Happy Days Retro Vacations

Last weekend we packed our bags, jumped in the car and drove up to Suffolk to a small town called Saxmundham. Just outside the town is a small campsite run by Jenni and Kevin who set up there about three years ago after transferring from Dorset. But it’s not just any campsite, it’s an airstream glamping park and as you pull on the breaks and turn to look at the field, you are greeted by a spectacular sight of 6 beautiful airstreams, carefully brought back to their original glory, standing peacefully in the park, waiting to give you a weekend break like you’ve never experienced before.

At this point, I can hear Jenni entering the conversation and reminding me that one of the trailers is actually an Avion.

These guys are super passionate about what they do and how they do it. They spend months searching the internet for airstreams for sale. They buy them, import them from the States and drive them from Southampton, where they arrive on a ship, up to the quiet Suffolk countryside.

Happy Days Airstream

But they’re not just any Airstream offered up for hire. No, they are all furnished and decorated as closely as possible to the original state, lending a marvellous vintage air to them. On top of that, each trailer is named and the names are delightful – Betsy, Dee Dee, Nettie and Gloria are some examples. You will even hear Jenni referring to her airstreams as ‘she’.

We were incredibly lucky to be invited up for a weekend break at Happy Days Retro Vacations to try out the experience for ourselves, as a family and we were allowed to bring Baxter with us as a few of the Airstreams are dog friendly.

Airstream galmping

Inside an Airstream

We were given Dee Dee for our stay who is one of the first trailers you pass in the field. Standing brightly with a wooden table outside she looks really inviting. I really liked that the area in front of the Airstream was artificial grass, what a great idea as it saved a lot of mud being dragged in but was still in keeping with the field. We also had some colourful outdoor chairs to relax in too dotted around our pitch and flamingos too.

Airstream living area

The door opens into the living area with a table to the right, the kitchen sink and hob/oven in front and the fridge to the left as you climb the steps. The shelf over the fridge has a TV (for watching DVDs as there is no television connection) and a radio. Parents will be pleased to know that the WiFi connection is very hit and miss, we really embraced this as the girls were off out exploring from the word go but more about that later.

Airstream bedroom

As you turn left into the airstream, straight after the kitchenette you enter the bedroom with a single bed on either side of the walkway which leads down to the bathroom. The bathroom has a portable toilet, a shower, a sink and a cupboard for storage.

Airstream kitchen

Each window has beautiful handmade curtains to make a cosy evening and shut out the light. The table has a PVC cloth and the benches are covered in cushions in wonderful retro prints.

It Is Gorgeous.

As you settle in to your vintage Airstream, you find all sorts of delightful surprises that make you smile and from the word go I can guarantee a happy-go-lucky feel about your weekend (or longer) stay.

Once the children were in bed, we sat and chatted a while before turning the table area into a comfortable double bed. You simply remove the table top which slots across the two benches on either side and store the leg under the bed. The cushions all go into making the mattress – and it was very comfortable indeed.

You can either take your own bed linen or hire it from Jenni.

Bathrooms

Happy Days Retro vacations

Don’t panic there are some very accommodating bathrooms onsite, not gender specific and also large enough to get the family in. Heated, spacious and beautifully decorated too. Definitely shower here rather than in the Airstream!

Entertainment at Happy Days Retro Seaside Glamping Holidays

You may be thinking, ‘What will we do in the middle of nowhere?’ and to that my first reply is, “Relax!” You are in the midst of nature at its best, surrounded by a peace that can only do you the world of good. Take the time to recharge and treasure the moment.

However, Jenni and Kevin have also put a lot of thought entertaining all members of the family.

Airstream glamping

There is a wonderful park with a ‘secret garden’ kind of entrance that leads to an old army truck which our kids loved playing on. A trampoline and a wonderful area of grass, fields and trees, all hedged in so the children can play safely until their heart’s content. We came home with a bag of apples and pears!

Reception is in a furnished shed and has games, DVDs and a jar of sticks for marshmallows too. There are books, leaflets to take away and plenty of ideas to keep you amused.

Then there is the Red Shed. The Red Shed is a place that can be used for parties, there are sofas to sit on and a dance floor. There is a DJ booth in the corner and a glitter ball. Kevin will be installing a fire this autumn so it can be used in the colder months too.

Jenni told me that the whole park can be hired out for special celebrations, birthdays, hen parties, anniversaries. I agree it would make a wicked venue for a family get together.

Happy Days polytunnel

There is also a polytunnel which the previous owners had used as a greenhouse. If we were looking for the twins they were in the polytunnel playing table football! There was also a super-sized Connect 4 game and a table with lots of chairs. Oh and another glitter ball, why not?

fire pit

Lastly, I must mention the firepit and marshmallows. As sun falls and dinner has been served, Kevin did a round of the Airstreams taking huge buckets of wood and firelighters to his guests. Using an old washing machine drum which works perfectly as a firepit, we lit a fire, pulled some wonderful hand crocheted blankets around us and whilst we toasted our marshmallows (on the sticks found in reception) we looked up and saw a sky full of stars. I managed to point out the plough but I soon realised it was the only formation I knew!

Places to visit close to Happy Days Retro Park

There is plenty to see in this part of the world and both Kevin and Jenni are full of top tips to pass on. We went to visit Southwold which was lovely. We walked along the pier and beach. We stopped off at a pub on our way back to Happy Days called The White Heart, also home to the  Famer and Fisherman restaurant which had a delicious menu. We weren’t there for food but we tried a couple of the local Adnams beers – I spotted that Adnams also do gin but failed to find some to buy. We sat in the pub garden where the girls fed the ducks and walked alongside the lake picking wild blackberries.

On the Sunday we visited Thorpness and walked to The House in the Clouds and spotted the windmill from Grandpa In My Pocket tv programme. We also visited Aldeburgh where apparently there are two marvellous fish and chip shops which we are going to have to go back and try as we got hungry in Thorpeness and went into the Kitchen where Paul and the girls had a homemade pizza and I had a fresh crab salad.

Airstream Dee Dee

Local shops

Each Airstream has tea, coffee and sugar but if you do want to shop for food and other bits there is a Tesco and a Waitrose in Saxmundham. A five minute drive away.

I’m not sure if you understand just how much I enjoyed our weekend at Happy Days  Retro Vacations? I am hoping my enthusiasm is coming over through my post because it was one of the nicest experiences I have had this year. I would thoroughly recommend it and the girls arrived home asking if we could go back again.

Thank you, Jenni and Kevin, for a very special experience.

Disclosure: We were weekend guests of Happy Days Retro Vacations for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

camping at chessington with the brownies

One of the highlights of the past year for the twins has been going to Brownies on a Tuesday evening. They are in a group of around 20 – 30 girls and under the watchful eyes of three owls (Tufty, Eagle and Little) they get up to all sorts of activities including, craft, singing and playing football. Each term they work towards a new badge – much to my delight when it comes to sewing them on – and now one arm of their jackets is more or less covered!

At the beginning of the year, forms were sent to the parents talking of an annual camping at Chessington trip along with the other Brownie groups and the Guides in July. There was a lot of excitement in the house and dad and I knew it was a ‘must’ for the girls, plus it was planned for the weekend just before their birthday so would go nicely into being part of their present.

As the time drew closer, kit lists were sent out and dad and I realised this was proper camping! We were going to have to learn how to make bedrolls and make them easy enough for the girls to carry.

Girl Guiding does its best to keep costs to a minimum and there wasn’t going to be a lot of kit that needed to be bought but a few bits that sprung to mind were, a mattress to roll the sleeping bags on, a thermal mug to drink hot chocolate around the camp fire and a torch for the midnight feast of course!

Who do you turn to with any camping related question – Millets of course! I told them what we needed and the important reason  – Brownie Camping trip to Chessington – and they were delighted to help out; camping is their forte.

camping mattresses

They sent along two fabulous mattresses and we practised rolling and unrolling our bedrolls (something that will need practising again before next year, apparently there were a few tears walking back to the coach on Sunday with a bedroll that kept on unravelling…)

thermal camping mug

They also gave us two thermal mugs which were nice and light to carry and did the job perfectly according to the twins (only the hot chocolate wasn’t very nice mummy)

small torch

And lastly, two torches which were small and light. Now, I spent a lot of time telling the girls to look after these torches and showing them a special pocket on the rucksack PERFECT to put them in so we wouldn’t lose them but of course, one twin came home without hers. *sigh*

Dad and I dropped two VERY excited little girls off on Saturday morning at 7.30am and collected two very happy but shattered little girls on the Sunday at 4 pm. We did our best to get some conversation from them; just an idea of how it went, what they got up to but they were so tired we got barely anything other than, ‘It was great, can we go again next year?’

Bedding roll for camping

They had a lot of fun and if you are contemplating your little ones going I would whole heartedly say yes, send them as it’s a life memory and fantastic for confidence building. Bessie said she went on all of the rides whereas before departure she was sure she wouldn’t be doing some of them.

Thank you very much Millets for coming to our rescue with all of our camping equipment. I think we did very well only losing one torch considering what could have gone missing!

Disclosure: Millets sent us the products mentioned above for the purpose of this post – all opinions are my own and Brown Owl is writing a long list of necessities for next year ;)

awning #wedocamping

Well that was a fun staycation in Devon!

Our gearbox broke only half an hour into our journey at the crack of dawn on a hot Saturday morning and then on arrival at Woolacombe it decided to rain and rain and then rain some more. Alice must have drank half of the swimming pool one day as she was sick for a couple of days for no apparent reason and then to finish in style we took a wrong turn on our way home and got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam whilst some poor people were being cut out of their car.

Having said all of that I am still a great fan of Staycation holidays and believe that Great Britain is a beautiful place to spend time with my family.

This year our annual two weeks was spent in our caravan at Twitchen House in Woolacombe, a final trip as on our return home we sold it on to another loving family having invested in a static caravan in Birchington on Sea back in April.

Our caravan trips always involve lots of organisation and lists. Food lists, clothes lists, utensil lists and entertainment lists. I become the mother of all lists when it is holiday time and I am pleased to say, I didn’t forget a thing this year *shines own halo*.

Millets are running a fabulous campaign this year, #WeDoSummer and they invited us to take part. They would be sending through a few items to make our camping experience easier and more comfortable.

millets camping products

I spent quite some time on their website and ticked off a lot of products that would be really useful to us. I had no idea their ranges were so vast, from tents to fold away tables and from cups to moon chairs, my list grew with every click!

In the end I had to be sensible, I had to calm down my urge to buy everything they had and settle on what would be our most useful products because when you are camping or caravanning the most important thing to consider is size and weight. It must pack down small, be easy to use and not weigh too much.

Moon chairs

What a great choice these were. Millets sent through two moon chairs, a red one and a grey one each with its own carry sack which sits nicely on your shoulder as you walk from the car to the beach. We had ours in the awning, moving them outside when it wasn’t raining and I can honestly say they are the most comfortable camping chairs I have ever possessed. They quickly became the preferred chair of all members of the family, even Baxter had to be frequently turfed out.

Baxter #wedocamping

The moon chairs are made by Eurohike and are round, like the moon. You have to pull the top bar and the bottom bar in an outward fashion and the chair assembles for you and likewise for dismantling a push on the same two bars collapses the seat back to its packing state. Sturdy, comfortable and perfect for taking out on days out too.

Foldaway barbecue

Anyone who knows my husband well will know he is a passionate barbecue-er. The minute the weather perks up he wants us all to start eating food cooked by himself outside in the garden. Currently he has 4 barbecues to choose from, gas, coal, portable and various sizes for different events. He didn’t really need a new barbecue that’s for sure but what caught my eye with this model was that it folds away. It flat packs. So it takes up barely any space at all.

I was so curious to see how it performed that for once when husband mentioned ‘Shall we have a bbq tonight.’ I agreed and passed him the box with an excited glint in my eye.

foldaway bbq millets

The Outwell Portable Grill  took seconds to put together and worked perfectly for us. If He Who Barbecues has anything to say it is the grill is a bit delicate. It folds into three whereas if it were in one piece it might be sturdier because placing it over the the hot coals once they’d been stoked proved tricky and we had to use forks to straighten it onto the built in supports along the sides. However, the portable grill cooked our meat perfectly and we used it on every possible occasion we could whilst on holiday, we soon got the hang of the grill top.

Not only is this product good for camping but it will be fantastic to take on fun days out, for a beach barbie possibly.

Cooking utensils

Millets also have a fantastic cooking section where they have pots and pans, cool boxes, colanders and all sorts of cooking utensils that are perfect for camping. We enjoyed our meals with some wonderful cutlery and dad used his Campingas Barbecue Spatula to turn his burgers, steaks and sausages over during the cooking. This particular spatula is large and enables the chef to turn two burgers at a time which became dad’s thing this holiday. A very handy utensil.

So there you have it. If you are looking for some excellent products to make your camping trip even better then I would definitely recommend the above. Have fun campers!

mari gin and tonic #wedocamping

Sitting in my moon chair and drinking a gin and tonic – cheers to that!

 

mum and children sleeping B&W

I love that photo above, just look how much the twins have grown since then! I think that was our first camping trip with them :)

One of my favourite memories is putting a tent up in the back garden for sleepovers during the summer holidays. My next door neighbour at the time, Julie and I would write long lists of how to prepare for this special treat. We would spend best part of the day taking ‘stuff’ from our bedrooms down to the tent, stuff that was deemed essential for a good night’s camping and for the Best Sleepover Ever. Of course, we didn’t need most of it but it kept us amused and occupied for the best part of the day.

Obviously the most essential items were our sleeping bags and they would go into the tent first along with a pillow.

Cuddly toys were high on the list as were games to play. Torches were essential and down came books, puzzles and all manner of items Just In Case we may need them.

sleeping bag

The twins have already had their first sleepover at a friend’s house which they LOVED and I can see the future will hold many more. For the occasion I invested in new sleeping bags for them pretty much like this one Furry Friends sleeping bag from Travel Outdoors which also has a sack to stuff the sleeping bag back in for easy transportation.

sleeping bag

I packed them both a separate bag with nightie, clean underwear and a wash bag with toothbrush, flannel and toothpaste. The bag came back with somebody else’s knickers and neither of them had brushed their teeth as they hadn’t seen the washbags! This made me smile as I remembered the excitement of my sleepovers and anyway, who cares about teeth when you’re having midnight snacks and lots of fun with your best friends?

Essential Sleepover kit

1 x sleeping bag
1 x comfy pillow
1 x cuddly toy
1 x torch
1 x washbag with toothbrush, toothpaste and flannel
1 x hairbrush
clean underwear
clean clothes
Lots of secret snacks for the important midnight feast

Happy summer holidays everyone!

If you are going on a camping holiday then don’t forget to download my free checklist to help with remembering everything you need.

Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont

It all started at the beginning of the year in cold January when husband and I were thinking ahead to summer 2014 and wondering where to go. We were going to go to France again after such a successful trip to Honfleur in Normandy last year and we wanted to see if we could possibly take the girls to EuroDisney now known as Disneyland Paris.

Husband typed in campsites near Disneyland Paris and up came a list including Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Rivière. As we wanted to spend two weeks there we were on the lookout for a 4/5 star campsite with swimming pools, activities, bars, restaurants and a shop.

We loved what we read and booked up, here’s how we got on.

camping la croix du vieux pont swimming complex

Booking

We booked direct with the campsite as we were taking our caravan, this was our first obstacle as although the 10% deposit was deducted from our account we never received an email confirmation. Only after telephoning did we receive something to say we were booked in on the right dates.

Camping Le Croix du Vieux Pont has many different types of accommodation, there are various fields for camping with tents, caravans or camper vans both with and without electricity. Major companies Eurocamp, Canvas, Venue and Lifestyle Holidays also offer tents, safari tents, mobile homes and there is also the option of a detached wooden lodge with Canvas.

camping la croix du vieux pont toddler pool

Directions

We downloaded directions from Google and used the sat nav too and towards the end we were afraid we had gone terribly wrong as we were driving along quiet country roads that were hardly roads at all but tarmac’ed trails. We did get there but decided to go along the motorway for an easier drive back home rather than return through the countryside towing a caravan.

Site plan

The site of Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont is enormous and you will definitely be stretching your legs whilst there. We are very glad we took the girls bikes with us as it saved a lot of walking for them. We were assigned a plot in the Petit Bois which is close to the beach area but meant a good 10 minute walk to reach the swimming pool and more to get to reception and the shop.

Pitches

Arrivals after midday, departures before midday.

camping la croix du vieux pont

You can choose a pitch with or without electricity. There are various camping areas all over the site, we were allocated a corner pitch in Alleé du petit bois but on walking around the site we discovered Alleé du Grands Barbecue and Alleé du Rond Barbecues and should we ever return we’d ask to have one of these pitches which are closed in by hedges and also have a private brick built barbecue. On asking at reception for information I discovered that you have to book very early (December/January) to get one of these.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Washrooms

There are plenty positioned around the site and some are busier than others, our closest washroom was near the beach and therefore saw a lot of traffic. The campsite cleaned three times a day but in mid August it still got messy quickly. We discovered by walking a bit further we could use a much cleaner bathroom.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Reception, shop and bakery

Everyone working on reception speaks perfect English and are incredibly helpful with all enquiries. The shop is reasonably priced and has a good selection of food and products, the bakery has fresh bread and pastries daily.

There is an Intermarché supermarket only 5 minutes from the site.

Laundry, carwash, cashpoint, boutique

I used the laundry on two occasions and found it to be sufficient but not a perfect wash. The tokens you need are bought at reception, they also have singular soap tabs if you don’t have any. The washing machine took about 45 minutes and is a large capacity. The dryer also took 45 minutes but for towels and thick t shirts I used two tokens.

The boutique onsite has a range of toys, floatables, postcards and souvenir items. It also sells newspapers

camping la croix du vieux pont

Bars, restaurants and take away

By the beach there is a bar/restaurant called Macao Beach. You can also access their wifi whilst you sit in the bar area. Delicious ice creams, cocktails, beer and snacks for sale. We didn’t try the restaurant but heard good comments from neighbours who did.

By the swimming pool there is another bar and separate restaurant, again we didn’t try the restaurant but heard good reports. We visited the bar on a few occasions to take the girls to the kiddies disco where they had great fun. The bar display an entertainment schedule for guests to check including karaoke evenings, pub quiz and much more.

camping la croix du vieux pont soft play

There is a bowling alley and an upstairs soft play area which needs to be paid for downstairs.

There is a take away also near the swimming pool selling burgers and pizzas. We never used this as the queues were quite long with half an hour wait.

There is another bar on the side of the lake which serves, drinks, ice creams and food.

Sports and activities

Close to the lake there is an area with all sorts of activities for the children including Go karts, trampolining and kayaking on the lake. We enjoyed a half an hour pedalo trip with the girls one day and spotted many fishermen around the lake. (Fishing license compulsory and bought in the lakeside shop). There is also an enclosed room with 3/4 table tennis.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Close to the swimming pool there is an indoor 5 a side football pitch open to everyone.

You can hire bikes by the hour, morning or days.

Tennis courts and a beach volley ball area close to the beach. Also by the beach is a mini golf.

Just outside the campsite there are stables who do daily trekking with the horses and ponies. We took the girls for a guided hour trek around the village area and through the fields and they loved it.

pony riding france

Spa and beauty treatment

Sadly I didn’t have time to review this part of the site. :)

Organised trips

This is possibly why most of the guests come to Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont, the proximity to Paris and to Disneyland paris.

The site organise coach trips, as you check in they will normally tell you which days the excursions are being organised for. Once that coach is full they will put on another day.

Paris – I caught the coach at 7.50am and we arrived in Paris around 9.30am. The coach drops you off at about 800m from the Arc di Triomphe, it’s a 15 minute walk to reach the monument. The coach left Paris at 6.45pm and was back in Berny Riviere at around 8.15pm. Read more of my Paris in One Day

Paris rooftops

Disneyland Paris – The coach left at 7.50 and arrived about 9.30am, there is a good 10 minute walk from where the coach parks to the entrance of the parks. The coach left EuroDisney at 7.45pm meaning we were able to see the 5.30 parade but not the fireworks at 10.30pm.

Disneyland Paris castle

Both trips are reasonably priced and excellent service.

You can also buy your Disneyland paris tickets at reception at a very reasonable price.

Our verdict

We thought the campsite was very clean and well organised and it had everything you could possibly wish for. A lot of care goes into the gardens and the flowers are beautiful.

We noticed that circa 97% of the guests were British. If you’re looking to savour France this might not be the place for you.

This is an excellent campsite near Disneyland Paris offering lots to do on the days you’re on site. The swimming pools have chutes, slides and a lazy river plus an excellent water play are for the youngest members of the family. A perfect family holiday.

See the beautiful sunsets over the lake here.