Perfect family holiday at Votre Vacances in France
When Mumbler HQ was invited to try out a family friendly holiday at “Votre Vacances” in north-western France, we couldn’t believe our luck! We were delighted to receive the invitation because on paper (and on-line) this lovely little campsite appeared to have it all and as a mum to two young girls; one aged 7 (going on 17!) and one aged 5, I am still looking for that elusive “perfect” family holiday.
You know the one, where we spend plenty of family time together (without being nagged to death by the kids) we get to have fun, there is enough on-site to entertain the children without feeling ‘forced’, there must be a bar (obvs!) the kids must be safe and it’s got to be totally family friendly- my kids cannon ball into the pool; I can’t deny that. Finally I don’t want to have to spend thousands of pounds to achieve this. It shouldn’t be that hard should it?
I can honestly say that Votre Vacances ticked every box. Owned by a lovely lady called Sarah from Harrogate, Votre Vacances is an 8 chalet holiday business situated in the grounds of a beautiful 19th century french chateau, part of a larger campsite called Chateau la Foret. As well as Votre Vacances on-site, there are well known holiday names such as Eurocamp and Canvas holidays.
Chateau la Foret is just outside a lovely little village called St Julien-des-Landes in the Vendee region of France. It is a rural inland campsite, but at just 20 minutes drive from the stunning Atlantic coast and gorgeous beach resorts, you really can get the most out of your precious family holiday.
We visited Votre Vacances in the middle of August and were expecting the site to be heaving as it was the middle of both the French and British school holidays. On the contrary, this lovely little campsite felt peaceful and far from over-run, despite it being the middle of the high season. The site itself is set within 50 hectares of parkland surrounding the Chateau and so never feels cramped or overly busy.
We had flown into to Nantes (just over an hours drive away) and owner Sarah had e-mail us a week before our trip with useful last minute information including her personal phone number so that we could let her know our approximate arrival time. It was an easy drive from the airport and the route took us right next to a huge “Super-U” supermarket about 15 minutes before we arrived at the campsite where we could stock up on all the French holiday essentials (Vin and Fromage…)
Arrival and Accomodation
Upon our arrival, Sarah was waiting for us and was an excellent host right from the start. Understanding that travelling with young children is never easy, she was warm, welcoming and wasted no time getting us into our accommodation and giving us a good welcome brief about the accommodation, the site and the wider facilities in the area.
Our chalet style mobile home was modern, bright and immaculately clean. The lounge/kitchenette area was extremely spacious and airy and whilst the bedrooms were pretty small (as is usually the case with static caravans) the increased space in the living area was a huge bonus.
Sarah had really thought of all the personal touches such as complimentary tea, coffee and sugar as well as dish clothes and sponges, washing-up liquid, balsamic vinegar and oil as well as salt and pepper. If you have never stayed in self-catering accommodation it may seem bizarre that I’m mentioning this, but those of you who have, will know what a difference these little touches make.
There was a kettle style BBQ outside with complimentary charcoal and lighters as well as a box of kids games (jenga, cards, dominos and connect 4) In the bathroom we found lovely toiletries for us to use- luxury H2K skincare products along with a superb power shower.
Needless to say, my daughters were keen to get unpacked quickly and in the sweltering heat (it was 33ºc on the day we arrived) wanted to get into the pool as soon as possible. It was just a 3-4 minute walk from our mobile home to the first of fenced 2 pools, this one was the outside pool in front of the beautiful chateau, surrounded by a wooden deck and elegant sun loungers, it really did feel like a little bit of heaven.
On the second day we found the other swimming pool, an older style indoor pool around the other side of the chateau (although on the beautiful sunny days while we were there, it was mostly open sided and so didn’t get overly-hot) The outside pool was supposed to be more for adults (although it was full of families and children for the whole time we were there) and the inside pool, with baby pool area and 2 waterslides, was strictly speaking the family pool.
After a full afternoon of swimming, none of us had the energy or inclination to cook or eat out, so we made the most of the on-site takeaway and ordered 3 different delicious pizzas to eat back at our home. As well as pizzas, the takeaway served kids meals, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers and chips.
On site, there were plenty of facilities to keep both the children and the adults entertained (mini farm, games room, bouncy castle, trampolines, play park, minigolf = happy kids: Beautiful courtyard bar = happy adults) All of the kids entertainment, other than the electronic games in the games room and the €1 charge for golf balls, was free which ensured that you didn’t end up spending a fortune keeping the kids happy.
There was also an action-packed timetable of activities each day which were free to join in, including a 2 hour kids club 10am-12pm each day- crafting, sports etc. Pool activities, yoga, sports, live music, kids disco, pub quiz and more.
There was an on-site restaurant and a lakeside cafe for those who didn’t want to self cater as well as a small shop which sold basic provisions and you could pre-order delicious bakery items such as croissants and pain-au-chocolate for collection each morning. If you kept forgetting to pre-order (like me) then it took less than 5 minutes to walk into the village, where you could stock up on delicious treats from the boulangerie (the cream cakes were something else!) or grab any essentials from the local pharmacy.
Right next to the campsite was a fabulous high wire/treetop nets adventure centre called Le Grand Delphi and I’d highly recommend that you make a visit during your stay at Votre Vacances. With courses for every level from 2 years old and prices starting at around €10 per person for 3 hours it proved to be excellent value for money and both my daughters thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Make sure you go to the Chateau La Foret reception area to get your Grand Delphi discount voucher for preferable rates. The youngest children had their own course at around 1 meter above ground (so that parents can help them with the clips and cables) whilst teenagers and adults were whizzing around in the treetops, zip wiring across the lakes! Using the fairly measly excuse of only wearing flip-flops, I didn’t have a go myself, but I’ve promised my girls that if we go back I’ll don a harness and we’ll attempt the family circuit all together.
The local area
In our accommodation Sarah had provided an amazingly thorough folder full of useful information about the site as well as the attractions and tourist information for the whole region. As we were only on site for 3 full days, we were barely able to scratch the surface, however we did manage to squeeze in a trip to the coast at Les Sables d’ Olonne. The trip was a bit of an adventure in itself as navigating a busy town on market day is never easy, however arriving at Le Grand Plage was well worth it. With beautiful golden sands and more rock pools then you could possible fish, my daughters were in absolute heaven. I’d highly recommend a visit (and take your nets and buckets!)
Sarah’s visitors information folder contained so much information that a family would never be stuck for inspiration- from walks to zoo’s, theme parks, shopping, nature, geocaching and bike rides, there was something for everyone. Whilst we enjoyed lovely sunshine for our entire trip, there is also plenty to do in the area if the weather isn’t so kind.
About the Vendee
The Vendee is an area in the middle of France’s west (atlantic) coast and takes it name from the river that runs through it. The beautiful countryside, charming towns and 140km of sandy beaches, together with the great summer weather, have helped to make the Vendee a popular holiday destination. Vendee is one of the sunniest places in France with nearly 2500 annual sunshine hours. Between June and September daily highs are regularly in the 20s. Days in peak summer enjoy an average of up to 9 sunshine hours. Rainfall levels are very low. June, July and August are the driest months with around 40mm average monthly rainfall (source www.holiday-weather.com/vendee/)
I have no hesitation in recommending Votre Vacances to any Mumbler who is looking for the ideal family holiday in France. It is small enough to feel safe and secure with enough going on to keep children of all ages happy. Sarah is a wonderful host and treads that fine balance between being available (should you need her) and ensuring you enjoy your holiday with minimal interference. I can’t wait to go back!
Contact information and special offer
If you would like to experience a truly family friendly holiday in one of Votre Vacance’s boutique style static caravans then make sure to use the discount code “Mumbler” when booking for a fabulous 15% discount on your 2016/17 holiday. Open from May to September.
The Vendee is really accessible, with overnight ferries with Brittany Ferries:
Catch from Portsmouth/ Plymouth to:
St Malo, Caen, Le Havre, Roscoff
Fly drive is becoming a really popular alternative with flights to Nantes or La Rochelle from London, Birmingham, and Manchester. We flew from Birmingham to Nantes Monday to Friday at a cost of around £80 per person return. The cheapest hire car we could find was around £25 per day with Avis. Nantes airport is around 70minutes drive from Chateau la Foret, and La Rochelle is now more than a 2 hour drive.
If you don’t mind a longer drive you could do the Eurotunnel or Dover-Calais ferry (around a 6 hr drive from Calais to Chateau La Foret)
Disclosure: Votre Vacances did provide us with free accomodation for the purposes of this review. The opinion I’ve expressed here is my own and it’s a very easy place to love! Times & prices correct at the time of publishing: September 2016.