Website: chateaudegalinee.fr | Phone: (0033) 02 96 41 10 56 | Postcode: 22380
Our first camping trip abroad! Some said we were crazy to attempt this with a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, but we put a lot more planning into this trip than into most of our shorter UK breaks (perhaps too much planning because by the time we were ready to book everything our preferred ferry crossings were all full!). Read on to find out whether our first foray onto the continent with a trailer-tent was a success and whether we’ll be attempting it again…
We had originally planned to drive down to Portsmouth in the afternoon for an overnight crossing, sleep on the ferry and wake refreshed for the second leg of the journey, through France. When we found that the overnight crossings were fully-booked we opted instead for an early morning crossing from Poole and drove through the night, hoping the kids would sleep most of the way. We booked a cabin on-board so that at least the driver could sleep for the crossing.
So at around midnight we crept into the kids’ bedrooms, carried them drowsily to their car seats and set off into the night. It went as well as we could have hoped with a 5 hour drive through deserted motorways stopping only once en-route. The kids woke about a half hour away from the ferry terminal.
Boarding the ferry with car and trailer was refreshingly straightforward, involving a brief queue, an informal security check of the trailer and then driving straight onto the ferry. A quick breakfast on board then I headed back to our cabin whilst Anna took the boys to the children’s film room. I managed to get a couple of hours sleep during the 3 hour crossing and then we were back in the car to resume our journey. Within minutes of the docking we were able to drive off the ferry and pretty much drive straight out of the terminal and onto the French autoroute (we diligently pulled over to apply our headlight deflectors to the car first).
The only real hiccups were the “low oil” warning light flashing up on our car’s dashboard, and that half way through France Anna started to feel unwell, which we put down to lack of sleep, eating at unusual times and travel sickness. I mentally kicked myself as checking the oil had been on my list of things to do before we set off and I hadn’t got around to it – and hadn’t packed the bottle of engine oil that I could picture sitting on the shelf in the back of our garage at home. Fortunately we made it to the next motorway services, bought an overpriced bottle of oil and topped up the engine before continuing our journey with no further incident..
We arrived at the campsite to a warm welcome at reception and were shown to our pitch. The site was surprisingly quiet for the time of year (early July) but this was still deemed to be the off-season and school holidays had not yet started.
As we started to put up the trailer-tent and unpack both adults fell ill making the first day a real struggle. Although neither of us felt like eating we needed to pop out to the local supermarket to get some food for the children’s dinner and breakfast the next day. It was only a short drive away but felt like a mammoth task was accomplished when somehow we made it. In hindsight I think we had caught a bug that one of our sons had come down with earlier in the week. Fortunately by the following morning we were both feeling much better and had fully recovered within 24 hours.
The campsite is a large purpose-built site – big enough that it’s the sort of place we would probably avoid in the UK but camping is clearly more popular in Europe than it is at home (no doubt due to the more reliable weather) and there is more investment into large good quality campsites. In the UK we find that campsites tend to be either large resort type holiday parks built to maximise profit, or farmers’ fields with minimal facilities run to top up the farmer’s income. If you’ve read almost any of the other reviews on this site, you’ll already know that we prefer the latter. Chateau de Galinée has hundreds of pitches of varying size, but each one is surrounded by a well tended hedge to mark out the pitch and provide some privacy. In the corner of each pitch is a pedestal with electric point and freshwater tap. Between the rows of pitches are rows of trees which provide some shelter and mean that although this is a very large site, it never really feels very big because you can never see more than maybe a dozen pitches. There’s a large modern shower and toilet facility which is regularly cleaned and was always spotless. A team of cleaners descends in a golf buggy and clean top to bottom every day. There’s also an indoor washing up room with around 15 separate washing stations, and a further room with washing machines. A section of the site is given over to Eurocamp tents where a family can arrive to camp in a large pre-erected tent with beds, fridge and cooking facilities all provided. A couple of other areas of the site are occupied by chalet style holiday homes – a bit fancier and more permanent than the traditional static caravan.
Throughout the site are several children’s play areas with swings and climbing frames. There’s a small fishing lake which we saw being used a couple of times, and a large bin store area by the entrance with plenty of recycling options. Vehicle entry to the site is protected by an automatic barrier operated with a PIN that you are given on check-in. There’s a small shop on site selling essential foodstuffs but more importantly selling warm freshly baked baguettes and pastries every morning (and which we took advantage of every morning!). We made use of the on-site restaurant once during our stay and enjoyed the pizza. There’s free WiFi available around reception and the main pool/restaurant area. The site boasts an impressive swimming pool (actually several pools), including a water slide which the children loved and a shallow pool that was perfect for paddling in with a baby. I expect that at the height of the holiday season the pools would be very busy but in early July there was plenty of space.
We rested and stayed local on our first full day only venturing to Saint-Cast-Le-Guildo – the local town, a short 5 to 10 minute drive away. There’s some nice beaches here and a coastal walk along a well maintained path. Saint Cast was home to the nearest supermarket which had everything we needed. There’s also plenty of bars and restaurants. Toward the end of our stay we spent an afternoon and into the early evening on one of the beaches here and tried our inflatable kayak for the first time which proved to be a massive success with the whole family. Further around the headland is a marina which we visited on our last day. There are several cafés here too with seafood a speciality of most. From here we also paid a visit to Les Thés d’Emma, a gem of a tea room perched high on the hill with seating in the garden that overlooks the marina. Well worth a visit. We could have sat here all day long admiring the view and watching the boats coming and going.
One of our favourite day trips was to Saint Malo (a 45 minute drive from the campsite). We walked most of the perimeter wall, drank coffee on the street outside a café, and ate galettes de blé noir (buckwheat pancakes) for lunch.
Another day trip was to Mont Saint Michel (1hour 15minutes from the campsite). We were surprised at just how busy it was and how geared up it is for
tourists with a massive car park and regular bus service from the purpose built visitor’s centre along the relatively new road that has been built above the causeway to guarantee access all day long. We had a good day exploring here although there are lots of steps so it would have been better if we had taken the baby carrier rather than the pushchair – we didn’t make it all the way to the top because some parts are just inaccessible with the pushchair. Lesson learned for next time.
Can’t wait for next year!
This was one of our longer camping trips (the longest we’ve done with children) and our first foray overseas with the trailer-tent and it was a huge success. Our eldest often plays at camping, using what else but an old cardboard box as his campervan. When we ask where he’s going the answer is invariably “Mont Saint Michel”, and whenever we talk about camping he now asks whether there will be an on-site shop to buy baguette every morning! The Emerald Coast is a beautiful area of France with plenty to explore and is easily accessible from the UK. We would definitely recommend Chateau de Galinée but might have second thoughts if visiting at peak season. We’re already planning an even bigger European trip for 2018!