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When we announced we were going to Brittany in June, a cloud passed over the face of a friend of ours of French persuasion. “It is famous for rain,” she said in her no-nonsense manner.
Ah well, nothing new there, then, after deciding to have a “staycation” in the UK last year (it rained). Still, not much you can do about the weather, is there?
So when we landed at Nantes airport (less than an hour and a half from Leeds-Bradford via Ryanair) we felt pretty smug as the thermometer on our hire car registered 27 degrees C outside and the sun shone from a cloudless sky.
Nantes is about 90 minutes’ drive from where we were staying in Carnac, South Brittany. It was our first time with budget airline Ryanair, and everything went remarkably smooth and pleasant. We picked up our hire car, organised by www.carrrentals.co.uk, with no problems and were soon on our way.
Having stayed in campsites in the South of France before we had decided to check out a new location and a new tour operator. We booked with Keycamp Holidays, self-catering specialists who have mobile homes on sites across Europe and the US.
The flight had gone well, the hire car (a spacious and nippy Volkswagen Golf) was fine, so we were expecting some major disaster to hit soon. But the roads were clear, the sun continued to shine, and we found La Grande Metairie parc with only the tiniest of detours around the delightful town of Carnac, which the site sits just outside.
Carnac is famous for its millennia-old standing stones, and La Grande Metairie sits on a large site just off the avenue that passes through these ranks and ranks of ancient monoliths. The stones are breathtakingly spiritual, especially at sunrise or as dusk falls, and seem to go on for miles. Their exact purpose and how they were built – and by whom – remains shrouded in mystery, and you can pass your time as you wander around them pondering their origins and meanings.
But the parc beckoned, and our Villagrand three-bedroom mobile home, complete with plenty of room for the car and a generous decking.
As we’d flown – with Ryanair’s famously careful weight restrictions – we’d travelled light, and availed ourselves of the linen and towel hire, which was all waiting for us in our new temporary home.
La Grande Metairie is a medium-sized site with lots to do. There were many families there, most of them British or Irish, so there were plenty of new playmates for our children Alice, five, and Charlie, who turned seven while we were on holiday. The kids were immediately wallowing in unfettered freedom; the site was safe for them to go roaming on the bikes we hired, and although traffic does use the narrow roads that snake through the parc we were in a quiet pitch.
La Grand Metairie’s crowning glory is its swimming pool complex, featuring slides, a waterchute, a “lazy river”, and a main pool with a toddlers’ annexe. There’s also an indoor pool, but we wouldn’t need that, would we? Not with the sun shining like that...
The nearest town to La Grand Metairie is Carnac, a delightful, medieaval town with stunning architecture and some very nice places to eat. At the coast is Carnac-Plage, where wide, golden sand meets the Atlantic. The children enjoyed rock-pooling while we relaxed, and just back from the seafront there were a wealth of shops to browse in and restaurants providing a range of foods, including wonderful mussels and the Brittany speciality, wheat crepes with savoury fillings.
We settled into an easy routine of sleeping late (compared to the rat race of home), enjoying a leisurely breakfast, then sightseeing in Carnac or nearby, calling at the beach, then finishing off with an hour or two round the pool before eating, often with meat bought at the parc shop and cooked on the Keycamp gas barbecue.
And then... the clouds began to gather. Wispy at first, then getting thicker over the next day or two, until, horrors, we had some actual rain.
It first fell on the day that Charlie celebrated his birthday. There’s something simultaneously very holiday-ish and also quite depressing about rain pitter-pattering on the roof of a mobile home, but because even the rain can’t bear to ruin a little boy’s birthday, the sun broke through in the afternoon and we pelted down to the pools.
We weren’t as lucky with the weather for the rest of the week, and mooched around Carnac or availed ourselves of the indoor pool. But children don’t mind the weather, and come rain or shine were happy to zoom around on their bikes and play with their new friends.
We were very impressed with La Grand Metairie and Keycamp. The mobile home was certainly big enough for four, and the parc was perfect for families. Next time, perhaps, we’d come when there might be less chance of rain...