Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chute off with the Kids

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chute off with the Kids

Article excerpt


Can a holiday park please children and parents, eschewing Hi Di Hi histrionics into the bargain? Yes, yes and yes, says Jan Parker after a fortnight's French leave with Haven Europe

FOR years my kids have gone on the holidays their father and I wanted, relaxing in the middle of nowhere. But once our oldest two turned eight they wanted action! They wanted excitement! They wanted cool! Uh-oh. This was our first venture into "holiday park" hols and childhood memories of holiday camps with my parents were beginning to stir. Organised activities. Arrgghh!

Thousands of Brits on crowded sites. Arrgghh! Guest talent competitions.

Arrgghh! What had we done?

After a long, sticky drive through France we arrived at Les Charmettes, a Haven Europe park on the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle, just in time for karaoke night. A 12-year-old from Colchester was giving her all to the sound of S Club 7. Our twins began to beam. Our three-year-old flung his arms in the air as the lyrics hit "Reach for the star-ars!" I tried to hide my rising sense of panic.

With a walk around the site next morning, the kids couldn't believe their luck. Seven swimming pools, a flume, a wobbly water slide, a pirate ship! And plenty of lifeguards so their mother could stop clucking. A saunter to the site shop produced a breakfast of fresh coffee, peaches and warm baguettes in the sunshine. Things were looking up.

This was nothing like the holiday parks I remembered.

For a start, the caravan had a proper loo, a good shower and plenty of space. Haven-owned sites even provide duvets (why don't they all? It makes a huge difference to the volume of stuff you need to pack).

This isn't the site for serenity - a go-kart circuit roars right outside the main entrance and a funfair is just 10 minutes' walk away - but the fun is infectious and you can escape when you feel the need for calm. We hired bikes and cycled through pine woods to the wild seas and sweeping beaches of the Cte Sauvage.

We explored historic and chic La Rochelle. We went crabbing around the bays of graceful Royan. We did so much the children had no time for organised fun. …

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