Conor Power and family land on a sweet spot in the Norman countryside
A lot of Irish going on holiday to France tend to keep on going until they get beyond a certain line of latitude. It’s understandable, of course: the objective is usually to continue driving until they find the finest of weather and that’s normally found farther away from Ireland than the region where you land in the ferry – i.e. south of Normandy or Brittany.
The option of going inland and away from the sea in Normandy, therefore, might not be what everyone has in mind in terms of a summer family holiday in France. At the same time, one can lose sight of the fact that a holiday is meant to be relaxing and minimal driving times are known to help with relaxation – particularly if one is on a family holiday.
We went for a camp site well inland and a few minutes’ drive away from the nearest village. We found it easily enough – just off the straight and smooth D972/572 that runs between St Lô and Bayeux.
We liked it immediately – a converted farmstead nestled amidst the beautiful rolling hills of Normandy that are so redolent of places like Kilkenny and Carlow. The cut-stone outbuildings were all intact and used as the reception office, shop and bar, while a swimming pool with slide was of the covered variety that could be opened once the weather was fine enough. There was even a lake where you could fish to your heart’s content (see pic above)The nearest town is St Lô. It’s a large-ish town about 15km from the camp site. There’s an interesting Irish connection here: Dubliner and Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett worked in St Lô during the Second World War with the International Red Cross and famously christened the destroyed town the “Capital of Ruins”. Today, in the fully rebuilt town, there’s an “Irish hospital” in his memory and even a thriving Irish cultural scene, with people in the locality picking up on the Irish heritage left behind.
The landing beaches themselves are close by too. Within a 20-minute drive, you can find Omaha Beach (not nearly as spectacular a location as Curracloe Beach in Wexford where those famous scenes in “Saving Private Ryan” were filmed), Juno Beach and the rest of them. The visit to the American War Cemetery at Colleville is a humbling and powerful experience, as is the visit to the excellent Caen Memorial (about a 40-minute drive away).
While it’s hard to avoid the omnipresence of the tourism industry that has grown up around the Normandy Landings in these parts, there is plenty more to do besides war-related attractions. There’s the Velo Rail – a type of cycling along rail tracks that are now disused.Within walking distance of the camp site, there was also a public forest with great cycling and walking tracks running through it. There’s a very sympathetic interpretive centre and shop at the entrance that gives you lots of facts about the forest in child-friendly format.
The tiny hamlet of Litteau is less than a kilometre away, but there is precious little there by way of shops or facilities. But you’re not far from the shops and you have the choice of either heading to St Lô or to another large hypermarket – Carrefour – which is within a pleasant ten-minute drive through green countryside.
It’s not that easy to tear yourself away from this little haven of tranquillity, but if you decide to go that little bit further afield, then there are some great places worth a day trip. Chief amongst these is Le Mont St-Michel. It’s the second most visited monument in France and once you get there, you’ll instantly see why. It’s worth getting the family up at some ungodly hour like 7am because the car park and the narrow road into it become very jammed very quickly at any given day during the summer. It takes about an hour and a quarter by car and it’s a place you won’t forget in a hurry. The other great site around here is Bayeux (home of the famous tapestry is about half an hour away) and the very charming seaside town of Honfleur (an hour and a half).
We stayed at the Domaine de Litteau camp site in the tiny commune of Litteau. Mobile homes are of an exceptionally comfortable standard, complete with dishwasher and washing machine in a camp site that combines the best of modern facilities with the relaxation of the countryside. For further information, visit www.siblu.ie or call 0818 274 099.
www.normandie-tourisme.fr – a multi-lingual information site with everything you need to know about the area.