Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont

la-croix-du-vieux-pontI love everything about France, even if my last trip was memorable for very different reasons. But then who’s not nearly been arrested for human trafficking at some point in their lives? Really, just me?

Well that’s probably best told in a separate post which you can read here.

 

When I was kindly invited on a press trip by Canvas Holidays to review their Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont site in Berny-Rivière, with a day trip to Disneyland Paris thrown in, I decided against telling the kids where I was going.

Instead my plan was to send them a postcard of me sat on Donald Duck’s knee, dressed in as much Mickey bling as I could find alongside the message,

 

“…because daddy eats all his vegetables!”

 

My trip started a day early so I could spend a night visiting friends in London, and to have an opportunity to tick off as many Underground faux pas as possible.

 

Standing on the left of the escalator. Check.

Stopping abruptly at the top to read the signs. Check.

Making eye contact and wishing someone a good morning. Check.

Assuming I could navigate my way around because I once played Monopoly. Check.

 

By some minor miracle I made it to St Pancras (not to be confused with a pancreas so google informed me) where I met Stacey who was to be our wonderful guide for the trip and my fab fellow bloggers,

fellow-bloggersAmy, Kate (who joined us at Dover), Nadine, and Amanda.

 

Travelling down to Dover with South Eastern Trains took just over an hour and was hassle-free, where we were greeted by Katie from Canvas Holidays who was to be our driver and all-round nothing-is-too-much-trouble-er(?)

 

Now I can only assume Dover’s cliffs gained their name before Simon Cowell’s teeth set a new benchmark for what constitutes white, but as they disappeared into the distance we settled down to a complimentary dinner courtesy of DFDS Seaways. And snacks. And because the vouchers were only redeemable in a single visit enough miniature bottles of wine to sink a smaller ship.

 

After arriving in Dunkirk we set off on the two-hour drive to La Croix du Vieux Pont during which I took the opportunity of a quick nap, and not just because two hours in a minibus with six women will invariably cover topics of conversation unsuitable for the solitary bloke who doesn’t get out a lot.

 

La Croix du Vieux Pont is a stunning parkland site that looks far newer than it is. The grounds are clean and well-kept, and it has a lovely family friendly atmosphere in which you’d feel more than comfortable letting your children walk around on their own.

 

deluxe-lodge-3-bedroomMy previous camping experience begins and ends with a tent pitched in a ditch, which after a night of rain left me waking up in a puddle so deep I thought I’d wet myself by biblical proportions, so the Deluxe three-bedroom lodge I was staying in really did live up to its name and would comfortably sleep seven.

 

Despite being positioned in rows as you’d expect, each property has a spacious garden to the front, enclosed by trellis that allows for plenty of privacy.

 

Outside there were sun loungers, and on the decking area a table and chairs plus a large gas barbecue.

 

deluxe-lodge-insideInside there’s a fully equipped kitchen with more facilities than I can claim to have at home, including a microwave, dishwasher, kettle, toaster and fridge-freezer. It’s all open plan with the dining area leading on to the living room where you’ll find a sofa, stereo, DVD player and a TV that includes UK channels.

 

Also downstairs is a bathroom with shower, a separate toilet and a spacious double bedroom with its own TV.

 

Upstairs there were two more bedrooms (one of which had bunk-beds).

 

Where the site really comes into its own is the facilities and activities that cater for all ages, from toddlers to adults.

 

There’s a selection of shops that include a boutique, small supermarket, pizzeria and bakery that sells amongst other fine things a lovely pain-au-raisin, a bar and two restaurants.

 

swimming-poolThe two main swimming pools (one of which can be covered) are wonderful and there’s also a separate childrens pool with water slide, a jacuzzi, sauna and solarium.

 

The list of activities is endless. Tennis, football, trampolining, table tennis, go-karts, basketball, archery, mini golf, 10 pin bowling, laser quest, volleyball, bicycle hire, indoor soft play and so much more besides.

 

lakeThe beautiful lake provides further opportunities to stay active with canoeing, pedaloes and fishing.

 

And if that’s not enough, Canvas Holidays also provide an exclusive free Children’s Club that impressively caters for youngsters of all ages by splitting it into age groups.

 

We even tried some of the games aimed at the younger children, and in doing so proved conclusively that I’m not smarter than a four-year old. Nor can I dance like a Kipper but that’s a whole different story.

 

But for me the pièce de résistance was the man-made beach with adjoining snack-bar . (Oh c’mon, think yourself lucky I got this far before crowbarring in my first French phrase; and believe me I had more than you could throw a bâton at!)

beach

I’ll also apologise now for the clichés to follow but the beach is where holiday memories are made.

 

The bar provides the perfect setting in which to eat your dinner or have a drink whilst watching your kids play with their new-found holiday friends, on a beach, way beyond their usual bedtime. That for me is what a family holiday is all about.

 

The food at the beach bar was delicious, as it was in the main restaurant, and offers a great range of drinks and cocktails too.

 

If you can drag yourself away from the site there’s some lovely provincial towns close-by that are as picturesque as you’d imagine. I would have some photo’s to show but I was too busy eating yet another pain-au-raisin from a patisserie we passed (I know, I’m obsessed).

 

Larger supermarkets, bars and restaurants can be found in the town of Soissons which is a 15 minute drive.

 

The site is also ideally placed for Disneyland Paris, being just an hours drive away (a bus service is also available from the camp-site).

 

disneyland-parisNow I admit to being a little cynical when it comes to Disney; that is until I walk through their gates.

 

Had they sold an Elsa costume in my size you would have found me hours later pirouetting back to the minibus like Tinkerbell’s ugly sister.

 

We only had half a day at the park but it was enough to convince me I need to return with the family. The boys would love it although at three and four I think I’d leave it another year before taking them, if for no other reason than to have another twelve months in which to watch EVERY Disney film there is.

 

Now before leaving the UK I was having a recurring nightmare in which I wrestled a crocodile, only to wake up on the floor with my limbs wrapped around the bedside table. I suspect it was only recurring because Janet was lay beside me making snapping noises for her own amusement but I can’t prove that.

 

tower-of-terrorStay with me, there is a point to this story, you see I don’t dream about crocodiles any more, not since going on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror!

Now my nightmares are exclusively about being stuck in a falling lift.

It’s not healthy. I’m still suffering from a pulled muscle due to bracing myself in my sleep!? It was genuinely terrifying although I didn’t really scream like a girl … it was far higher pitched than that!

 

All the rides we went on were brilliant. I’d liken them to Alton Towers only bigger, better, longer lasting and with better visual effects and staff performances thrown in. I didn’t really need the Ghost train breaking down midway through but I’ll not dwell on that for my own mental well-being.

 

I can’t mention the rides without pointing you in the direction of the hilarious video of Kate’s taken on Big Thunder Mountain. There’s a ‘boob blackout’ you really do have to see.

 

It was a wonderful trip with great company and the only negative I brought back from my whole time away was that we weren’t there for longer.

 

Back to Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont. It’s not cheap, but speaking as a penny-pinching Northerner it does offer great value for money, particularly for a larger family/group.

 

There’s the option of mobile homes and tents to make it more affordable, and they currently have some big discounts for the school holidays as well as last-minute deals and late September getaways.

 

Would I go back? Absolutely. It’s more a case of when than if.

 

Did I send the postcard of me sat on Donald Ducks knee? Unfortunately not, but I did bring the boys some Disney goodies back. OK so I bought them in the local Pound store but shh, they don’t need to know that.

 

More information on Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont can be found on the Canvas Holidays website.

 

To see the trip as it happened you can check out #canvasbloggers on Instagram and that there Twitter.

I aint gettin’ on no plane

My recent trip to Paris with the Canvas Bloggers brought back memories of my last trip to France three years ago, particularly as we passed through passport control before boarding the ferry.

 

You see last time I went to France I nearly didn’t get beyond this point, but then why would you if you were suspected of human trafficking?

 

To explain I need to go back a few hours. Sonny was just a baby, none of us were particularly well slept, the taxi had arrived late and by the time we’d reached the airport we already had a long list of things we’d forgotten to pack.

 

Even in ideal circumstances Janet isn’t the greatest of flyers, so with our combined stress levels such that they would need the Richter scale to be measured we approached passport control.

 

Now a wise man would keep the conversation to a minimum and concentrate on getting to the plane.

 

Only a fool would see this as an opportunity to make an ill-judged and inappropriate joke.

 

Oh to be a wise man.

 

I can’t even remember what I said. I do however remember Janet bursting into tears in that ‘explosion of uncontrollable wailing’ kind of way.

 

A Customs officer took her to one side and offered her a glass of water. That would help I thought, providing she could take a breath between the panic attack and sobbing to drink it. She couldn’t. Nor could she get any words out.

 

What she could do was angrily point at me, a man who by this point was struggling to carry a baby, all our luggage and a pushchair. A man understandably sweating a little. A man who looked more than a wee bit guilty. A man apparently taking a non-English speaking Chinese lady out of the country against her will. And her newborn child!

 

Now if I’d known my ‘guilty of making an ill-judged joke’ face was the same as my ‘guilty of human trafficking’ face I probably wouldn’t have made it.

 

If I’d known how close to tears Janet was and how difficult she found it to speak once she started crying I’d definitely not have made it.

 

And if I’d known how funny she’d find the whole incident afterwards and how she could forever threaten to pull a “Manchester Airport” on me I’d have booked to go to bloody Skegness!

Waitrose Football Party

flagsI’m sure there were political and footballing reasons behind FIFA giving the World Cup to Brazil, although I like to think there was a stay-at-home dad on the organising committee too.

 

An early game while the kids eat their dinner, then a break to put them to bed before more football? Surely not a coincidence.

 

Ok so their homework is being a tad neglected but I have incorporated the World Cup into their Early Years curriculum. Well, they know more countries than they did two weeks ago.

 

They also know if dinner isn’t ready by 4.30pm it’ll be the wrong side of 7.

 

That when the commentator mentions extra-time he means before they have to go to bed; and once there it’ll be 45 minutes between me checking whether they’re asleep.

 

It’s not just the kids who are learning from this World Cup though.

 

Janet thought my lack of housework over these last few months was down to laziness, when in reality I was just acclimatising her to the state of the house for when the football’s on. Lets face it, I was never going to watch all the 11pm games without off-setting them against an afternoon nap.

 

I’ve learnt that if you buy your England merchandise late enough you can make use of the seven day money back guarantee.

 

That whatever I might say throughout the day, by 10.55pm I will have found a reason to justify staying up for Honduras vs Ecuador.

 

I’ve discovered the best goals will be scored while I’m asleep on the sofa in a pool of my own dribble; and that my grumpiness the following morning can be blamed on any number of nations.

 

I know I can get to half-time uninterrupted if I make the kids eat their jelly and ice cream with chopsticks, and that they’ll watch an entire Brazil game if I suggest playing ‘spot the superhero’. They don’t need to know it starts and ends with Hulk. (I may have told them to keep an eye out for Green Lantern coming off the bench).

 

waitroseIt’s also a great excuse for a get-together, so when Waitrose asked me to host a football party I was more than happy to oblige.

 

I say host, my sister did the hosting, and most of the cooking, but I did provide the ingredients, bunting, music, and my samba hips, obviously.

 

Luca-hotdogWaitrose have a range of World Cup inspired recipes. I went with the Heston Chilli Dogs and Mexican Tortilla Melts.

 

They were really easy to make (apparently) and everyone enjoyed them. My teenage nephew’s and their friends even came out of their darkened bedrooms to polish off what was left.

 

Sonny-hotdogI may continue the World Cup themed meals until the tournament ends, although with Italian pasta, English chips, and South Korean rice off the menu already the kids may well be going hungry.

 

{Waitrose kindly provided me with a £50 voucher to spend on their party food. All opinions (and samba moves) are honest and my own.}

Father’s Day

As a parent blogger it’s in my contract to write an obligatory Father’s Day post, and not just because I was sent a lovely Father’s Day hamper, but more on that later.

 

I’ve never been a fan of ‘days’, Christmas being the exception. And Doris, obviously.

 

The commercialisation doesn’t so much irritate my grumpy gland as thump it repeatedly to the tune of Moonpig.com.

 

Whenever I see someone browsing the Father’s Day novelty mugs in the Supermarket I feel it’s my duty as a fellow dad to stand behind them whispering,

 

“nope, not that, nor that, move along, keep going …”, until they reach the alcohol aisle.

 

But since becoming a dad I’ve come to realise it’s not so much about me as it is the kids.

 

I know just how excited they were to make a Mothers Day card and how they couldn’t keep it a secret beyond her walking through the door.

 

I remember how excited I was to give my mum the biggest box of chocolates my £1 pocket money could buy (bigger than you imagine when it’s filled with out-of-date orange and strawberry creams).

 

Or the 10 bottles of perfume for £10 I bought from a street seller that I individually wrapped and couldn’t understand why she found each bottle funnier than the last?

 

Or the decade of Cliff Richard tat because she may have once said he seemed like a nice man.

 

With this is mind I nervously asked the boys what they thought I needed. It was reassuring to hear them say Mario Kart 8 and coffee. Less so a hair cut?

 

Now I admit to being a little difficult to buy for but what do you get a simple bloke who’s happy with his lot? Besides, last time I checked you couldn’t buy a poo in peace or replace lost marbles.

 

I’m also showered with gifts from Janet anyway. Just this week she brought me back a goody bag from the Ideal Home Show. I say goodies, it was oven cleaner. And the bag was a handbag she’d bought for herself but it’s the thought that doesn’t pay the bloody bills!

 

My intention was to write a proper gift guide but if I’m totally honest the flood of imaginative PR offers I was anticipating quickly became a trickle of novelty key rings, so instead it’s just a list of things I like, and not a novelty cuff-link or Top Gear shower gel in sight!

 

spicers-of-hytheFathers Day Hamper

 

The one product I was more than happy to review was a hamper from Spicers of Hythe (spicersofhythe.co.uk).

 

It contained a bottle of wine (that Janet assures me was lovely), roasted cashews, whiskey marmalade, flapjacks and chocolates, all presented in a blue woven basket. The best compliment I can pay it is that none of the contents have made it to Fathers Day. Well presented and great quality products.

 

Books

 

You can’t go wrong with books. Well I suppose you can but not these ones…

 

‘Sometimes you have to bite the dog’ by Sam Coleman (Soul Rock Books).

 

I’ve read this a couple of times, it’s a brilliantly written book about the authors journey into fatherhood. Funny, heart-warming and poignant.

 

’100 ideas for dads who love their kids but find them exhausting’ by Willem Vaneekelen.

 

A witty little book that sets out to find new ways of entertaining the kids in otherwise mundane situations, or as the blurb says, finding ways to play without dad having to leave the sofa.

 

‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig.

 

I’ve not read this yet but I’ve heard great things about it so I’m hoping Janet reads this before Sunday.

 

Any kids books.

 

I admit it, I love a good kids book so I’m always happy to get new ones to share with the boys.

 

Courses

 

I’m a little obsessed with web design at the moment and Skillshare offer some great online courses. They cover Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML, plus lots more I’ve yet to discover.

 

Failing all these you could always give your kid £1 and let them loose in an old school pound store. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a dusty ornament with ‘Papa’ spelt out in seashells? You may even find a Cliff Richard commemorative plate!