1980 provided something very new – a full-blown foreign holiday, 2 weeks in a Eurocamp tent in Brittany. I know Eurocamp and suchlike aren’t “proper” camping, but it was a bit more basic back then – there still wasn’t any electricity in the tents so there were gas lanterns and just a coolbox to stop the cheese from becoming sentient and taking over the world.

I think the plan had been to go elsewhere in Brittany but we had a late change as my mum needed to do a re-sit at college (she took O Levels, A Levels and a teaching degree after I started school). We ended up just outside Benodet, and because it was a late booking had to change tent half way through. We did well though as the site had good facilities, including a fantastic takeaway – you can see the queue in one of the photos. It was memorable for the (lack of) portion control – the amount of frites you got seemed to be dependent on the size of container you took along rather than the number of portions you ordered!

There was also an amazing co-incidence – a family that we knew in Northampton (I think because we went to the same playgroup?) always holidayed in North Wales but in 1980 decided to do something different. Completely independently, they ended up on the same site as us for a week. Of all the possible campsites booked through all of the different holiday operators, we both ended up at the same one, booked through the same company.

Following the horrible experience on the cross-channel ferry in 1979, it’s something of an understatement to say that I wasn’t looking forward to the idea of 9 hours on the Portsmouth-St Malo ferry. And you know what, it was as flat as a millpond. But being a day crossing (leaving Portsmouth at about 8am meant setting off from home at about 3am!) it was also terminally dull!

The return journey was mildly interesting – there was a French fisherman’s strike on and they were blockading the ports. In the days before mobile phones and the internet, we somehow found out that Roscoff was open so we headed there instead of St Malo. I don’t remember the detail, but we were apparently running short of money and ended up in a small cafe for dinner – one that goes down in family lore as “the worst meal ever”. I think it was slow, badly cooked (I vaguely recall something about a burger being burnt on the outside and raw on the inside), but generally just awful.
The other memorable piece of the return journey was that French farmers were giving away artichokes at the port for some reason. And so it was that each member of the family in turn happened to wander past the farmers and collect a carrier bag full of artichokes. The back seat of the car was full enough as it was, but 4 bags of artichokes made it even worse! I think my parents threw an artichoke party when they got back – I have no idea how else you’d get through so many of the things.

1 Comment

  • Martin Wheatley

    I may have been at the same site as you at the same time! We as a family had our first foreign holiday in early August 1980 (after previously going to north Wales) staying with Eurocamp in Camping de la Point St Gilles in Benodet. Those two weeks are still one of my happiest childhood memories, as a 9 year old it was all impossibly exotic and I loved everything. I also remember both the farmers blockading the autoroutes (a 7 hour wait in the August heat at one point) and going home we were forced to drive all the way up to Zeebrugge because of the Fishermen blockading the harbour at Cherbourg. If we were two British kids at the same site at the same time we probably did meet up at some point, so hello again (maybe!). And don’t you love the French cars in those photos, they all had such character. Happy days.

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