Normandy is a place both James and I have visited before, several times. Recently, however, we took the children for the first time. Two glorious weeks in rural France. What could be nicer? Not a lot, actually. What struck us all was the quiet and, also, the space. There is just so much of it. Wide, open, country spaces, huge vistas and vast seascapes. Adventures to be had round every corner. We went out daily and rarely returned home before evening. It was light until after 10pm every night, and when the sun went down, the camp fire came out.
We had found our own little piece of heaven. Granted, the weather we enjoyed was exceptional - hot and sunny by day, bright and cloudless by night - but even in rain, I am sure it would be beautiful
So, where is a good place to stay with children? We looked at campsites and considered (briefly) hotels. Eventually, we stumbled upon a real gem. Yourte de la Tellarie is situated in the heart of Calvados, lower Normandy, and offers unbelievable peace and tranquillity. We chose to stay in their yurt, though there is also the option of a tipi or a beautiful gite. The facilities were impeccable - a brand-new shower block and outdoor kitchen containing everything you need to enjoy a self-catering break.
And for those among you who may not be too keen on the whole shower thing, worry not; there are sinks aplenty!
Honestly, we couldn't have picked a better place to spend time as a family. The children were spoilt for choice - football, badminton, ping pong and endless exploring were on the daily agenda. Watching the pair of them don binoculars and wield torches before heading off to trek through the large maze of meadowland and fruit and vegetable patches was a complete joy. I could have stayed there, happily. For keeps.
Not only was there plenty of space to play in the grounds of "my beautiful round house" (so-called by Sonny), but we also had many options on our doorstep; Avranches, Le Mont Saint Michel, Caen, Bayeux and Cherbourg were all no more than an hour away, by car.
One of our very favourite days out took place in the picture-perfect seaside town of Donville les Bains, 2km east of Granville on the Cotentin coast. With hot golden sand and cool, clear water, it really was a treat for a family more recently used to the sharp pebbles of Worthing's coastline.
On the way home, we stopped at Avranches - a firm favourite with both James and myself. We climbed to the top of the castle and drank Pago juice at Le Royal. Both must-do activities!
Another fun day was had at Parc zoo de Jurques, a mere 15 minutes from where we stayed. The children ran wild in the play area and loved seeing all of the animals.
Jurques is noticeably cheaper than other zoos (particularly the fairly nearby Parc Cerza) and while it offers good value for money, is not especially well-equipped. There was plenty for the children to do, though you would struggle to make it an all-day event, even with lunch thrown in. Highlights included feeding birds in the aviary and goats in the petting zoo and watching the penguins have their lunch.
If history is your bag, a day in Caen is a must. Be wary of the ring road (Périphérique) though - it is entirely possible to spend three hours trying to head south away from the city only to find yourselves arriving, completely unexpectedly, in Bayeux.
Thankfully, we had seen enough of Caen to appreciate its beauty before it led us in circles (quite literally).
Sonny's holiday highlight was almost certainly our visit to the Chemin de fer in Clecy. His face was a picture as we entered the building full of working miniature trains chuffing round their miniature villages. With a train ride and bouncy castle thrown in, he was a very happy little man.
One criticism that I came close to making concerned parks and play areas, or lack thereof. However, upon closer inspection, we discovered a number of small but beautifully preserved play parks, none more lovely than that located in the centre of the large Jardin Public in Cherbourg. Off the tourist trail, it was frequented by locals and offered the children wonderful opportunities to communicate with children who spoke not a word of English. As well as the play park, the Jardin Public contains a small petting zoo, plentiful gardens and ponds full of baby turtles.
We had a wonderful time in Normandy, with so many things to see and do: