What is it? A week-long holiday at a four-star French mobile home parc near the sea.

Where? Siblu’s Le Bois Masson, in the Vendee region of France in the town of St-Jean-de-Monts, Pays de la Loire.

Description: Driving all the way to France to spend a week in a mobile home parc may sound like a bad joke, but as Wendy Sloane and her three daughters discovered, it’s actually a relaxing, fun and surprisingly carefree way to spend a holiday… [siblu.jpg]

To holiday close to a sandy beach but with plenty of other activities available for the kids to enjoy.

The parc has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, gym (see below) and kid’s clubs geared to specific ages (see below). There is an arcade and a bar with a full sports TV programme, as well as a shop and restaurant. This is a small, quiet parc and we liked it for that.

Siblu provides a varied entertainment programme, with early kid’s parties and on-site shows. We watched a full production of Mamma Mia!, which the children adored, although the pay-off was that we also had to put up with a few dreary talent shows, which they equally loved. We also paid six Euros a head for the children’s Crystal Fiesta evening, where they got one slice of pizza, a packet of sweets and a packet of crisps, but they thought it was fantastic as well. So who’s complaining?

Siblu has three kid’s clubs. Unfortunately children aged four and under cannot be dropped off in the Bubbles Club, but must be accompanied by a parent at all times. Our two eldest loved the Pirates Club, however, and there is also the Barracudas for kids aged ten and over.

The parc has a small gym with sauna and steam room, and you can book various treatments including different types of massages and herbal reflexology. Book in advance and be aware that you must be 16 or over to use most of the pampering facilities.

Local activities: This area is full of things to do. We found out when the local brocantes were held and visited several, as well as outdoor fruit and vegetable markets. We enjoyed some gorgeous meals at seaside cafes and spent hours on the beach, which is just a short drive away and lovely. The beaches are kid-friendly with lifeguards and nice sand that shelves out waist-deep, and we even bought a cheap net and spent a morning rock-pooling. Don’t spend all your time in the parc. Get out and enjoy yourself.

Wish we had known: That the cost of doing one load of washing would be a massive L12 at the current exchange rate, including washing powder and use of dryer.

Our top tip: We visited Le Bois Masson the last week of July, and the area was pretty empty. Saying that, all the cafes and markets seemed poised to welcome the hordes any minute. I have a feeling the whole of the Vendee is packed the entire month of August when both the French and foreigners descend on the beautiful beaches. You may want to avoid this time of year.

Kids say: “This is the best!” said Josie, nine. “I love the Pirate’s Club,” added Tilly, seven. “I loved the swimming pool and the yellow slide,” says four-year-old Clementine.

Getting There: The easiest way to get to Le Bois Masson from Blighty is to take the ferry from St Malo, then enjoy a leisurely three-hour drive. We stupidly took the Chunnel from Portsmouth to Calais and drove about ten hours (including stops). Made for a fairly inauspicious start to the holiday. A seven-night stay at Le Bois Masson, from 18 July 2010, starts from L937 with Dover to Calais ferries. This includes an early booking discount of L97, which is available until November 9.For more information and latest offers go to www.siblu.com or call 0871 911 7777.

About our stay: Summer was looming again, with no plans in sight. Even though my husband Duncan still harbours that unshakable British belief that the French are our natural enemies, we nonetheless decided to spend four weeks in France. But where? In a fantastic gite deep in the French countryside, in a six-bedroom cottage next to the sea, in a luxury hotel in a fashionable district of Paris? Mais non! Why not a mobile home “parc” in a small town nobody has ever heard of? Well, why not? The thought of spending a week in a mobile home may be your idea of hell, but we did it and survived. Surprisingly, we did more than that. We did it and actually enjoyed the experience, and would even do it again. My eldest daughter, in fact, thought that the seven nights she spent sleeping in a tiny bed inside a French sardine tin was the best week of her entire summer holiday. Le Bois Masson is a small holiday parc, with a tiny arcade, two swimming pools, a restaurant and a shop. So why did Josie love it so much? Freedom. For the first time in her life, she had the independence most nine-year-olds so desperately crave. All the amenities were just a short walk away, and she was able to go on her own. Or with her new best friend Roisin, who she met our second day there and talked about endlessly for weeks afterwards. This trip was our first in a French holiday parc, so we didn’t know what to expect. Our pitch was in a corner so it felt very private and our car made our garden entirely closed off to outsiders. Although the grass was a bit sparse in areas, we were provided with a gas barbecue and picnic table and spent many evenings enjoying life in le plein air, although our three-bedroom mobile home was actually very comfortable – comfy enough to even dine inside. [beach.jpg] Our days were mainly spent swimming in the parc pools or visiting the nearby beach, which was long and sandy with waves gentle enough for all three of our children. One morning we spent rock-pooling, equipped with a cheap net to catch crabs, small fish and shells. Another morning we got up early and went to a local brocante, buying baguettes, fromage et jambon from the market. I loved looking at the antique furniture, the children enjoyed the old-fashioned toys and baby paraphernalia, from 100-year-old creaky wooden cradles to dangerous-looking metal baby carriages. [brocante.jpg] The best bit, however, had to be the Siblu staff, a collection of French and English kids in their early twenties – perhaps even younger – who did everything they could to make our kids happy. And boy, did they work hard. In the mornings and afternoons they entertained the children in the kid’s clubs, in the evenings they put on incredibly well-executed performances of singing, talent and drama shows. While the spectacles may not have been to everyone’s taste – particularly the adults – all three of my children were absolutely entranced. Even Duncan was impressed. Siblu’s Le Bois Masson was the highlight of our summer, and perhaps the high point of Josie’s short life so far. In fact, she wore her plastic Siblu ID bracelet, necessary to get into the pool, for weeks afterwards until it literally crumbled and fell off her wrist. Would we visit the area again? Definitely. Even in a mobile home? Mais bien sur. Although I’d still love to try a gite… (Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She divides her time between writing, travelling and taking care of her three young daughters.)

Created: 2009-09-10 11:05:53.417

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