The soft, warm sand feels delicious under my feet as I walk towards the sea. The sunlight glistening off the sand, catches the water and sparkles, making the beach look magical. Listening to the waves crashing peacefully in the distance, I look up to see Ava squealing in delight as she dips her little toes in to the frothy waves lapping at the shore, before running back out. The boys are already up to their knees shouting excitedly at each other to “jump!” I perch on a rock and tip my head up to the clear blue sky, letting the warmth of the sun wash over me and inhale the fresh air. This is my happy place and I can’t stop the smile spreading across my face.
Every now and then I have to pinch myself! This is one of these moments, on the beach in Biarritz, south of France in the Aquitaine region. We are here to review Al Fresco holidays and I feel so lucky to be experiencing this as a family.
A few days before, we had arrived in France after a short flight, to a hot and airless afternoon. Picking up our hire car we drive along the roads, towards the campsite, to the soundtrack of French Radio and excited children chatting in the back. “Are we there yet? Can we go straight to the pool?” Arriving at our home for the week we step out the car, excited to see inside. Breathing in the smell of BBQ’s, a wave of nostalgia hits me. It’s like I have gone back in time to holidays as a child and I race up the decking steps, keys in hand, as excited as the kids to see the bedrooms.
The first thing we are greeted with at the Verdi Lounge we are staying in, is a large decking area that spans the length of the mobile home. Accompanied by lounge furniture I just know this is where we will be spending a lot of our time. Inside are three bedrooms, two twins at one end and a king with an ensuite shower room at the other. There is a further bathroom and a separate toilet with an open plan living area and kitchen in the middle. Our room even has a door out to the decking, like our own little balcony.
Thanks to the sweltering heat when we arrive, we are relieved to turn on the air conditioning. I stand directly underneath, letting the cool air blow over me, hot and sticky from making the beds. We have been supplied with bedding, bath towels and beach towels for the duration of our stay, which saved a huge amount of room when packing. That along with the flights and hire car all booked through Al Fresco, so far our holiday has been easy.
I hear the boys discussing something in their room. “Let’s just never go home, OK?” I nod and laugh in agreement, opening the cupboards to start unpacking.
We are all more than a little excited to spend the week in this area of France, one that none of us have been to before. After a quick explore of the site and a visit to the campsite shop for food and breakfast for the morning. We tuck the kids up in their fresh white bedding, blackout blinds down and sit out on the decking with a drink. This is the life, I think! No trying to be quiet, all squished in the same room, tiptoeing around each other.
“What shall we do tomorrow?” I say to James, excited at the whole week of time to spend as a family spread out in front of us. We decide to have a slow day and explore what the campsite has to offer, with no deadlines or rushing around to do, we are both looking forward to a week off.
First on the agenda for the boys of course is the pool(s), but before we spend the day splashing about we wander down to the campsite shop for warm croissants and fresh bread. “Can we get croissants for breakfast every morning?” Kyle asks excitedly “Yes of course, we are on holiday” I reply happily.
Having the hire car means we can venture out to the local Supermarché, to stock up on essentials. With a fridge freezer, oven, microwave and cooking utensils in the mobile home we plan on self catering for most of the holiday.
The campsite we are staying at Les Ruisseau des Pyrénées has two pools. The second one you have to pay to use, so we only visit it a couple of times, floating around the lazy river, it’s quiet here and probably my favourite of the two as I can lay on the sun loungers or the bubble beds staring up at the palm fringed sky.
The main pool has slides and a splash park, along with a toddler pool and is the boys firm favourite. By the end of the week they have made friends and ask to go to the pool to meet them.
I stretch my feet out in the warm and lean back after sitting up to check on them. The book I’m reading is a real page turner and I let myself get sucked back in, looking up occasionally to make sure all is still ok. I’ve got a sunbed near the pool with clear vision and the boys are going down the slides into a pool they can both stand up in. This is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. James has taken Ava to have a play on the inflatables before heading back to the mobile home for a siesta. So it feels odd to be able to lie here all by myself and I almost feel guilty, till I remember this is my holiday too.
After a while I start to get hot, I’m definitely out of practise at sunbathing I think to myself. Deciding a dip in the pool would be nice, I venture over to find the boys who are more than happy to show me how to go down the slides the fastest. I brace myself and squeal as I plunge into the coolness of the pool, “that was so fast Mummy, did you see me?” the boys exclaim! They run off to play with their friends again and I am left to dry off in the sun with the only decision to make now, when to venture to the bar for a drink and an ice cream?
There are both Eurocamp and campsite run kids clubs where we are staying. The boys decide they would like to try one so we go to check them out. Unfortunately whilst we are staying here Eurocamp is just getting up and running again, after the campsite suffered a flood, a few weeks previous to our stay. The boys decide to try a campsite run afternoon session and head off with their swimming stuff as they get to use the pool, which apparently is really cool!
Whilst they are busy having fun with children their own age, we have some time to take Ava to a crafty stay and play session. “Pink paint please” she says, happily painting on the large piece of sugar paper. It’s just us and her at the session so we have the pick of the paint. “I think Ava would stay here happily all day” I whisper to James. And it’s only the lure of a raspberry sorbet lolly, that tempts her away at the end of the session, as we head off to the poolside bar to relax.
Sinking into the cushions, in the shade, I can see the pool and smile as I can sneakily watch Finlay playing in the splash park. “Look Ava, can you see Finlay?” I say pointing through the trees towards the shrieks coming from the splash park. Ava looks up from licking her lolly, sweeping her curls out of her eyes and follows my finger. Giggling she says “Finlay’s playing, I see him”. The kids clubs are a great addition to what is already a family friendly holiday.
Biarritz itself is sophisticated, yet relaxed. With bars along the sea front offering seafood and coffee or carafes of wine, where you can sit watching the surf and the world go by. On our first visit into the town we spend hours on the main beach Le Grand Plage, catching the waves and making sandcastles, sandy feet and salty, smiley faces we explore the front, purchasing ice cream and coffee, we sit on the promenade, feet dangling, swinging in the breeze.
On another trip we venture further in, exploring the cobbled French streets in search of some ice-cream. It’s Basque Country here and the housing reflects the style, shutters adorn the houses and buildings, a mixture of timber and stone.
It’s overcast today on our trip in so we walk out to see the Virgin on the rock. Walking over the wooden bridge, the waves crashing violently below us, makes me a little nervous and the boys laugh at me, wondering close to the side. “Stop it!” I say half joking, half serious, I’m relieved to reach the more stable rocks to look back across the sea.
Port Vieux beach is meant to be a small sheltered cove and it is, before high tide, when the waves come crashing in, swelling in peaks before foaming onto the sand. The sea is full of people riding the waves in, no body or surf boards here, all you need is the force of the waves. “Wow that was so much fun!” Finlay shouts to me as we swim in on a wave.
We stay later today on the beach, the sun casting a warm glow as it lowers in the sky, before heading back for card games on the decking before bed. We have definitely got used to the French campsite holiday lifestyle with Al Fresco. It’s laid back and your days are free to do with as you please, which appeals to the spontaneous side of me. No meal time restrictions and having our own space with three kids is pretty much perfection.
Just along the road from the campsite in Bidart we stumble on what turns out to be our favourite beach Plage D’Uhabia. A huge expanse of sand with the most beautiful turquoise coloured sea stretching as far as you can see. “I wish we had found this beach first” I say to James, who nods in agreement as we place our bags and towels down on the soft, white sand. The beach is quiet despite it being August and has a little bar and restaurant at the entrance.
The view from here is stunning and as I sit sipping a coffee on the last day, I say outloud, “can we just stay?” This place to me is perfect!
Disclosure: We were kindly invited by Al Fresco to try out one of their holidays.