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This week, I’m pleased to introduce you all to Christine, who’s blog A Family Day Out is full of fabulous ideas for family day trips, walks and cycle routes. She shares her wonderful holiday to the Haute-Loire region in France – including her experiences of staying in a campsite and driving up a dual carriageway in the wrong direction!

Over to you, Christine…FotorCreated 22.12.10

What do you look for in a holiday?

My partner and I are both keen walkers and enjoy mountain areas and great scenery. We’d be bored on a beach. However our kids are the exact opposite and would happily spend all day in a swimming pool. So we generally have to compromise and find somewhere with a bit of everything.

Where did you go?

We went to Chamaliéres-sur-Loire in central France, about 1.5 hours drive from Lyon. It’s in the Haute-Loire region, part of the Auvergne, so the countryside was made up of rolling hills dotted with volcanic puys.

Why did you choose this destination?

We primarily chose it because we liked the sound of the campsite which I’d spotted whilst browsing the Cool Camping website. It was also within budget, low-key and had availability.

Who went?

The four of us – my partner, 11-year-old daughter, 9-year-old son and myself.

Where did you stay?

We stayed in a canvas safari tent at CosyCamp. Having a pre-erected tent meant that we didn’t need to bring lots of camping equipment on the plane with us.

We found and booked the site on the Cool Camping website and then booked flights and car hire direct with British Airways. They were actually cheaper and had more convenient flights than the budget airlines. When we arrived it was clear that most guests had driven to the site from around Europe but I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the journey in our rather old car.image_1We’re used to no-frills camping so our tent was luxurious in comparison. We had two separate bedrooms, with real beds, a kitchen area with fridge and basic cooker and an outdoor seating area. The canvas tents were dotted around the campsite, and in addition to standard camping pitches there were also cabins and a brilliant looking treehouse. The campsite was well maintained with good bathroom facilities, washing, recycling, and a herb garden you could use.

Although the campsite was small it had a great cafe and pizza restaurant which we ate in a couple of nights; the pizzas were thin and crispy so exactly how I like them.

The only downside was the number of earwigs our tent seemed to attract; we had to remove loads of them every night!

Were there plenty of activities for the kids?

The campsite was brilliant for children up to about the age of 12. Older children would enjoy it, too, but find fewer friends or activities specifically for their age group. There were a couple of swimming pools, table tennis, badminton, free canoes to paddle along the Loire, a large family room with books, games and a TV. There were also activities put on by the site, for example, weekly nature activities and morning Tai Chi. There was a riding school next to the campsites as well.

Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?

For all the wrong reasons, our most memorable part of the trip was a few minutes after leaving the airport. We’d just picked up our hire car, left the airport and almost immediately found ourselves on a dual carriageway heading in the wrong direction. It was rather stressful! At that point my partner managed to change the Sat Nav language to English and it told us to ‘complete a U turn immediately’. Given the concrete barrier along the middle of the road and the 100kph speed limits there’s no way this was possible but it did break the ice a little.

On a more positive note, we loved the Velorail and a guided nature walk up one of the local volcanoes.image_4

What did you get up to? Any sights, activities you want to shout about?

I wrote in detail about all the things we did in the Haute- Loire. Check out my post. 

Was it good value for money?

Definitely. We’re restricted to school holidays so everything is automatically more expensive. However our flights, car hire for the week and a rented tent cost less than £1200 for the four of us in August.

Your top tip/s for the area?

  • Remember this is France. Everywhere shuts for two hours over lunch. And all day on Sunday.
  • The town of Puy-en-Velay is definitely worth a visit. Try to visit on market day, Saturday.
  • Watch out for ticks if you go walking in the woods; we picked some up.

image_2Which photo is your favourite and why?

I’d never heard of Velorail before our trip but now that I’ve been once I’m desperate to go again. As you can see from the photo it’s basically a cart that you pedal along an old railway track. The track we were on had a slight incline so after several kilometres we turned the cart round and free-wheeled almost the whole way back to the station. Simply brilliant, albeit a little scary when going through the pitch black tunnels. There’s no helmets so you really feel the wind rushing through your hair!

Would you recommend to a friend? Would you go back again?

Depends on the friend as holiday recommendations are very personal. I would wholeheartedly recommend to some of my friends with young children that enjoy camping. But I have a lot of friends who wouldn’t go near a tent regardless of where it is.

We had a fabulous time but we don’t tend to go back to the same place twice. There are too many other places in the world to see.image_3

What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?

• iPhone and charger. For its camera, torch, maps, Trip Advisor app. Oh, and phone.
• Bananagrams game
• Converse shoes. I wear them all the time.
• A good book or two. I haven’t yet migrated to a Kindle – so much thought goes into the choice of holiday books.
• If I’m going abroad I take a plastic folder with passports, E111 cards, driving license, insurance details etc.image

What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?

I’ve travelled a lot but my favourite place to live would have to be my home in the UK. If I had to choose my favourite place to visit it would be New Zealand. We spent six weeks travelling there just before my eldest started school; the mountains and scenery were perfect for us. We’ve also had fantastic holidays in the Scottish Highlands and Greece so they would come second and third (I think I’ve cheated a bit with this question).

If you would like to be featured on Holiday Snapshots, please email me at [email protected] and I look forward to including your travel stories.