids’ choice today and they were happy, so we were.
Guess what? In France you get a pudding with your Happymeal! Lucky, lucky French kids! I had a prawn wrap which was a bit strange, not least because it was in curry sauce. How exotic are we? The McDonalds in Puget has a little soft play area which, although a bit grotty (as soft play often is), certainly entertained the kids for a while!
Our last day was spent in Antibes on another very hot day. Today we ventured to a resort park called Marineland which we visited on our last trip, but found very expensive. Not being fans of Seaworld-type theme parks anyway, we avoided the very large and popular main park in favour of a small children’s farm we visited last time called “Kid’s Island”.
Henry enjoying a pony ride!
The main reason we visited – and I shouldn’t admit this as I’m an advocate for non-plastic toys – is that all three of my kids LOVE Playmobil! Actually, I’ll be truthful, I love playmobil too! It’s a fabulous toy which has provided all three of my kids with endless hours of imaginative play – particularly my middle child who owns several large sets including knights, pirates, cowboys, firemen, police … in fact we’ve probably got a bit of everything. Playmobil is very cool and I’ve always preferred it to Lego which seems to be the “big chain” toy shop rival. Kid’s Island has a lovely little Playmobil room where children can explore all the big playsets. Sadly, Mathilde was banned from playing in the big room with the Age 4+ toys and had to be restricted to the pre-school range outside. She didn’t understand why as she plays with at home, but after a minor blip she played happily with the baby-Playmobil.
DAY EIGHT – Thursday
Our flight was at lunch time which means we headed off for the airport straight after breakfast. The car rental drop-off went smoothly (yay, we found it first time!) and the satnav was essential for all our to-ing and fro-ing! The flight home was unfortunately one of the low marks of the holiday as my littlest, Mathilde, decided to have an epic tantrum just as we were about to land.
Now, as mum of three children who has had lots of family holidays, I’m no stranger to a) toddler tantrums and b) air travel shenanigans, but today Mathilde surpassed her brothers by screaming the plane into land whilst refusing to sit down and wear a seat belt. Chris and I spent the 20 minutes descent into Newcastle pinning her down and frantically re-doing the belt she was adamant wasn’t going around her. If this wasn’t bad enough there was a particularly snotty, big nosed woman staring, tutting and shaking her head at us as we battled to deal with the tantrum. This made me very cross and upset. 🙁
Plea to all non-parents and those who have forgotten what it’s like to have a toddler … give us parents a break!!! We are doing everything possible to calm our child down. Absolutely everything possible AND you can see us doing so. Know that nobody wants the screaming toddler to be quiet and jolly more than we do.
Any suggestions you have would be most welcome!