Ed Leahy experiences the magic of memory lane - and offers you suggestions for the summer.
The view out the back window of the old Ford Cortina estate was something that I was very familiar with throughout my childhood.
Being the youngest of five, I spent the best part of a decade in that not-so-prime position in the car boot, looking backwards with the only advantage being the ability to offer discreet, obscene gestures to various drivers while stuck in traffic.
This seat became my second home every summer as the family holiday would take us on a four-week camping adventure throughout Europe.
One abiding boot-time memory occurred somewhere on the west coast of France as the Leahy vacation ventured through the northwestern regions of Normandy and Brittany.
Leaving a motorway was always a good sign as the exit would generally signal the final phase of the day's travelling.
The views on this particular journey were obstructed due to the arrival of the latest 'family' member: the trailer-tent that replaced the roof-rack and six-man tent which had served us well on previous excursions.
So on exiting the motorway, my ennui was very much interrupted as I witnessed the most spectacular of sights.
While our car turned right onto the slip road, exit-bound, the two-wheeled attachment took a hop, skip and jump and continued straight down the motorway.
There was a moment of amazement before I could alert the rest of the clan to look left and follow our travelling companion, now running parallel to our braking estate, yet veering across three lanes of motorway, finally coming to a crash-barrier-induced halt in the centre of the thoroughfare.
An hour later - thanks to a group of obliging French drivers who set up a diversion and negotiated the trailer across the motorway and back onto the car - we were on our way and heading towards the next destination.
By the time we reached the campsite, the blame game was resolved (Dad had forgotten to ensure the lock had clicked in) and the tension in the car was replaced with laughter about the situation as myself and my brother hammered in the pegs and my sisters fetched drinking water in the whistling kettle, while my mother assembled the gas cooker to begin the spaghetti bolognaise.
Dad, I'm sure, nursed a well-earned glass of red wine and sat outside watching the sun set, counting his blessings that nobody was hurt.
Looking back at those French camping trips, the memories are endless: fields of sunflowers or growing grapes, bags of fresh croissants and baguettes, Belgian pen-pals, parents getting told off for late-night singsongs, foreign number plates, underage wine-tasting, Bastille Day celebrations, the Tour de France. And on, and on.
Two-week package holidays always seemed more glamorous as we would roll onto the overnight ferry with days of boot-hatching and car sickness to consider, yet looking back, the only holidays that really remain in the heart were those camping trips throughout France and beyond.
Five Places to Stay in Northwest France
Domaine des Ormes
Situated close to the north coast of Brittany, the Domaine des Ormes resort is one of the region's most popular with over 600 available places. The resort boasts indoor and outdoor swimming pools with an on-site water park. A great family resort with plenty of options for young children and teenagers, it combines nature, sports and activities, including an 18-hole golf course, paintballing, cricket facilities, an adventure course, horse riding and water sports. Tourists are spoilt for choice in this region as the resort is located in the triangle Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Dinan and is a 20-minute drive away from these famous attractions. Accommodation options include camping, apartments and two- and three-bedroom mobile homes.
Driving Time: 2 hours from Roscoff or Cherbourg
La Grande Metairie
Located in southern Brittany close to the historic town of Carnac, La Grande Metairie is also in close proximity to the sandy beaches dotted along the coast in the Morbihan region. Facilities at the resort are top class, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, waterslides, playgrounds, mini-golf and tennis courts. The resort is built on an old Breton farm and also includes an adventure playground with a zip-line. There is a restaurant and bar on site, while a range of accommodation options, including family treehouses, make Le Grand Metairie a unique holidaying experience. Apart from the beautiful beaches, other tourist attractions in the region include Carnac's historic sites and museums, including the Carnac Menhirs, the Suscinio castle, the Madeleine Chapel and the Éric Tabarly Sailing Museum.
Driving Time: 2.5 hours from Roscoff
Le Ty Nadan
Sitting in the heart of Brittany, close to the city of Lorient, Le Ty Nadan is an inland resort that offers a great holiday experience. This spacious resort rolls out along a river, which is famous for the fishing in southern Brittany, while there are endless tourist attractions nearby, from Carnac to Pont-Aven, through Quiberon and Groix. Le Ty Nadan has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an extra-long water slide, hydrotherapy and spa options with a wide bench with water-massaging jets. Activity options will keep the children and adults occupied and entertained throughout your visit, with an adventure course, horseback riding, quad-biking, segway tours, archery and kayaking all available. Accommodation options include camping and apartments, while a three-bedroom gite is also available to rent.
Driving Time: 2 hours from Roscoff
L'Anse du Brick
Surrounded by a forest and boasting excellent coastal views, L'Anse du Brick is located on the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy. The resort offers direct access to the spacious beach adjacent to the camp site, which makes for an ideal holiday where you can enjoy both the seaside and resort facilities in equal measure. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools are located on the resort, while a host of water activities are available, including kayaking, canoeing and surfing. Horseback riding and cycling tracks are also available at the resort through the adjoining forest, while the adventure course adds to the numerous activities available for children. Accommodation options include camping, mobile homes, chalets and villas that can sleep up to six people. One of the resort's best features is its proximity to the ferry terminal at Cherbourg, only 12 kilometres along the Normandy coast.
Driving Time: 20 minutes from Cherbourg
Camping de l'Ocean
Located on the west coast, just outside the historic town of St Nazaire, the resort sits on a peninsula 150m from Le Croisic's town centre and 800m from the harbour. The main feature of the resort is the aquatic park, which includes a covered heated pool and outdoor pools complete with water slides. Parents can take full advantage of the relaxation options here, including a hydro massage bench, Jacuzzis, geysers and slow rivers. Children are spoilt for choice with playground options and a multi-sports area with tennis courts and pétanque is also available. Accommodation options include camping and two-bedroom cottages. Tourist options in the region allow you to explore the Le Croisic peninsula with its old town, quayside and half-timbered houses, while other charming towns in the vicinity include Ancenis, Varades, Pornichet, Pornic and La Baule.
Driving Time: 3.5 hours from Roscoff
For more information and to book these resorts, visit: www.camping-castels.co.uk.
For information about ferry crossings from Ireland to France, visit: www.irishferries.com.
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