Adrian Caffery writes about travel for the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, and his own blog, Holidaying Hack. Here he reflects on driving abroad for the first time, and his favourite memories of family holidays to Brittany.
I’ve always been ridiculously nervous about driving while abroad and used to avoid it like the plague. For my first 30 licence-holding years I was no stranger to foreign holidays but only ever ventured onto the ‘wrong’ side of the road a handful of times. But that changed when, in my mid-40s, I was invited to experience and write about a holiday parc in Brittany, just across the Channel.
Not wanting to deprive my two young children of such an opportunity I was determined to face my fears and booked my ferry tickets. And after the 100-minute drive from the port of Roscoff to my holiday parc near Pont-Aven I was wondering why I’d ever been so worried.
The roads were so much quieter than in Britain, which allowed me to concentrate on staying on the ‘right’ side of the locals. In fact, driving to France turned out to be such a surprisingly stress-free experience that I had the confidence to explore the area by car.
Since the mid-1800s, Pont-Aven has been a magnet for artists, inspired by its boats, watermills and pretty stone bridges. Among the several stunning beaches nearby is one so renowned for its caster sugar sands and azure waters that the locals have nicknamed it Tahiti. The Labyrinthe de Pont-Aven corn maze was a highlight for us: each summer it’s transformed with a new theme, and on our visit we got lost in Aladdin’s cave. Characters from the film set us challenges as we wandered through, which made a pretty magical couple of hours.
The following year, my family and I were keen to return to this wonderful part of France, and that’s when we discovered Eurocamp.
Another 100-minute drive from Roscoff port brought us to a parc in the outdoorsy town of Benodet. The star attraction here is the large, landscaped indoor / outdoor pool complex with lagoons and waterslides for all ages. Its kids’ clubs are another big draw for families.
The kids found plenty of crabs and a large starfish at the beach on the doorstep, and the coastal walk to Benodet’s promenade is lovely. A fellow camper recommended we try the creperie on the promenade: when we went the queue extended out of the shop and down the road, and the crepes were to die for!
Then last year we stayed at Le Ranolien campsite on Brittany’s north coast, cutting 10 minutes off our drive from Roscoff. It’s between the bustling town of Perros-Guirec and Ploumanac’h, which in 2015 was awarded the title of France’s Prettiest Village.
Le Ranolien could not be better placed to explore the Pink Granite Coast, which is as surreal as it is beautiful and rugged. Miles of colourful, misshapen boulders, up to 20m in height, balance on top of each other at seemingly impossible angles.
Le Ranolien is designed around – and takes advantage of – the geological features. Piles of rocks support the two waterslides in the pool complex, and play equipment has been installed around an elephant-like stone structure. It’s so cleverly done you’d think the rocks weren’t real!
The countless beaches in this area are simply stunning, with islets to wade across to at low tide and plenty of granite features to explore. My daughter got her first taste of wild swimming at the wave-free, surprisingly warm beaches in Tregestel, just 10 minutes’ drive from La Ranolien.
For all three holidays we travelled with Brittany Ferries, driving the three hours from our home in Worcestershire to the port at Plymouth. The ferry takes about eight hours to reach Roscoff and while this might be longer than taking a flight it has its plus points. An overnight ferry effectively slashes the crossing time, while kids love the entertainment provided on the daytime sailings. Plus, it works out cheaper than flying, and you get to discover picturesque Roscoff, the home of the Onion Johnnies, too.
This August we’re heading back to beautiful Brittany, to Eurocamp’s Domaine des Ormes, which is set in 400 acres of wooded parkland. It’s further from the coast than we’re used to but there’s so many activities to enjoy on-site that there’ll be no time for any beaches.
I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces as they set eyes on the amazing indoor aquatic complex, which resembles a giant flying saucer. After the coronavirus lockdown ruined our plans for breaks at Easter and Whitsun we are looking forward to it more than ever. And having spent weeks stuck indoors I’m even getting excited about the drive from the port!