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Family day out

Ever been camping? You know it’s never too late to start. Modern campsites are packed with luxury and perfect for a relaxing getaway. We hear from one silver traveller about their first camping experience, at the age of 61 with her 2 grandchildren.

My daughter had just moved house and half-term was upon her, so I valiantly offered to take her 2 children (aged 8 and 10) off her hands for a few days. After a brief discussion, I found myself off on a camping trip to France.

I hadn’t let on, but I’d never been camping, ever. In fact, I’d avoided it as a schoolgirl and girl guide, and I had flatly refused when friends suggested it way back when. Still, there’s nothing like your grandchildren’s greatest desire (this week anyway) to make their Granny change her mind.

Who says you can’t have luxury?

I consulted a few brochures and was very pleasantly surprised. While tents are available, most campsites these days seem to be awash with all kinds of accommodation: mobile homes, wooden lodges or chalets, even simple apartments.

So a 2-bedroom mobile home was booked - despite the moans for an actual tent. A grandmother who has seen luxury on a campsite was not going to turn her back on it!

It must be said that even the tents come equipped with far more than I’d imagined, and our choice of mobile home had pretty much everything we’d got at home: a microwave, TV, spacious fridge-freezer, the works really. And very nice furniture too - all matching as my granddaughter pointed out. 'Unlike home' possibly being the unspoken words.

I spent quite a while deciding on just which campsite to pick. We wanted most of the amenities on hand as hours in the car each day didn’t appeal.

Having got to France, I wanted to relax a bit. So swimming, sports, entertainment and a restaurant were needed. And do you know, there was a good choice, several places ticking all the boxes.

We eventually chose Camping les Deux Fontaines in Brittany. The pools and slides were a definite plus for the grandchildren and even more exciting for me was the beach, just 15 minutes’ walk from the site.

Just a few kilometres drive away was Pont Aven, where Paul Gaugin lived. It’s a well-fknown fact that Granny ‘does art', so a few hours at an exhibition or a museum would be tolerated. And of course the wonderful Brittany crepes would work as a bribe!

Loading the car with everything

Before departure, the daughter and I made some lengthy lists of what to take. The joy of taking the car then became obvious: short of leaving the children behind, I really could take almost everything we wanted.

Books and games (just in case), a cricket bat, laptops, favourite DVDs, my sturdy swimsuit and the sewn up towel arrangement for changing on the beach - it takes a suitcase by itself, but modesty and dignity are preserved. A sharp knife and veg peelers, some audio books for the journey, my 20-year-old phrase book in the glove compartment and yes, the phone chargers with adapters are not forgotten. I read up on driving in Europe, filled up the jalopy and we were ready for the off.

We had an uneventful journey with lots of stops on the way to try the French motorway services - they are infinitely better than the UK - but we arrived all in one piece. Amazing.

The little darlings were very impressed and I felt seriously pleased with myself. Brunehilda, my trusty satnav and valued companion, had done her stuff admirably, although I must confess to buying the relevant maps too, just in case she had a hissy fit once out of the UK. They were not needed which is just as well - navigation not being a strong point!

Everything was as promised in the comfort plus 2-bed deck; in fact, it would’ve slept 6, with 2 in the living area, so we had plenty of space. The shower and loo were just fine: compact and manageable with extra facilities off the twin bedroom. Marvellous! The kitchen was nicely equipped, with a useful fridge-freezer (wine and ice cream quickly installed).

In fact, we spent almost no time inside at all. Even on the one overcast day, we headed for the beach and messed about with sweatshirts on.

The evening entertainment was good-hearted fun, not the height of sophistication, but the kids’ disco and karaoke made us smile!

Perhaps my favourite moment was when two sleepy faces, tucked up in bed, smiled and said: ‘We love camping, Gran!’. And thinking about it, I rather like it too, lots of outdoors, lots of time together and heaps of fun. Job done!

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Canvas Holidays for camping trips to Europe.

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174