TRAVEL: Woodland surprises, relaxation and exploration. It's all about getting back to nature on a family friendly break with Eurocamp in Brittany, France
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An alpaca was the last thing you'd expect to see in the heart of an idyllic forest campsite in France, Or indeed a menagerie of guinea pigs and goats.
There was no teddy bear's picnic - but the creatures were just some of many pleasant surprises at the beautiful La Grande Metairie holiday parc on the edge of ancient woodland in south Brittany in a setting that really takes you back to nature.
Ralph, the alpaca, and his pals in the children's petting farm are among many attractions to discover at the family friendly campsite that offers far more than just canvas and caravans.
There's something for everyone.
If exploration is your thing, there's delightful forest and countryside trails for walkers to enjoy away from the roads.
Cyclists too are encouraged to explore the rural tracks - there's bikes and electric bikes available for hire - at the parc and 15-minute ride takes you through the woods towards Carnac village and beautiful sandy beaches.
The mysterious Kermario standing stones at the parc entrance - part of the alignments of Carnac - are a series of hundreds of megalithic menhirs lined up through the surroundings. There's a tower platform offering amazing views.
The impressive granite blocks, dating back around 7,000 years, include the Giant of Manio a remarkable stone standing over 20 feet high in a woodland clearing
It's one of three menhir alignment sites dotted around Carnac., the others are Ménec and Kerlescan, that are a stone’s throw away from the parc.
Within the parc's grounds there's a high rope course where the more adventurous can clamber their way through the treetops before finishing on slides and zip-wires to the forest floor.
There's also tennis courts, a skate park, football and volleyball pitches, French petanque, mini-golf, archery and a kids' club for younger visitors to burn up the energy.
Trees offering welcome shade in the summer around the holiday homes, if you did indeed want a teddy bears' picnic or, in our case, several barbecues!.
My family visited when temperatures were over 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) but the average temperature in Carnac for July, August and September ranges from a much more pleasant 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and 26 degrees Celsius (79°F).
There's not much rain during these months and when it is warm it's great to take a dip in one of the parc's pools.
La Grande Metairie's superb swimming complex has indoor and outdoor pools and waterslides. You can join in with the parc's entertainers with some madcap activity sessions poolside or just relax and float away on the lazy river. Safe to say we all had a splashing good time!
With its on-site supermarket, a restaurant overlooking the outdoor pool, pizza take-away, bars, kids' play areas and a great entertainment venue offering day time activities and evening music and disco you could pretty much spend your whole holiday camped in the parc.
The Eurocamp holiday homes bring the great outdoors closer than ever.
Most feature a private decked terrace, and with two or three bedrooms, adaptable enough to welcome the biggest of families, or groups of friends. With a fully-equipped kitchen, and barbecue, self-catering is a breeze.
The parc has got over 500 pitches but there's plenty of room and space within the forest to find peace and quiet if you need a break to relax, chill and enjoy the nature around you.
But if you did want to venture further afield a five-minute drive takes you to Carnac, with it's pretty streets and 17th century church, and its beach on the Atlantic coast - described as one of the sunniest in Brittany.
A few miles along that coast there's the lovely marina at St Trinite Sur Mer with an array of seafood restaurants and the impressive Breton medieval harbour town of Auray is less than half an hour away.
With its heritage steeped in Celtic traditions, golden beaches, beautiful countryside and mild climate, you are soon immersed in a region offering a complete change of lifestyle, open air and stress free.
There's plenty of ways to get to south Brittany. We chose the car and packed up everything but the kitchen sink for a drive from Yorkshire to Portsmouth on the south coast and an overnight sail across the English Channel to France.
We travelled courtesy of Brittany Ferries which offers crossings of the English Channel from Portsmouth to St Malo, a historic walled French port, that is also well worth spending some time looking around.
From there its an easy drive south to Carnac in less than two and a half hours taking in scenic Breton countryside en route to the Atlantic coast
It may have been a sad au revoir as we finally packed up the car at the end of a most enjoyable holiday - and bid our farewell to Ralph and his friends - but there's many happy memories been planted of a ‘tree-mendous’ woodland break.
And I'm pretty sure we will be back.
* Eurocamp offers holidays at parcs and campsites across France, Italy, Spain and many other parts of the continent.
There is limited availability in September at La Grande Metairie Carnac with prices starting at £566 for a 7 night stay, or prices start from £203 for a 7 night stay in the summer of 2023. This is for a 2 bedroom classic.
For more details visit: www.eurocamp.co.uk/campsites/brittany/bs019-la-grande-metairie or you can use: www.eurocamp.co.uk* Brittany Ferries operates from Portsmouth Poole and Plymouth, sailing to five destinations in France and two in northern Spain.
Return fares for two people travelling by car, with a cabin on an overnight sailing from £390 on the Portsmouth - Saint-Malo route: www.brittany-ferries.co.uk