So now you have a general idea of what I got up to with the family, it might have given you some ideas of what to do with the kids next summer. This article is about Spring Harvest Holidays at Le Pas Opton where we spent the week.
The camp is a few miles north of St Gilles Croix-de-Vie, a small but charming town in the Vendee department of France. No I have no idea why they are called departments either, but then again I’m not French. It’s on the D754 near the roundabout where it meets the D32 surrounded by woodland and clearings featuring brightly coloured bungalows on each side of the narrow winding roads. I’m thinking this would be the perfect place to air 16 valves on a two wheeler but that would have to be the subject of another article.
The accommodation ranges from your own pitch to a [number] bedroom villa. My sisters stayed in the villa with their children so 9 in all whilst me and mine took a two bed mobile home. The villa was impressive: spacious living room, good size kitchen with a table to seat 8 and not one but two fridge freezers. Just the thing for the summer heat, a washing machine and “argument quelling” dishwasher. The grounds had enough space to play a spot of badminton with the little ‘uns and an outdoor fireplace for barbecues. It also had a couple of sun loungers to complement the eight seater picnic table and canopy in front. To the front, a circular driveway with a mini roundabout feature which the kids used as their cycle track. The whole package was in its walled and landscaped grounds just outside the camp’s barrier meaning we could come and go as pleased.
The facilities were also quite impressive with a large adult pool, a baby pool and shall we say a ‘fun pool’ with a chute, all which proved very popular. There’s also a mini water park where you can aim jets of water at each other, stand under a massive faucet or get drenched by a contraption of buckets that tip over when they fill up with water. This proved really popular with the younger children and overgrown kids like me.
There’s a morning crèche for toddlers featuring a bouncy castle if you can get there early enough, trikes and bikes with a marquee where the little tikes can have a sing-song listen to stories.
The older children are grouped into under-10s, over 10s and teens with activities in marquees and adventure playgrounds suited to their age group. These could be treasure hunts, staging plays or games designed to give them a bit of a workout.
The focal point of the resort was of course the air conditioned bar, could be down to the air conditioning but then again this was the only place you could get wifi access. Add the adjacent coffee bar and as Kevin Bacon says in those EE adverts “it’s a no-brainer”.
The bar area also doubles as the ‘chapel’ for morning worship where well known speakers are invited to minister to the guests. These morning sessions aren’t compulsory, none of the activities are, which makes it more enjoyable as you don’t feel compelled to attend. As it is a Christian holiday resort the morning sessions are popular and getting a seat early is recommended.
There’s also a convenience store where you can get some well known British and French brands of your essentials as well as fresh (I do not use that term lightly) French pastries.
There is also cycle hire for all ages which is a brilliant way of getting around the many paths in the camp, tiring out your kids or keeping them out of your hair. I did notice how readily they accepted errands to go to the convenience store for the smallest item just so they could cycle there.
What to do around town
There is a shuttle bus that takes you to St Gilles for the night market or to the beach which leaves at regular intervals. If you are driving, just hang a left outside Le Pas Opton, keep driving and you’ll be in St Gilles in 10 minutes. Watch out for the speed humps, some of them will muller your motor if you don’t slow right down.
The night market at St Gilles is mainly an arts and crafts affair with some interesting items that would make great presents or souvenirs. There are bags, jewelry, paintings amongst others and one stall that sold bags made out of a single strip of cloth was quite intriguing. It was presented as a single strip of cloth which when zipped up transformed into a clutch bag. If you want to take pictures don’t forget to ask the stall holder for permission; some might think you want to go and replicate their ideas. The market is along the Quai de la Republique and in the Church courtyard of St Gilles interspersed with cafés, restaurants and confectioners. I popped into a chocolatier (like I would ever walk past one) called Fred’s (not very French sounding) on Quai de la Republique and bought a selection of anything wrapped in dark chocolate.
There are a few restaurants in St Gilles, along the Quai de la Republique and in the church courtyard Place du Vie Port which I definitely will be taking a look at on my return trip including a fish restaurant called Les Oceanides and a Morrocan one called La Ville Marocaine.
We popped into the church from which the town got the Gilles part of its name, where a friendly old man handed us laminated sheets with a brief history of the church in French, English, Spanish and German, then we wandered up and down the aisles in the the dimly lit interior. The pews did look as old as the Church itself which dates back to the 17th century but the centrepiece was definitely the altar which featured a carving of the last supper and was lit up to give it a Cadmium-like glow.
On another trip we hit the beach which wasn’t quite what I expected. Was it sandy? Yes. Sunny? Uh huh. Calm? Nope! This was definitely a surfers beach, or for the timid like me, a kite flyer’s beach. The shuttle bus dropped us off a short walk from the beach where we went exploring rock pools for crabs and flew our kites. The currents are strong so we had to tell the kids we were enforcing a no-swim rule so they had to make do paddling int he rock pools and racing on the beach. Churros covered in Nutella softened the deal so there wasn’t the sound of dissent.
So if you are looking for a fun filled family holiday and you consider yourself Christian or just curious, Le Pas Opton seems to tick all the boxes, you just have to check out their reviews on tripadvisor to get an idea.