Two years ago Eurocamp was sold to French Travel company Homair Vacances group. At the time some people wondered if this marked the beginning of the end of camping and caravaning holidays, but since the sale Eurocamp seems to have created a new place for itself in the family holiday market, enticing a new generation of middle class holiday makers to try out it’s campsite based accommodation.

Last year after hearing positive reviews from friends we considered booking a trip ourselves, but hesitated at the idea of staying in a mobile home. So when Eurocamp approached us in February and invited us on a press trip I was intrigued to see if the experience would match up with the “basic but great” reports we’d heard from other families.

With 170 parcs in 11 countries the choice of destinations is a little over-whelming, so as we were traveling on our first trip as a family of four, we decided to stick relatively close to home, at the Domaine Des Ormes campsite in Brittany.

I kept a diary of our stay, with an honest report of our experience of the week…

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Departure Day

We are traveling by Brittany Ferries on an overnight crossing to St Malo from Portsmouth, which means we have the whole day to pack up and get organised before leaving the house at 6:30pm for our 15 minute journey to the dock. As the distance each side is quite short we’ve decided to travel in our 1969 Morris Minor Traveller and leave our modern car at home. We’ve been making preparations for several weeks, buying spare parts (just in case) and borrowing a special compact travel buggy to fit in the boot. At Portsmouth we board promptly and head to our pre-booked 4 berth outside cabin. Alice’s travel cot is already set up for us, so I pop her in and Jim and Theo head off to explore the ship while she settles.

The ferry departs at 8:15pm and I get a lovely view of the Spinnaker Tower at sunset as we head out to sea. Jim and I take it in turns to sit in the cabin eating a picnic supper while the other one chaperones Theo at the play centre. He’s having a great holiday already and we’ve barely left the country. Compared to the stress of negotiating an international airport with two kids, this trip already feels like a winner. After food and playing, we are all in bed by 10pm and sleep surprisingly well, despite our bijou accommodation.

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Day 1

After breakfast of croissants and coffee on board we are off the ferry by 9am and after a couple of wrong turns we get on the road to Domaine Des Ormes, which even in a Morris Minor only takes us 25 minutes from St Malo. The entrance to Eurocamp is a little ambiguously signposted and we realise later this is because Eurocamp are actually one of about half a dozen companies with pitches at Domaine Des Ormes. We check in and pay a 10 Euro deposit for a keycard to get on site.

It’s 10am and I realise too late, that check-in isn’t till 3pm which means we have 5 hours to kill with two small children. We head off to explore the site and look at the outside of the accommodation which is the point a which we realise how many other companies are operating mobile homes here. There are some that look like big sheds and others which are more like safari huts. A couple of the Eurocamp ones we see look really tatty on the outside and I start to panic about what we’ll be given at 3pm.

We stop for a chocolat chaud and an early lunch. The site seems to be seriously lacking a nice cafe serving fresh snacks and croissants, so we have to make do with a pre-packaged Spar sandwich in a sticky bar full of fruit machines and Jeremy Kyle on the tv. Then it starts to rain… There’s still 3 hours to go till check-in. Finally after wandering the site for a couple of hours we are given the keys to our cabin. It’s an Esprit class home up a quiet road and not overlooked by any other pitches. I ask about paying to upgrade to the much smarter looking Avant and I’m fascinated to discover they are almost identical inside. We decide to keep the Esprit and recklessly spend the £138 an upgrade would have cost us on luxuries and gin. Or maybe just gin…

We do a few runs up and down to the supermarket and reception sorting ourselves out and finally the sun finally comes out. We get Alice in bed, spread out a quilt on the grass and drink G&T and eat pizzas in the evening sunshine. Theo’s found a friend his age in the cabin next door and after the rain and frustrations earlier we start to relax…

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I’ve decided to minimise my use of the internet while we area away only using the free wifi in the centre of the resort. Jim on the other hand is embracing the fact he’s already paid his fixed daily roaming charge for today and is busy watching a video of a dog chasing a squirrel round a tree. Some things never change…

Day 2

Last night we realised we hadn’t been supplied with the beach towels we hired, so before breakfast we tell reception and they promise to send them to the cabin.

An hour later the kids are climbing the walls and desperate to swim so we decide to go to reception again for the towels and discover they are kept off site, so someone has had to be dispatched to collect them. We head to the playground to kill some time and chat to a family from Hampshire on their first trip here. They have similar thoughts to us, that this holiday is all about the kids (who are loving it) that the lack of free wi-fi in the cabins is actually a fairly good thing and that though the site is tatty in places it is much less commercial than Center Parcs which is a good thing.

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Back at the cabin the towels for swimming have been delivered (hurray!) and we stop for lunch. Fresh French bread and a glass of red wine, a definite improvement on yesterday.

The people in the cabin next door have bumped into some friends who have been here for the last week in torrential rain and are about to return to the UK. They said despite the terrible weather they they have had great fun and wish they were staying another week.

In the afternoon we head off to the indoor pool. It’s not vast, but contains everything we need. A kiddy pool, slides and a mini lazy river. While we are swimming the sun breaks through the clouds and everything warms up enough for some brave Brits to disrobe and lie on the sun loungers by the outside pool.

The flush on our loo has broken so we report it at reception who promise they will fix it in the meantime we take the top of the cistern off and use the handle inside.

At 5pm Theo has a learn to ride session. It’s free and we can keep the bike for 24 hours to practice on. Because it’s low season he has the undivided attention of Sam the instructor and a fun hour practicing his slalom technique round cones on the basketball court.

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Back at the cabin we barbecue steaks, kebabs and sausages we’ve bought from the supermarket. Everyone is exhausted and we are all in bed by 9pm.

Day 3

We’re getting the hang of this! We get up have a shower, then Jim nips to the Spar for croissants and fresh bread for breakfast. Alice has gone native on us already and is fully embracing continental pastries.

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We’re the first people at the pool for the free Learn To Swim session at 9:30am. Rachel is Theo’s teacher and once again he gets one to one attention. We book Alice in for the baby session tomorrow and Rachel loans us one of Eurocamp’s brand new kiddy wetsuits for her to wear in the pool so she doesn’t get cold. I’m so used to being “upsold” at every opportunity that I’m quite astonished that the loan of the wetsuit is free and I don’t have to sign anything to guarantee I return it.

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After a hot chocolate back in the cabin, we regroup at the stables for a pony trek round the site. It costs 10 Euros and only lasts 15 minutes, but as this is the first activity we’ve paid for we don’t mind and most importantly Theo loves it.

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We have lunch in the cabin and everyone except Theo has a lunchtime sleep. Afterwards we head to the kids club to return the bike and stop in at the playground for more swings and slides.

The forecast for tomorrow predicts rain all day and we are wondering how best to fill our time with two kids. We decide to head to St Malo for lunch and a stop at a shop that says local goods. We came packed for warm weather and so the promise of a selection of “local” Breton tops to bulk out my wardrobe is quite welcome…

The second part of our Eurocamp diary will be published next week. In the meantime you can subscribe to this blog via Bloglovin to ensure you receive updates, or watch a video tour of our accommodation

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in a chalk paint workshop at Russells Garden Centre in Birdham. Russells is situated on the main road into West Wittering from the A27 and has a very distinct blue and white beach hut exterior. I’ve been past it many times and wanted to pop in, but never quite managed it, so as well as the obvious lure of time spent with chalk paint, I was also really curious to see what’s behind those beach huts!

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The workshops are free and part of a charitable drive that Russells have set up to upcycle donated furniture and sell it to raise money for the Sussex Snowdrop Trust. It’s a simple, but brilliant idea.

People who are new to chalk paint and nervous about trying it out at home get a chance to experience using it by painting donated furniture which then helps raise money to provide nursing care at home for seriously ill local children. The paint used in the workshops (which is also sold by Russells) is Everlong chalk paint which unusually includes a wax in its makeup.

I was quite surprised at how little I was given to paint a medium size coffee table (half a plastic cup!) but amazed that it actually did the job of providing a first coat for the furniture. I don’t think this is because Everlong goes further than other chalk paint brands, but rather that I’ve probably been using too much paint from any brand in the past. The key is to just dip the very tip of your brush into the paint and apply that to the surface. It is very tempting to just slather it on!

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The five of us doing the upcycling all used “Cricket Pitch” which is a pale green colour. I confess it’s not a shade I would have picked myself, but it did look undeniably good on the finished pieces of furniture.

Although I had to rush off quite promptly from the workshop (Alice’s lunchtime!) I did manage a whirlwind tour of the the centre and as well as the furniture outlet Russells have some really lovely pieces, including a whole section of coastal inspired interiors and some beautiful bits of colourful Indian furniture.

So if you live around Chichester and have yet to try out chalk paint, why not pop into Russells for one of their workshops and try it out for yourself. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for their next dates.

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  • June 21, 2016 - 8:06 am

    Tina Mansfield - We love this garden centre and I noticed the little recycled furniture corner the other day. Will have to pop along for a little painting as have never tried the chalk paints before.
    p.s the café is one of the best which is why we travel so far for a look around!ReplyCancel

Whilst British beach huts are quirky, colourful and (mostly) affordable, our friends in the States do their seaside real estate on a whole other level. Why have a beach hut when you can have a beach house? New England beach houses are typified by their vast verandas and decks, ceilings dotted with lazily spinning fans and neutral interior decor.

Whilst some of the ideas are hard to replicate in a British home (if only we had the square footage to start with!) there are many design principles which you can borrow for your own home.

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Texture and pattern not colour

To add interest to your beach house interior focus on texture and small patterns and keep the palette to neutrals and blues. Texture needn’t be as obvious as knit or rattan, even choosing linen for your sofa coverings over cotton can add a suggestion of the look. You can add texture to floors with rugs, to walls by adding paneling (stay away from the woodchip wallpaper, nobody is ready for that to be revived yet) and to other spaces within the room by mixing fabrics.

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Big plump cushions and throws

Beach houses are all about vacations and relaxation and the decor mirrors this with luxuriously plump sofas littered with cushions and draped with throws, so that when you stagger in from an exhausting day on the beach, you can sink into a soft piece of furniture and read a good book.

Practical flooring

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beach house with fitted carpets, hard floors are definitely the way forward for a life by the sea! But think outside the box, grey laminate flooring is an unusual choice, but it suits the cool shades of a neutral interior better than some of the more traditional colours and it is practical for salty and sandy feet (both canine and human) to traipse across.

Collectie - Bespoke Curated Homeware Collections by Jasmine Orchard. www.sarahlondonphotography.co.uk // Please do not screen capture these images // // Screen capturing infringes Copyright and action may be taken // // You should seek permission from the Copyright owner before sharing images on social media //

Subtle nautical accessorising

You don’t have to hang an anchor on the wall and put mini lighthouses on every shelf to add some nautical sophistication. There are many subtle and versatile things you can add to your home that whisper, rather than shout “seaside”. Materials like rope, glass and faded wood are naturally associated with the sea and don’t look so obviously themed.

Make your decor timeless

Beach houses seem to belong to a time of their own, technology is hidden away in storage units and much of the furniture is in traditional shapes and designs. This style adds to the illusion of a place where time stands still and the generations meet. It’s a great look if you can pull it off, as it literally never goes out of fashion.

If you must cover the windows add shutters not blinds

Many beach houses have no window dressings at all because they are in splendid isolation with only a stunning sea view for company, but in reality many of us need to protect our privacy, occasionally at least! Plantation shutters have been a big interior design trend for the last few years and they show no sign of going away. Their white surfaces also help bounce light around the room even when you are partially shutting the outside away.

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First image courtesy of Casabella Interiors. 389 Route 6A, East Sandwich, MA 02537
This is a collaborative post

  • June 24, 2016 - 2:02 pm

    Drew Griffiths - They look amazing. Would love somewhere to shoot-off to on Fridays for a relaxing weekend by the seaReplyCancel

If you’ve been following me on Instagram you may have spotted that a few weeks ago I attempted my first piece of string art. String art has been around since the 70s and can be either incredibly simple or extremely complex. Once you start browsing Pinterest and looking at how people have used the concept you’ll be blown away with the potential of it.

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I wanted to create a sign for my studio largely because it was being photographed for a book about She Sheds and it was an effective way of squeezing in a bit of branding! Here’s what I started out with… The wood for the sign was a simple pre-cut soft word plank which came from B&Q

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If I’d known this was going to be a successful project I would have sourced my equipment a bit better. As it is nearly everything in this photo had changed by the end! The packet of Panel Pins was what we had in the garage and I ran out of them halfway through the project and then couldn’t find an exact match! The embroidery thread was from my stash and it turned out it just wasn’t thick enough to be effective and even the hammer wasn’t right, I ended up buying a small toffee hammer!

But anyway, here’s how the process works! To begin with you measure your wooden surface and work out how big you want your art or wording to be, then print a template, I used Photoshop to do mine. Cut the letters out and attach them to the wooden surface with selotape. I used a piece of string fixed with drawing pins at each end to create a horizontal line to work on.

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Once the template letters are stuck down you can start knocking in the panel pins and the fun begins! It’s tempting to spread the pins out, but the closer you can get them the more interwoven your thread will be and the better it will look. I learned that the hard way. As you can see I’m only one letter in and I’ve already switched hammers…

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Once the pins are all in you can start the fun part… or if you are ridiculously impatient like me you can strat the fun part before you’ve done all the pins, just so you can see how it’s going to look! My new embroidery threads came from The Eternal Maker. I went into the store with a copy of my blog logo and matched up the colours as closley as I could.

string art sign in progress using embroidery thread

It was at about this stage when Jim said to me “You’ll hate me for this, but I really think you should have painted the wood” – I was too far in to turn back! I should warn you string art is very relaxing and great fun, but it takes ages to do and every now and again as you are twisting the thread round one of the pins it unloops and spirals backwards unlooping round half a dozen pins and taking you back several steps – aaahhh!

Despite everything I did manage to finish the main part of the sign in time for the photographs, but I deviated from my original plan to do smaller string letters underneath and cheated by cutting them out of felt. For a first attempt I’m pleased with the result, but next time I’d use panel pins with slightly bigger heads, put them as close together as I can and yes…. paint the board!

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Next time I’d love to do a large picture, though based on how long this took I think that would be quite an epic project… maybe something for the winter! If you are inspired by the concept have a look at some of the examples on the Pinterest board I created…

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This week I’ve been running around trying to do all the things I didn’t achieve last week while it was half-term – I think a few of us know that feeling! Still I managed to squeeze in some holiday preparations, social media education and summer planning. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

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Like Morgana I also recently bought the I Quit Sugar book and did so for three reasons. Firstly we have an amazing Paleo/Vegan/Sugar Free pop up cafe that runs once a month near us and the cakes and treats they make are amazing and I could happily eat them forever without missing sugar. Secondly I have always suffered from terrible sugar crashes after eating sweet stuff and thirdly because I was starting to question how much sugar I should be giving Theo.

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We constantly hear about “middle class mums” who give their kids too much sugar and I never thought I was one of them, but after reading the book and looking very closely at our sugar consumption I now realise that if you let you kids drink fruit juice and have a yoghurt in the same day even that’s too much sugar (yikes!) As for my own sugar free journey, I did not stick as rigidly to the plan as the book dictates and allowed myself fruit, the occasional biscuit and the very occasional solitary piece of small dark chocolate. What I began to realise is that sugar is in a whole bunch of stuff we don’t want it in like mayonnaise, fish cakes and crisps and that I could quite happily live without those things in order to have a small bit of something sweet occasionally. I will do a post at some point about my whole sugar free journey, but it has been a very eye opening journey.

Also on my reading list for this months is The Versions Of Us which I am making slow progress with (my fault, not the books!) but very much looking forward to reading properly when we go on holiday later this month…

 

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves Springwatch? If you’ve been following the programme this week you might know that yesterday they shortlisted some suggestions of common names for a hermit crab, including “Pheonix Crab” and I don’t wish to brag, but I was the first one to tweet that in last night. It didn’t win, but quite exciting to see Michaela Strachan championing it on the show.

 

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This week I’ve mostly been making bread (I bake several times a week just to keep up with my family’s consumption!) and recovering the cushions for our garden furniture. It’s a very cheap and unglamourous job as I’m just using old curtain fabric and unpicking the old cushions in order to reuse zips.

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Last year Jim revarnished the wooden furniture the cushions go on and I’ve been REALLY slow doing my side of the job, but when it’s finally done the whole set will look as good as new. I’m quite motivated to get it done as we have three parties lined up this summer and I’ve already had to apologise to most of our friends about the old ones which are “only temporary cause I’m recovering them”

 

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I don’t have any exciting outfits to share this week, but I have been trying on a a lot of things in preparation for a French holiday we are taking in a few weeks. I found a fab longer length shapewear swimsuit from Simply Be (the first time I have ever shopped with them!) and a couple of great Boden toweling pull-overs for the kids to wear poolside.

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I’m desperately hoping that we have warm weather to enjoy lots of pool time. It’s nine years ago this summer that we had our brief (3 night) honeymoon in France and it was

 

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This week I discovered the Social Media Marketing Podcast which is not only a very useful listen, but also a really enjoyable one. I’ve already discovered two great apps from it and enjoyed listening to how Instagrams new features might rival WhatsApp. It’s really worth downloading to have a listen while you have a few minutes. You can find out more at the Social Media Examiner website or just subscribe via iTunes.

 

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Whilst we’ve been thinking about what we want to do this summer we’ve been thinking about how to make the most of our Merlin Annual Pass. We are ambassadors this year and visited Legoland a couple of months ago. Next month we plan to do an overnight London trip to visit the Coca Cola London Eye, Madame Tussauds and The Dungeons and we still have to squeeze in the Sea Life Centre in Brighton and Thorpe Park!

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If you fancy having a fun filled summer. Merlin annual pass have just announced a summer sale for the whole of this month with prices starting from £109 per person, giving you access to 32 top attraction sin the UK. If you want to know more head to www.merlinannualpass.co.uk

Linking up with.

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  • June 10, 2016 - 10:05 am

    Morgana - So pleased I’ve had someone to chat to about the whole no sugar thing! Even if that usually just means me having a good old moan, haha!
    The Boden towelling cover ups are fantastic aren’t they/ My girls have them and they are perfect for the beach. N even just throws her’s on after her late evening swimming lessons and goes home with it just over her swimming costume!!
    Have a fun weekend xxReplyCancel