Omaha Beach in Normandy

An Adventure in Normandy


Omaha Beach in NormandyHmmm a Ferry and a mobile home?  I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about that.

I have fond memories of staying in a caravan in the South of France at about 5yrs old and it being a crazy fun holiday, so we decided to take a chance and accepted the offer to go to Normandy to try out Domaine De Litteau, which is one of the Siblu mobile home holiday sites.

Last year we went on our first ever family summer holiday and were shocked at the prices, as I steadfastly refused to pay the ridiculous sums of money being requested.

At last we found something I thought was reasonably priced, but I met loads of people on holiday who had been really unfairly overcharged because they had more than 2 children (i.e. double the price because they had to buy TWO studio apartments when they only needed one).

So I was really interested as a more affordable holiday option for families; especially those with young children who want inter-connecting rooms or who have more than 2 children and don’t want their holiday prices doubled.

Verdict – 7.5/10

Value for money: Brilliant.  These holidays are especially good for families who want their children near them when they are sleeping or have more than 2 kids.  You would normally get penalised for interconnecting rooms or having more than 4 of you, but that’s not the case at Siblu.

Courseilles Sur Mer

Courseilles Sur Mer Sand DunesBeaches: INCREDIBLE.  I’ve never seen such amazing, empty, long, sandy beaches in my life.  Nice and shallow for the kids to play/paddle in as well.  Warm enough when the water comes back in to swim in, just.  Apparently it doesn’t get too full when the french go on holiday in a few days time either.  BUT the beaches are 30 mins away, which was tricky with our kids.

The best spot is if you head to Omaha Beach, just to the right of the big silver pointy statue/memorial, near the food shack and life guard station.

Veuille Sure Mer gets really cramped when the tide comes in, so only good when it goes back out again.

We went to Arramanche one day, but it’s much more commercial, so headed out to Courseilles Sur Mer, which is less tidy, but has fun sand dunes and lots of people sailing/wind surfing and a great food shack.

Swimming Pool: Brilliant and hardly ever too packed as it’s not really somewhere that people stay all day.  It’s covered (the sides are removed when its hot), so usable whatever the weather and has a toddler area.  The BEST BIT was the water slide which did NOT go into the pool (which terrifies me from a safety perspective).  Instead, the slide is separate from the pool and I think therefore much safer.

Weather: perfect for young kids or active kids or people who like to go out and investigate without broiling i.e. it’s not massively hot and can be unreliable.  In fact I met several families in the second week who had been further south at another park and felt a huge sense of relief to come to a cooler site.

Journey: It’s only 40 minutes from Caen, so great for us with Little Dimples who pukes on long car journeys.

Food: We ate at the bar a couple of times and it was really good value for money (7€ for a meal), good food, just could have done with salad or more green vegetables for me.  They were rubbish at advertising what was available though.

Shop: The shop is small, but good for emergencies.  There is a supermarket near by.

Dress Code: Very relaxed, even in the evening.  Plus if you are worried about wearing a bikini, you really don’t need to; French women eat cake too; lots of it and their bikinis are atrocious!

Domaine De Litteau's forest

All weather swimming pool at Domaine De Litteau

Forest: We went for a couple of walks in the forest which was lovely (and cool) and they also do organised nature trails.

Meeting other people: I’ve discovered that I NEED chats with people, and I pretty much don’t care who with (although my best chat was with a young teenager about writing and what would the world be like if the Germans had won WW2).  It’s easy in a hotel when you all go down for breakfast at the same time, and sit around the same pool.  But it’s more tricky at Domaine De Litteau as all the facilities are at the entrance and the caravans spread out away from it up a hill.  If like me you need people, then you’ll need to make an effort to go to the Pirate evenings and meet other parents.  It will just take a bit longer.

Which mobile home: I would definitely recommend you go for one with a veranda as the weather in Normandy is unreliable (So an elegance or excellence van).  I don’t think that air conditioning is really important as it cooled down by 11pm, so if money is tight don’t worry about that.  If you would like to sit outside, or have napping toddlers or young kids who might want to play games, I would phone and request if possible a van with a good sized plot.

Noise: You can spookily hear people in the next van when the kids are running around and french babies seem to cry a lot.  But it all settles down pretty early by 11pm and didn’t stop my kids from sleeping at all.  We hardly heard anything in the second week.  Domaine De Litteau is a very quiet site at the moment, I hope they maintain this as they grow and don’t add in the day long music I’ve heard is at the pool at one of the other sites.

Max with face painting at the pirate party

Party night at sibluStaff: The kids club staff were great, maybe not as warm as the Cypriots from last year, but then they seemed to be only warm with kids and grumpy with the rest of the world (sorry for the generalisation!).  Some staff seemed a bit dippy or relaxed, but Carol who was in charge of the cleaning was brilliant and a great help, and the life guards seemed very aware (there was a dodgy review on trip advisor about them from last year).

Kids Entertainment: Curly Headed Boy discovered the kids club a few days in for the Talent show and was hooked!  He didn’t seem to mind that in the first week he was the only english boy at all (lots in second week).  There are often Pirate shows in the evenings, less professional that the other sites, but still really fun, and a special Talent show evening once a week.

Growth in future: Over the next few years they will be adding more caravans up to 500 (It’s 250 now), increasing the size of the pool, adding a little supermarket, changing the entrance to a safer location, adding 2 more kids clubs, and a restaurant.  Lots of those things will be great, and a little more organisation might be nice.  But at the same time I hope they hold onto the laid back feel that they have now.  I talked to someone who has owned a van for years, and they were really keen on the changes.  It’s brilliantly maintained, and I’m sure that they will keep it beautifully.

In general: It’s a very relaxed, slightly disorganised, but charming site, perfect if you don’t want to drive too far, like visiting interesting sites, and don’t want to be too hot.

 

Curly Headed Boy’s Review

He didn’t want to be missed out, so he’s made you this little video to show you what it all looked like!

 

 

Mobile Home at Siblu

Our Trip

Sadly our trip was marred by Little Dimples being sick for the majority of it.  I was exhausted before we even got there, and then hurt my back really badly.  There was a short remission after a trip to the doctor half way through and then she seemed to get sick again and the big hairy northern one hurt his back too.

It meant that I was stuck to the caravan for lots of the trip and unfortunately although we had one with a veranda we had one of the few that had very little out door space.  I should have asked for us to be moved, but I was too tired and didn’t think of it.

I wasn’t comfortable sitting outside the van because the space was so squashed, so I got a bit bored and stir-crazy.  To be fair, the majority of the pitches I looked at had loads of outdoor space, we were just unlucky.

Curly Headed Boy LOVED kids club and the pool, but it did cause a logistical nightmare though, trying to fit in visits to other places, beach trips and Little Dimples’ naps.  Next year it would be much easier.

My daughter hugging the graves at Omaha

Kids LOVE caravans, so it’s pretty much an immediate winner for them; although being ill Little Dimples did ask to go home regularly *sad face* (and is now asking to go back; typical!).

The 3/4 days that we did get to the beach I loved.  Kids just seem to play so naturally on a beach and I relax loads more.

I also went for aqua-aerobics a couple of times just to get some time to myself and discovered a new found respect for this much scoffed at exercise.

We also went to see the American cemetery at Omaha Beach which was really amazing.  The museum was great too, although not a long trip.

There was tonnes more to get out and see like the Bayeaux Tapestry, but sadly we didn’t make it.  We tried to see the english cemetery at Bayeaux, but it’s very different from the American one, with no parking nearby (you park at the museum that we had already driven past).  It was about to p*ss it down and the kids were grumpy, so I compromised with just looking as we drove past.

 

Siblu mobile home with verandah

Extras to Buy

Linen pack: let them provide the bedding, rather than fill your car to the brim!

Towel pack: You’ll get towels for the pool and shower.

Verandah: if you can afford it, very worthwhile.

Air conditioning: Probably not necessary, but maybe if you really hate any possibility of being hot.

 

What To Bring

Siblu Normandy isn't as hotTwo fleeces each: one can get sandy that way!  I brought just one and regretted it.

Tracksuit bottoms: great for after the beach when it’s chilly.

Pair of shorts: great for going to the beach or pool.

Two swimming costumes: so you don’t have to wear a wet one.

Proper PJ’s: It gets cool at night.

Jeans for cooler days and trips out.

Evening: casual, jeans, nothing very dressy, no heals.

Crocs: My peep toe crocs that were given to me with my ‘Inspire’ Britmums award were AMAZING!!!  I hated crocs before, but they are fab and the normal ones are great for the kids on the beach.

Food: You could go without. But it’ll save you shopping time if you bring a few essentials: Tomatoe Ketchup, Washing Up Liquid, Washing powder, Bleach for loos, Loo Roll, Soap, Pesto, Pasta, Tea, sugar, and anything your kids insist on having.

Beach tent and wind break at normandy

Wind break and beach tent: Really useful, especially with Little Dimples needing a mid-afternoon nap.  We also brought the Radio Flyer wagon for the beach and walking to and from the caravan.

Toys: iPads for journeys and incase the kids get sick, colouring stuff and pens (we made loo roll people one afternoon), Bananagrams, Duplo, Snap.  Buy Boules and sand castle stuff at the supermarket there (no shops on the beach).  There are plenty of plug sockets if you are geeks too and need to bring gadgets.

 

Price Comparisons

These are not comprehensive, but I was wondering how the prices match up.  I did some research between Siblu and Key Camp etc beforehand and apparently they are very similar.  So I checked what 2 adults, 3 children aged 2,6 and 13 would cost at a couple of different locations over 7 nights from Sat Aug 11th 2012.

Siblu – Domaine De Litteau – £616 + Ferry (with Cabin) £610 = Total £1216 (Remember to add petrol driving to Portsmouth and 60mins from Caen, and you could do a cheaper ferry trip)

Center Parcs – Elveden Forest – £1858 (monday-monday)

Butlins – Bognor Regis – Self catering apartment – £1658

 

Would I Go Again?

My family on a normandy beach

I would definitely do a caravan holiday again.

I definitely loved the peace and quiet and space of Normandy; I’m friendly, but not that friendly and don’t really want your towel next to mine, sorry!  I’d love to see more of the sites there as well, as they seemed to have real significance to life.

I was worried about Siblu being ‘cheap’, but there’s nothing tacky, nasty, dirty, or horrid there, which I was worried about.  It’s clean, pretty organised and beautifully maintained.

But I would like a beach nearer and a bit more sun.

I gave it 7.5/10 because I took off a point for the beach being so far away, a point for the lack of grass around my van, and half a point for slight disorganisation; it could definitely be an 8.5/10.

Eating at SibluI’d also like them to add the option to pay extra to not have to clean the caravan at the end.  I know they don’t expect a full clean, and I wasn’t planning on leaving it like a mess, but it would take a bit of stress out of leaving.  Oh and rent one of the vans out to someone offering massage and reflexology next year please!

So I reckon I would compromise and go to one of the other further southern locations for a week, where my friends kids spent the whole time in the water park, or where you could cycle to the beach.  Then I would come up to Normandy and Domaine De Litteau for the last week, more of a chill, swimming, kids clubs and visits to interesting places.

 

If you would love a holiday, would really like to go to France, don’t want it terribly hot, would like amazing beaches, kids clubs and great places to visit then I can highly recommend Domaine De litteau.  For more heat and more facilities go for a bigger Siblu site further south.

If you have young kids or can flex on dates, then avoid July-August, maybe even go in June for the D Day landings.  The prices drop are more than 50% off and you pretty much get the same holiday, maybe with more jeans, less shorts and even more chilling.

 

 

Disclosure: I was given a return ferry trip by Brittany Ferries and week at the Domaine De Litteau site from Siblu holidays for the family.  We added an extra week ourselves.  This didn’t affect my review and my opinions are my own.

 

Child at Omaha War Memorial

What Would Have Happened If Germany Had Won WW2

Child at Omaha War MemorialI think the family thought I was being a bit eccentric when I kept saying I wanted to see the cemetery at Omaha Beach for the American Soldiers.

I’m not even sure why I wanted to go?

Something to do with Dad flying in the war?

Perhaps wanting to give Curly Headed Boy who loves computer games some perspective?

Maybe to pay my respects?

I don’t know, but I do know that I would definitely recommend anyone in Normandy visit one of the many sites related to the war.

The atmosphere was lovely, it was quite breathtaking, and the kids seemed relaxed despite the message of the place.

Children at omaha watching war video

First of all you go into a building with great videos and pictures to take you quickly through the history of the war.  It’s amazingly touching to see pictures of real life people and read about their real life stories.

It’s not sad exactly, although I would admit big tears sprung to my eyes.  It was more looking inspired/grateful at the thousands of lives sacrificed for our freedom.

There is also a museum at a different location that Curly Headed Boy and the big hairy northern one went too (I was looking after a sleeping Little Dimples).  He bought a brilliant book done in a cartoon style that explains lots about the war, which he has really enjoyed.

On another day we popped to the British cemetery at Bayeaux, but unfortunately it’s not set out like the American one, so I couldn’t park nearby, and leave the tired kids with the big hairy northern one while it p*ssed it down; so I had to  compromise with just driving past it.  I’ve heard that because it has less pomp and ceremony it is actually even more touching.

 At Courseilles sur Mer (Near Arromanche) you can still see loads of evidence in the sea and on the beach of the D Day landings and when the tide goes out it looks like you can walk out to them (there was an awful storm, so we made a dash back to the car before we got a chance).

Omaha war memorial helmet and gunJust incase you don’t remember the numbers, here are a few for you to digest

 

50-70 million people died in WW2 (2.5% of the worlds population)
40-60 million approx were civilians
20-25 million were soldiers (5 million of whom were prisoners of war)
6 million Jews were killed
9,387 American soldiers are buried at Omaha, most of whom died during the Normandy landings
4,648 British soldiers are buried at the Bayeaux war memorial
22,000 civilians in Normandy died
My uncle died, lost at see and my grand mother never got over it.
My Dad never talked about the war, but you could tell the gravity of what happened when you saw him reunited with his friends.

 

And it got me thinking …

What would life have been like if we’d lost?

From Wikipedia I found the following quotes ..

Nazism favoured private property, freedom of contract, and promoted the creation of national solidarity that would transcend class differences.  The Nazis outlawed strikes by employees and lockouts by employers, because these were regarded a threat to national unity.  Instead, the state controlled and approved wage and salary levels.

It is a variety of fascism that incorporates biological racism and antisemitism.

 

My daughter hugging the graves at OmahaMy history and political understanding isn’t great but just looking at my life I can be pretty sure that it would be unrecognisable …

– Near me is a place called Radlet, which must be 50% Jewish.  That would be empty and none of Curly Headed Boys friends from his old school would have existed.  I find that a shocking thought.

– We wouldn’t have ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, because Gypsies wouldn’t exist either.

– Curly Headed Boy wouldn’t be going to street dance and tap dancing classes because we wouldn’t want the risk of him being marked as a potential homosexual.

– My biggest gay best friend crushes wouldn’t exist: Gok Wan and John Barroman

– There would be no paraolympics, either because they were dead or hiding

– I suspect that the power of women and Mums wouldn’t have grown to the extent it has today and we would have very much been stuck in the more traditional role of staying at home.

– He hated the poles almost as much as the Jews, so there would be no Polish builders here; he would have probably been as ruthless there when he ran out of Jews to kill.

– I doubt there would have been any immigration allowed or benefits cheats; which might sound OK in ways, but what about the people who really need and deserve benefits?

– The improvements in racism wouldn’t have happened and the big arrival of West Indians after the war to help rebuild Britain wouldn’t have happened.  Bristol where I was born wouldn’t have had such a big Jamaican community and if I was Nigerian I wouldn’t come over to england, so Curly Headed Boy’s best mate at nursery and reception wouldn’t have been here.

– What about the World Wide Web?  Maybe something underground would have kicked off, but nothing to the extent that we have now and not with the freedom that we enjoy.

– Blogging would be definitely outlawed; especially a pile of opinionated women bloggers stirring up trouble like us Mummy Bloggers.

– No Facebook or Twitter; lots of time saved maybe, but the amount I learn everyday from the sheer speed of information sharing.

– There’d be no recession, because although he encouraged nationalism and industry, the wouldn’t have let the banks have such a free reign and we wouldn’t have been allowed to be so greedy and get ourselves into such a state of wanting more stuff and getting more debt.

 

Would it have lasted?  I doubt it, because the power of the resistance is strong and extended himself too much.

The scariest thought is that the cold war would probably still have existed and Hitler would have had the bomb.  The likelihood of someone with his nature using it would have been very high.

It’s given me a real sense of perspective going to see all those graves.  Although life is tough for most of us at the moment with the recession, the fact that our lives could easily have been so different is humbling.  I’ve always taken note of remembrance day, but from now on I won’t just ‘remember’ the people who died, but I will also remember how lucky we are to have the freedoms to make the mistakes and the great creations that we have today.

 

Here are all my other posts about Siblu:

An adventure in Normandy: my official review of Domainne De Litteau

Which is best going by Ferry or Plane? A review of the ferry trip to Siblu

How to go on holiday with more than 2 children and not pay a fortune: One of the key benefits of Siblu

 

Disclosure: I was on a review trip of a Siblu mobile home site called Domaine De Litteau and received a return ferry trip with Brittany Ferries and a weeks holiday for the family, we bought an extra week ourselves.  It has not affected my review and my opinions are still my own.

 

 

Kids love muddy festivals

Don’t Go Thinking I’m More Adventurous Than You!

Kids love muddy festivalsI had a couple of lovely comments from Mums watching the funny stream of muddier and muddier instagram photos appearing during my visit to Penn Festival.  Many suggested how brave I was, or how well I was coping with mud up to the kids knees.

So I thought I’d set the record straight, because I don’t want you all reading my blog and thinking ‘Oooh isn’t she clever – I could never do that!’.

I am definitely NOT more adventurous than you!

Two years ago I’d never been camping and never been to a festival.  Not one tiny festival, even as a teenager or student.  How boring is that!

As part of my mid-life crisis I decided I was going to be more adventurous and do things I’d always wanted to do.  So I literally convinced myself that I was up for it by reminding myself regularly of how adventurous and magical my life was.

Last year, we went off for our first adventure to Just So in a Yurt (proper glamping to start me off slowly).  Finding it a huge success I decided that this year was going to be even more adventurous, and that I also wanted to try out holidays that were maybe simpler and cheaper so that I could review them for my blog.

Luckily for me it’s all been pretty easy.  The gorgeous Romany from FestivalKidz contacted me to review Penn Festival and hence I am now a ‘proper’ festivaller who has experienced a musical mud-fest extraordinaire, plus my first camping trip (check out the video of hubby putting up a tent in 3mins), and found that as long as I can make it look vaguely pretty I can handle anything.  (Especially with a shed load of lists!).

Hopefully I get so see what it’s like to go to a non-muddy festival in a tent later in the year as Just So have invited me back to review their new location and even more fabulous line up.  This time we are going for the full event and not leaving until the monday, so that we can soak up the whole magical environment; the organisers of Just So have the most incredible imagination when it comes to kids, so it’s bound to have LOADS of adventure in it.

In a few days I’m going to be able to let you know what it’s like to be in a mobile home holiday camp in Normandy care of the lovely people at Siblu.  I would always have wanted to try something like this, but I must admit I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try something so different if they hadn’t contacted me.  So if you would also be nervous of ferries, and caravans in france, perfect, because I can let you know how it all pans out and you’ll know whether it would work for you too!

I’m really excited about seeing what Siblu is like because when we went for our first summer holiday last year I realised how ridiculously expensive it is if you want practical accommodation  for a young family (i.e. inter-connecting hotel rooms or studios).  We found a cheap holiday in Cyrpus in a studio apartment.  But one family I met had to pay for TWO studio apartments, just because they had 3 kids rather than two, literally doubling the price and therefore meaning they could only go for one week.  So although Siblu would be about the same price as that holiday (when you add in Ferries etc), it would be a totally different situation for people with more kids.  Plus if you don’t want to fly with your kids, it’s a perfect idea.

I’m not naturally adventurous.  I’m just 43, and decided that I’m done with thinking that all the adventure is for other people and not trying things out myself. I’m sure some won’t work out, but some will be great.

So when you see all the fab things I tell you about on my blog, rather than think ‘I’m not sure I could do that’, think instead ‘Well, if Lisa can do it, then so can I!’.