Warm welcome on family holiday with Siblu in France

A warm welcome and a week of relaxation awaited Charles Smith when he travelled with his young family to northern France.

Friday, 23rd October 2020, 10:43 am
Having fun on the beach at Arromanches
Having fun on the beach at Arromanches

On our last full day in Normandy we let the kids choose what to do.

Return with their buckets and spades to the beautiful beach in Arromanches – scene of the D-Day landings – where we’d already spent two happy sandcastle days of our holiday?

Perhaps go for ice cream and a mooch along the cobbled streets of historic Bayeux, stopping for crepes in a pavement café?

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The Smith family holiday in Normandy, France

“We just want to stay here, on the campsite, and go swimming again,” said our four-year-old.

It’s true, our week at the rural Siblu-owned Domaine de Litteau holiday village, in the heart of the Normandy countryside, had been so relaxing.

We had worried about our first foreign getaway with not one now but two little children, aged four and 18 months. In fact travelling to Normandy and having Domaine de Litteau as our base couldn’t have been easier.

We sailed to Caen from Portsmouth, choosing our crossings with Brittany Ferries to coincide with sleeps. We drove through the night from Sheffield, arriving in Portsmouth as the girls woke, and were tucking into a tasty breakfast on board by 8am.

The Smith family holiday in Normandy, France

The excitement of travelling on the ferry was all part of the holiday for our little ones, who loved watching Blighty disappear from view from the windswept deck, and exploring our cabin with its fold-down beds secreted in the ceiling.

Taking the car also meant we could pack for every eventuality, without the stress of squeezing it all into suitcases. Toys, nappies, felt pens and sticker books; Weetabix, wellies, beach towels and bedtime stories; all were stowed in the car’s crevices with room to spare.

We had picked Domaine de Litteau from Siblu’s 19 sites across France for its proximity to the Caen ferry port. Once we’d docked and whizzed through security we had just a 50 minute drive before arriving at camp.

The pretty holiday park, surrounded by country lanes, was perfect for our family – small enough it oozed a gentle, laidback feel but just big enough it had everything we could need.

The Smith family holiday in Normandy, France

Developed from an old hamlet of farmhouses and barns, there was a small grocery store in one stone building, a pub/takeaway in another and, past the children’s playground and boules pitch, a lovely indoor heated swimming pool with tunnel slide, toddler paddle, fun fountains and water splash. We spent hours in there, most days.

Our accommodation for the week was a luxury three-bed holiday home on a quiet, safe cul-de-sac at the top edge of the park. Our girls shared a twin room, we had the master with en suite, and the kitchen/dining/living room opened onto a decked terrace where we enjoyed al fresco lunches with food bought from the little supermarket in the nearby town of Litteau, a five minute drive away.

Everything about the holiday was relaxed, relaxing and easy. Even eating out on our day trips round the region was never a stress – not with ham and cheese galettes, crepes with melted chocolate, and ice cream on every menu.

The welcome in Normandy was warm and friendly. In all the towns along the D-Day landing beaches we found ‘Thank You’ murals painted on shop windows as a message to returning veterans, Allied flags fluttering like bunting across the streets, and memories of the 1944 liberation everywhere, from the pristine military cemeteries to the fascinating, sobering WWII museums.

The Smith family holiday in Normandy, France

But even without the history there was so much to do and see:

In Cherbourg, a 1hr 15min drive away, we visited La Cite de la Mer. A cross between The Deep in Hull and the Titanic Museum in Belfast, it’s a full day out with a vast aquarium, huge submarine, a madcap interactive ‘voyage to the depths’, and a fascinating exhibition charting the tragedy of the Titanic, which stopped over in the port of Cherbourg in 1912 before heading off on its fateful journey.

The Calvados Experience – a love story to the humble apple and its magical transformation into the region’s best loved export – was a brilliant day out even for small children. The story of Calvados production was made genuinely exciting with apple smells to breathe in, soft grass on which to walk, beautiful special effects and video screens and, the best bit, a tasting session, with delicious organic apple juice for the kids.

Afterwards we headed to the beautiful seaside resort of Trouville where we had a lovely lunch in a restaurant right on the beach and a glass of wine or two watching the girls play for hours on the sand.

In the seaside town of Port-en-Bessin we loved the harbour with its bobbing boats, biscuiterie shops, and friendly cafes with tables and chairs spilling out onto the pavement.

In the genteel resort of Houlgate we spent a beautiful evening walking the promenade as the sun set, admiring the shuttered beachfront mansions, and watching horseriders gallop in the surf.

The Smith family holiday in Normandy, France

FACTBOX

Charles travelled to Siblu's Domaine de Litteau holiday village in Normandy, where seven-nights from August 8 now starts from £622, saving £267, based on up to six sharing a two-bedroom Elegance holiday home with terrace, https://www.siblu.co.uk/, 020 8610 0186.Brittany Ferries operates the longer routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth direct to Brittany and Normandy saving miles of unnecessary and costly driving. Travel overnight by luxury cruise-ferry in the comfort of your own cabin with en-suite facilities or be whisked across the channel in as little as three hours. August fares on the Portsmouth to Caen crossing start from £525 return each way for a car and family of four including a private en suite day cabin each way. Book online at brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.COVID-19 PROCEDURESSiblu has reopened holiday villages with a range of new procedures in place to protect guests against Covid-19.

Swimming pools, bars, and restaurants are all open, with restrictions on numbers so that guests can stay at least one metre away from people outside of their family group, respecting France’s distancing requirements.

Evening shows will continue on outdoor stages and terraces with seating arranged so that appropriate distancing can be maintained.

Children’s clubs are not taking place in their usual format and will be replaced by family-friendly entertainment and games such as treasure hunts and giant Cluedo, with at least one adult required to attend with their children.

One-way systems for guests have been marked out in enclosed areas such as receptions and hand-sanitation points installed widely across all holiday parks.

Siblu has also focused on eliminating unnecessary close-range contact for guests. A new contactless check-in procedure is in-place on the majority of Siblu holiday parks so that new arrivals can collect their keys without leaving their car, and security barriers at all parks have been upgraded to open on number plate recognition .

Brittany Ferries believes that ferries will be even more attractive to travellers post-crisis. Its ships are huge, with plenty of open space, access to open decks with sea air, and fresh air circulated throughout the vessel, including in cabins.

The safety of passengers is the top and a suite of measures to protect those on board includes new procedures for passenger boarding and disembarkation, enhanced hygiene in public areas and masks and gloves.

Book online at brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.

To find out more about Normandy's attractions visit http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/, https://www.citedelamer.com/en/ and https://www.calvados-experience.com/en/.

The toddler zone at the pool
The pool at Litteau