Friday, 28 June 2013

Family-friendly gite in Normandy

Mont St-Michel
We recently enjoyed a lovely two week holiday in France. In a rather spooky case of history repeating itself, my very first trip abroad was to northern France, when I was 15 months old - the same age Bobble was during this holiday. My parents were a little more ambitious than us however, as they opted to camp and they also had my two year old brother to keep entertained too! My mum also likes to remind me that this was also the days before disposable nappies were widely available! We went for the slightly easier life and decided to have a week in a gite in Brittany, followed by a week in a gite in Normandy.

Finding the right place

There is a plethora of holiday cottages and gites available in northern France. We didn't book until fairly late (2 months before) and found that availability was still very high. The biggest issue we found was that the two bedroom places that we were looking at hardly ever seemed to have baths, providing a shower instead. It seemed that Bobble was at a slightly awkward age. Too old for a baby bath (many places offered these along with cots and highchairs) and still too young for a shower. It might have just been a coincidence, but the two places that booked both had baths and both had English owners. Maybe relaxing in the bath is more of an English pass time than a French one!

Another tip related to availability... As you can usually see online how booked up the accommodation is, if it's still got lots of free weeks and you feel confident enough, why not see if you can negotiate on the price?

5 good reasons to stay somewhere family-friendly

After spending a great week in Brittany, we moved on to our base in Normandy. While our gite in Brittany was lovely, I was excited about our second week in Normandy as we had found somewhere that was very catered towards families with young children. I'll tell you why this was great.
  1. We only had space to take a small number of toys with us. After 1 week, Bobble was getting a bit bored of these, as were we!
  2. When there's lots of things to do at your accommodation, it's a bit like being at home in the sense that you don't feel the need to rush out in search of entertainment. You can relax while your child plays and has fun too.
  3. There is usually equipment available for you to borrow, freeing up a bit more space in your car which is probably already packed to the rafters.
  4. It is very likely that the owners have children of their own. If they're close by (ours were in the house next door) they'll be on hand with ideas of days out and help if you need it. They might even have children of a similar age, providing instant playmates for your own children.
  5. The accommodation will have been prepared with children in mind. This not only means that stair gates and other safety measures will be in place, but I think it also means that the owners will be a bit more relaxed about general wear and tear, which is more relaxing for mum and dad too!

Kestrel Cottage, Le Hamel Roger, Normandy


Kestrel Cottage is a former cider mill that has been converted into a four bedroom gite. It's found in the calvados region of Normandy and is a little over 20 minutes drive from the large town of Vire. The very friendly English owners, Angie and Danny, have been there since 2007. They have six children (yes, six!) aged between 1 and 12, who were really friendly, polite and incredibly well behaved.

Quick list of the gite's features
  • Four bedrooms, but the gite can sleep between 2 and 12 with additional beds and cots
  • 2 bathrooms - 1 with bath and shower, the other with just a shower and loo
  • Large kitchen including washing machine, dishwasher and all the kitchen essentials you could wish for
  • Large living room with plenty of seating, a DVD player, TV with English channels and a log fire for cool evenings
  • Large upstairs gallery landing area/play room with lots of toys and a second television for watching films
  • Outside seating area including a bbq.

Kestrel cottage

The really large garden
The big selling points: family-friendly extras
  • Next door, there is a play loft stacked with toys for all ages. Ball pools, ride on toys, dressing-up clothes, toddler roller coaster (Bobble loved this!), mini pool table, air hockey, table football (we loved this after Bobble had gone to bed!) and much more!
  • The large garden, as well as giving lots of running around space, provides even more toys including a trampoline, swings, slides, basketball hoop. Oh, and a solar heated above ground swimming pool!
  • The list of baby and toddler equipment that is available to use or borrow is huge! As well as the usual things like highchairs, cots, steriliser, spoons and bowls etc. they also have bigger things like an off-road pushchair and baby carrying rucksack.
  • The price you pay includes all bed linen and towels and the end of stay cleaning - this is unusual for France, where you are usually asked to clean before you leave to avoid losing some of your deposit.
  • Angie runs a weekly music class which we were invited to attend. Unfortunately we couldn't make it as we already had plans, but it would have been great to do some singing in English and French!
What is there to do nearby?
Here's how we spent our week - I've included driving times.
  • Viaduc de la Souleuvre (20 minutes) - a great afternoon spent watching people way more adventurous than us bungy jumping, zip wiring, riding a luge or on a completely insane swing that takes you from 0-120km in 3.5 seconds!
  • St Sever Forest (25 minutes) - good place for an afternoon walk in a mysterious and brooding forest.
  • Mont St-Michel (1 hour) - France's third most visited attraction and for good reason! Unlike it's English equivalent, you don't need to go by boat or rely on tides.
  • Arromanches - one of the D Day landing beaches (1 hour). Packed with history and home to a museum and 3D cinema.
  • Honfleur (1 hour 25 minutes) - my favourite place! An enchanting little town with a gorgeous port, a lovely park and lots of interesting streets for pottering along.
  • Bayeux (35 minutes) - go and see the tapestry and enjoy wandering the streets.
A few pictures from our week

Find out more

Prices (2013) start from £350 and go up to £690 per week depending on the number of guests and the time of year. You can check availability online or contact Angie directly

Visit the Kestrel Cottage website

*Our week at Kestrel Cottage was paid for by us and I have not received any compensation for this review.

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