We spent 5 days in Normandy over Easter. It was a flip, last minute decision. The kind that seems all a bit crazy (well crazy in a parents-of-two-small-boys way) at the time.
‘Let’s just go away!’ I exclaimed over the phone to my husband. ‘I’ll book it! Nothing for you to do!’ I am surely at my best when faced with a last minute project to organise. It brings out the Brownie in me. I like packing, making lists, ordering holiday money, searching for insurance, planning stops offs en route. And especially researching places to eat. Oh yes! Just give a pregnant Holly a mini break and little or no time to plan it and I’m happy as a glutton in France.
I do like a bit of praise though. And it has to be said that my bargain £250 holiday in Houlgate (including the ferry crossing and superior caravan view – ha) may have been mocked by my husband a few times over the 5 days. He was subjected to a fair few caravan holidays in his formative years, giving him a pathological hatred of campsites, caravan clubs or anything where the bedding is less than luxurious. Me? Well I like the idea of roughing it but come over a bit pathetic when anything remotely uncomfortable rears its head.
So here’s where we went. And we stayed in a modest 2 bedroom static caravan. It’s wasn’t plush or comfy. It was a bit basic. But it was fine. Houlgate was chosen for its proximity to Calais, nearby beach and indoor swimming pool. After all Normandy isn’t renowned for sun. But it is renowned for amazing food. So an indoor pool, two adventure playgrounds and a a climbing wall were the big ticks for the younger members of the trip. The local restaurants were the playgrounds for the older ones.
We powered down to Dover with the aid of an iPad and a lot of sticker books. The crossing was blissful mainly due to the picnic (told you I love a planned trip) and kids area with Tom & Jerry on a loop.
The campsite was quiet and mainly full of Dutch and German tourists. In my girlie swot research I’d found that the onsite restaurant did good pizzas but everything else was a bit ropey. Well I beg to differ. The pizza was not great – the base pre baked and cardboard like. The kids weren’t keen and neither were we. We didn’t eat there again. Luckily every morning we collected fresh bread and croissants ordered from the site shop. Much better.
Check out the 70s style caravan decor. Mr Bell (an interior designer) just LOVED it. The local beach was a 5 minute drive (with free, unrestricted parking and loos – hurrah for my pregnant SPD hips and bladder) with long, long beaches and a lot of ‘the right kind of sand’ for castle building. We set to work.
Until hunger stopped us in our tracks. So off we toddled to Le Patio and indulged in ham pizza, a prawn & avocado salad and a roasted vegetable bruschetta.
It was pretty good – though the avocado was hard according to Mr Bell. The bill was 53 Euros with drinks. The sky was beautiful and moody.
But it did look like it was about to rain so we retrieved the trains we’d buried and hot footed it back to the caravan for a little mid afternoon nap.
Then we realised we’d left the wooden track buried in the moat. Back we went. It was as close to a beach crisis as we’d ever gotten. The tide was coming in! The sandcastle, once located, was just metres from the incoming sea. Mr Bell dug and dug with all his might! Daddy saved the day.
Day 2 saw us explore the main drag in Houlgate (there’s only really one drag so hard to miss it).
And we found a beautiful patisserie shop:
So we bought some gold coins, obviously.
We had lunch at Ambiance Cafe, followed by pudding. Chocolate crepe for Charlie:
Cafe Gourmand for Daddy (though I didn’t get there fast enough to capture the full extent of the joys… there was a floating island, strawberries and cream, caramel ice-cream and a macaron.)
The macaron I helped to taste. Texture good, flavour a little lacking.
Oh and coconut and pistachio ice-cream for me:
Dinner was at Cafe Chocolat. Moules for Daddy:
A croque-monsieur for the boys and a galette fromagere for me. And pudding, well of course there was pudding:
Excellent macarons to share. Happy campers. Though these small toddler models did freak the boys out a bit.
The next day was an early start as it was market day. First stop a drink:
Now being pregnant and in France can be tortuous. Little cheese, no pate, very little red wine and a lot of seafood off the menu. But this market sold oil dispensers. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see these. I know, I know…
And other stuff too…
We spent a bit more time on the beach. Mostly trampling sandcastles built by men with bigger spades:
Then we went for lunch again. At Le Royalty. Are you getting the idea? Moules (with a lot of cheese) for Daddy. The sauce was amazing. I helped mop a lot of it up with bread. I’m very helpful like that.
A delicious burger for Mummy:
Ham and chips for the children (which was delicious) and then a few puddings:
A brownie with ice-cream to share and a very disappointing creme brulee/scrambled egg concoction for me.
And it looked so promising. I also managed to break not 1, not 2 but 3 glasses in Le Royalty. The waitress had every right to look moody. We left a good tip to cover my clumsiness.
And the weather? Yes it did rain a fair bit. But we expected that. The upside of the rain was the lush greenery and flowers:
And the best morsel that passed my lips all holiday? This baby:
A pain au chocolate beurre noisette – crunchy roasted hazelnuts and chocolate shavings on top with a sugar nibbed streaked crunchy hazelnut and chocolate butter inside. I WILL be trying to recreate this beauty at home. We bought it at the motorway service station on the way back to Calais for a whopping 1.65 Euros. Amazing. Don’t you just love France?
But there’s no place like home. In fact there’s no place like your own comfy super king sized bed. Would we return? To the place – yes. To a very back to basics static caravan? Possibly not. We spent a bit more money last summer on a posh caravan in the Loire Valley and I think that’s the right option for us in future. Better beds and a proper sofa. I must be getting old.