In the May half term, we went on an amazing family road trip to France. We booked this trip over 8 months before and had been looking forward to it for so long that we were all so excited when the day came to finally depart.
As we booked this trip so far in advance we got the ferry with car boarding and accommodation for 2 adults and 3 children on the school half term for £500 with Brittany Ferries. Bargain!
The Ferry Trip
We live in Somerset, UK so we drove down to the port of Plymouth where we boarded the Brittany ferry across to Roscoff. The ferry journey for us was so much easier and better than flying to our destination with children.
I recently wrote a post on Sea v Air travel with kids explaining why for us sea travel is much better.
We took the night ferry to Roscoff and to save some money we didn’t purchase a cabin and opted for a recliner seat each to sleep on.
In hindsight this was a huge mistake, the recliners aren’t really recliners they are like plane seats where only the headrest moves back ever so slightly. If you are short like me or a child it is really uncomfortable as if you lean back on the chair your feet don’t touch the floor.
In the end, we all decided to sleep on the floor it was far more comfortable than the chairs, the kids had brought with them their pillows but stupidly Dino and I hadn’t so we ended up with neck ache in the morning.
If we were allowed I think we would have all gone and slept in the car, we probably would have got a better nights sleep. I would recommend spending the extra on a cabin if you are getting the overnight Ferry.
We arrived at Roscoff in the morning and set off on our journey to our accommodation, the place we had decided to stay was a 4.5-hour drive from the port so we had planned to stop at Vannes as a halfway point.
Vannes is a beautiful walled medieval town in the region of Brittany in North-Western France. When we visited Vannes it was a Sunday and nearly everything was closed and the streets were empty except for a few locals and other tourists. However, with so many beautiful Medieval buildings to look at it was a blessing to be able to stop in the streets and take time to enjoy the history instead of being swept along in a crowd.
As we had not had any lunch we found a little café that was open and luckily the owner spoke a little bit of English.
This is where we first encountered our problem with eating out in France, they don’t cater for vegetarians. Apart from the crepes, everything on the menu contains meat and with us only knowing a few words in French and the waitress/waiters only knowing basic English it made it very hard to order food. However, this being our first day it was crepes all round and all oozing with chocolate and very delicious.
After a lovely lunch and a walk around the town and then we headed back to the car and off to our accommodation.
Camping Sol a Gogo, Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez
When we arrived the check-in was really easy and the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. We were shown to our 3 bedroom chalet which was quite spacious, modern and clean. The kitchen had a good stock of cutlery and utensils however I only realised after putting a pizza in the oven that no oven gloves or tea towels are provided so I will definitely make sure I bring my own next time.
The campsite had a brilliant indoor and outdoor swimming pools with waterslides and a nice children’s play park next to it. There was a lovely bar to chill in which also offered evening entertainment such as karaoke, a disco and even a rodeo.
After a couple of drinks I felt brave enough to do karaoke and wrote out a ticket but my daughter Lia took it off me and screwed it up whilst crying saying that she didn’t want me to do it. I didn’t think my singing was that bad but obviously I was mistaken.
I was allowed to participate in the rodeo ride and did really enjoy it but it is a lot harder than it looks and my thighs were burning afterwards from using muscle’s I never knew I had.
On the other side of the campsite, there is a gate leading directly onto a beautiful sandy beach. The weather was overcast most of the week so we only visited the beach once but it was an enjoyable day. The golden soft sand of the beach stretched for miles in each direction and was filled with shells for the children to collect.
The sea was producing some big waves as it crashed to shore and we all enjoyed jumping over them, we were gutted we didn’t have the body boards with us as they would have been perfect on this beach.
When I was at the edge of the sea I saw a shell with what looked like legs sticking out. When we looked closer we noticed that the sea was full of hermit crabs. My girls then enjoyed watching them scurrying about.
20 mins from where we were staying were the quaint fishing village of Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez with a rocky coastline with loads of rock pools that were full of marine life. We all went along the shore hopping from rock to rock peering into the pools of water to see what we could find.
After about an hour we were starting to get hungry so we headed for Café de la Plage that was by far the best place we ate at all holiday. I had the mussels in white wine sauce they were delicious, they were so fresh that some of them had tiny crabs inside.
Dino had the chefs squid special which was also delicious and of course being in France the girls had Crepes again.
After our delicious meal, we went for another walk along the rock pools to try and burn off some calories. We were hopping over the rocks getting further and further towards the sea line so engrossed in the life inside these pools that we didn’t notice the tide had started coming in.
We shot up and quickly started jumping our way back to shore but the sea was pouring in so fast that all the rocks that were still above the water were unreachable.
After trying a few different ways were had reached the conclusion we were stuck and every second we took to make a decision the more water flooded in.
That was it there was nothing else to do, I wiped off my shoes and socks and carried the kids over to safety on the other side. I tried my best to not think about the fact that I was walking barefoot through a rock pool that a few seconds ago we had just been looking at crabs and sea anemones and I prayed that there were no sea urchins lurking beneath.
I have had a rather nasty incident with a sea urchin shooting its spikes in my foot before while in Spain and did not want to have a repeat. After carrying the last of my children across and getting back safely on dry land I thanked my lucky stars I still had all my toes.
Chateau de Apremont
This was the first chateau that we visited on the trip and although beautiful and interesting it was the most scared I have ever been visiting a castle we genuinely feared for our lives.
One of the towers that remained, you were allowed to climb to the very top. At the bottom of the stairs was a sign saying only 18 people allowed up at a time but no one at the bottom to enforce this and there was no way of knowing if anyone was up there already.
We had arrived just as it had opened so we were as sure as we could be that we were the only people there so we went up.
The stairs were ancient wooden rickety stairs creaking with every step we took, each step was lopsided and there were holes in some of the pieces of wood and in places whole steps replaced with a new wooden plank nailed in.
The stairs got worse as we went up but we were so near to the top we carried on and finally made it to the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful view across the village.
Still filled with fear we didn’t hang around long and went back down the stairs and as far away from the tower as we could. I half expected to turn around and see it crumbling to the ground behind us.
After leaving the chateau we headed down the hill and found a cafe with an idyllic view of the village and castle to have lunch. Once again it was crepes all round.
We took a day trip to the island Noirmoutier-en-l’Île which can be reached by a bridge crossing over the sea. All along the island was miles of salt marshes most of them with little shacks next to them where they sold the fresh salt.
We stopped in the town and went for a walk around admiring the beautiful architecture, all the buildings were freshly painted with colourful shutters and all looked very sleek and elegant.
We visited the chateau this time we felt safe making our way to the top of the tower and spend a little longer admiring the view. The chateau was interesting and had some interesting pieces to look at but for what was there and the price compared to the other chateau’s we visited it wasn’t great value for money.
The Miniature Village
We also stopped off at the miniature village on the island and let the kids out for a runaround. This place was very interesting it had small scale models of the typical house styles you find in the different regions of France and also what each region is famous for. The kids enjoyed running around the place and spent ages in the play area and sticking their heads through the cardboard cutouts dotted everywhere.
Château Logis De La Chabotterie, Saint-Sulpice-le-Verdon
This was by far the best chateau we visited while in France and it was the cheapest out of all of them. The chateau has been very well preserved and there is so much history throughout the whole place.
In the beginning, there is a room packed with videos, holograms and audio explaining the history of the Vendee war and about the owner of the Chateau.
To walk around the house you are given an audio set and sent off to explore the rooms. Every room within the house is kitted out with items from that era and the audiotape explains in details what all the items are, what year they were made and what they were used for.
It was the most detailed and informative tour we have ever been on. After visiting the house we walked around the well-kept grounds then made our way around the hedge maze.
I would highly recommend a visit to this chateau if you are ever in this part of France it is worth every penny of the entrance fee. One piece of advice though is to bring a picnic as in France they don’t tend to have cafes at their attractions, unlike England where it is rare to find an attraction that doesn’t have overpriced food for sale.
Jardin Du Vents, Notre-Dame-de-Monts
We were lucky when we attended as it was a national garden day throughout France so all public gardens were free. Jardin Du Vents or Garden of Wind in English was a lovely colourful place with lots to do and explore. This place can really bring out your inner child but unfortunately, we couldn’t give this place the time it deserves as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was hoping it would sell food but again it didn’t. I could have easily lied in the hammock for hours while the kids played and ran around.
Our ferry home departed at 3 pm and due to the 4.5-hour drive back to Roscoff we decided to do the whole journey in one go not to risk missing the ferry. As we were nearing Roscoff we were 2 hours early so we decided to visit the medieval town of Morlaix.
Morlaix was a stunning town with a magnificent viaduct stretching the width of the town and medieval architecture in abundance. As it was Sunday again the place was very quiet with most places shut but thankfully we managed to find a bakery that was open and the sandwiches were delicious.
Advice for traveling around France
My advice to anyone planning a road trip to France is the following –
– Don’t skimp out and pay the extra for a room on the Ferry especially if you are travelling overnight.
– Always make sure you have food with you in case you cannot find anywhere open to eat out
– If you are a vegetarian or vegan I would advise learning some French or at least making sure you have a phrase book with you so that you can ask what they can do for you. We don’t eat meat only fish and we struggled to find food to eat so a full vegetarian or a vegan will find it even harder.
– If you are going on a road trip with kids expect the back of the car to look like a tip when you return home.
– Last but not least enjoy, take in the sights and reveal in the history. France is a beautiful place if you look in the right places.
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