I’m writing this in a slew of let’s-not-go-on-about-it-but-it-is-rubbish-isn’t-it Mancunian rain. It’s hard to believe that this time last week, I was lazing in the Languedoc in what looks like a strip of pale blue in my mental calendar.
It’s pale blue because of the sea, but also because of the decor in our Alfresco mobile home (or “The ‘Ut” as it became affectionately known.) There was something fresh and breezy about the whole week, even though most of it was spent wafting off late twenties sunshine.
The pale blue theme began at the airport, which was magically close to Manchester. It’s essentially a café in the shape of a wave on the edge of a runway. That, coupled with the fact it was less than two hours away from home, made everything feel wonderfully simple. Ten minutes’ drive away from Beziers Airport, at the bottom of a cul-de-sac where the dead end was the sea, lay our parc.
Yelloh! Village Le Club Beach Farret is billed as being ‘large and lively’ which, if I’m honest, was the only thing putting me off. I needn’t have worried: away from the main reception with its palm trees, banana plants and luxe-looking pool, was Beach Farret. This separate area is right next to the Med, reached down a lane that smells of honeysuckle and buzzes with butterflies in the day and bats at night. Here’s the best bit – all we could ever hear were swallows, waves and whatever Spotify playlist we’d chosen that day.
After a friendly welcome from our reps (you get the feeling the lifestyle has rubbed off on them; neither of them stopped smiling and nothing was too much trouble,) we settled into our ‘ut. It was clean, well-equipped and it slept six. Outside, the furnished verandah led on to our very own patch of sand, complete with sunbeds and a barbecue. I like camping under the stars as much as anyone else, but having the comforts of our own loo, shower, kitchen and air conditioning so close to the beach made this holiday extra special.
“A mother’s love, eh?” smiled a passing bloke when Tom buried me in the sand then ran away to the sea on the first day. I smiled, serenely – it was fine, more than fine. Tom could wade out for ages before the water was any higher than his waist.There were no sharp stones, jellyfish, sharks, litter or other nasties lurking in the water. It was simply soft sand and clear, shallow sea, which meant I could completely relax, even with spadefuls of sand weighing me down and getting between my teeth.
I’m not the most domesticated of people, so I wasn’t sure how I’d enjoy cooking for us (and the inevitable clean-up.) It turned out to be a joy. I bought a basil plant from the site supermarket on the first night. It made its way into almost every meal I made and scented the mobile home for the duration of our stay. The on-site supermarket wasn’t a rip-off as I’d expected and favourite buys included marinated olives from the deli counter, delicious 1.80 Euros per litre wine (fill your empty mineral water straight from the barrel) and pastries for brekkie. Hotel breakfasts have their place, but I much preferred padding on to the decking in my nightie with a cafetiere and a fresh croissant to racing down to a restaurant and grabbing shot glass-sized portions of juice before last orders. Surely, when you’re on holiday, breakfast should be a leisurely affair.
Away from our ‘ut, there was plenty for both Tom and I to do. We made the one hour trek on foot to Vias, the local village, for market day. It was well worth the hike to see the cobbled streets, flowery windowsills and a church flooded with blue light through stained glass. No one could speak English, which meant we both had to make a bit of an effort when shopping for spiky baguettes and technicolour fruit and veg. Tom especially enjoyed telling everyone on his postcards that he’d bought (and scoffed) an orange that was nearly as big as his head.
Back at camp, Tom was smitten with the kids’ club, the headquarters of which was an enormous pirate ship-shaped play area. He spent two-hour sessions jumping on the bouncy castle, paddling at the beach and making things (including a bonus Mothers’ Day card for me – it’s a different day in France.) Meanwhile, I lazed by the pool, sampled the beautiful spa (more on that later) and swam in the sea. Together, we played crazy golf, ate amazing crepes, cakes and ice cream and visited a vineyard that was only a five minute walk away from the parc. Tom loved the entertainment in the pirate restaurant in the evenings and I happily nursed a sangria while he learnt the routine to the horribly catchy Club Yelloh anthem (OK I confess, I’ve looked it up on Youtube since we got back and yeah, I like it because it reminds me of our holiday and seeing him beam.)
The last of my holiday snaps is Tom, insisting on pulling two suitcases to the entrance of our parc, good old Mr Blue Sky resplendent in the background. “Thanks for entering the competition,” Tom said on the plane home, “I am really lucky.”
And we were. My verdict: From the friendly booking agents to the reps, accommodation and location, Alfresco have created the perfect balance between luxury seaside hotel and sleeping under canvas. The childcare, beach and entertainment at Beach Club Farret are excellent. The Languedoc is a fascinating area, with loads more to see and do than we did for those who have a car or hire bikes. Most impressive for me was the proximity to the UK. (That and the 1.80 Euro wine.) To think I could be relaxing on that verandah two hours after leaving the drenched Manc tarmac makes me want to go back. Now.