Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David

 

 

April 15th - What’s in a colo?

 

 

      Where are we going this summer?  What are we doing with the kids?  Is Charlotte going to stay with Josephine?  What about Sebastian?  Riding holiday, staying with friends, activity centre, trips to the seaside, the zoo, Aqualand, the river, granny...?

      No.  Not this year.  I’ve decided to simplify.  The kids are going to colos.  Holiday camps.  I don’t want to hear any protests, this is non-negotiable, cruel or not, I don’t care.  I’m packing them off.

      My only problem is choice.  There are far too many colos on offer and far too many of them sound fantastic.  I mean, what about the Indian camp with riding, canoeing, making totem poles, fishing, sleeping in tipis, and going on moonlit tracking adventures?  Wouldn’t any child be gagging to do that?

      Or what about ten days with a pony?  You get to groom it, polish its feet, tack it up, lead it about the place, ride it, cuddle it, whisper your secrets to it, and at night time once you’ve put it to bed, you all sit around watching horse videos.  Then you go to sleep in the hay loft, just like Heidi.  Blimey, I shouldn’t think the kids ever want to come home again, do they?

      Then there’s the travelling circus where children put on their own circus show.  Sounds addictive; they learn clowning, juggling, tightrope-walking, trapeze, dancing and God knows what else, and then set off round the villages on ponies performing the show every afternoon and camping out every night.

      Or how about the story-telling colo where a dozen kids pile into a horse-drawn gypsy caravan and wander about the French countryside telling stories and taking turns to hold the reins?  At night, they build campfires, cook sausages and tell tall stories before sleeping under the stars.

      All too romantic?  Well, there are more traditional things on offer.  How about housing the kids in wooden cabins on the lakeshore so that they can spend their days learning to swim, sail, dive... or a camp by the seaside where they play beach games and go to the dolphinarium?

      Older boys can learn how to build a plane, or ride a moto or a quad.  Others spend the whole summer dancing, making films, joining an orchestra, cuddling baby lambs on an Alpine farm, drinking fresh milk, trampolining, hill-walking, acquiring languages, or touring Eastern Europe, North Africa, or Spain.

      Uh, huh, I can hear you saying... and just what does this little luxury cost?  Well, as much as you like actually.  Some of these things cost over 1,000 euros for just a fortnight.  But the cheaper ones start at 400 euros for two weeks, and if you’re broke you can get vouchers from the CAF.  What?  Oh yes.  Welcome to France and the concept of the subsidised holiday. 

      My neighbour has CAF vouchers worth 50% off the price of a fortnight in a colo for each of her children, regardless of where they go.  And what’s more, my neighbour says that if you can give a good reason, like having to work, or having to do a course or something, you can ask the Conseil General to pay the other half.  That’s what my neighbour says, anyway, and she’s pretty much up on these things, having at least four kids last time she counted them.

      And that’s not all - she’s got activity vouchers worth 45 euros to spend on swimming pools, cinemas, riding lessons, etc, more vouchers for activity centres and as if that’s not enough... she’s got a family voucher as well.  Blimey.  This one entitles her to 35% off the cost of a week’s holiday for all the family: they’re going to a holiday village near Spain where the kids can join a free activity club, and all the meals are included in the price.  No washing up, she says happily.  Indeed.  I think I’ll have to give the CAF a ring.  After all, they can only say no, and if I wasn’t broke before I booked all these colos, I damn well am now...

      The thing is, entertaining kids at home isn’t easy.  I mean, they seem to spend their entire lives on holiday if you ask me, and worse, when they are at school what do they do?  Outings to Agde, trips on a submarine, mornings at the cinema, excursions to the seaside... which is a problem, actually.  Because when school is such fun how on earth do you do amuse them at home?  I mean, we used to think that making flapjacks was near enough heaven.  This lot just roll their eyes patiently.  They've been making samosas in geography. 

      Which is why I’m shipping them off to colo heaven.

      Whew, that’ll be nice.  A bit of peace and quiet.  And what are Dolly and me going to do once we've got the house to ourselves?  A little light wallpapering?  Re-decorate the loo?  Pull up all the carpets and check the floors for subsidence?  Work overtime to pay for the colos?

      You've got to be joking.  We're off to a nice little health spa to get our backs sorted out, a little gentle thalassotherapie, some gas (natural hot water with vapours) and lots of kinky.  Whoops.  Kine.  Dearo dearo, what a slip.  Good grief. 

      Well, wherever you’re going this summer, it looks like I’m going native...

 

Next column will be uploaded 2nd May.  (If you’re looking for colos, try www.lescolos.com)

 

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