IT was while sipping a glass of wine overlooking a yacht-lined harbour and watching the world go by that I really wished I could win the Lottery.
With rows of multi-million pound yachts glistening in the sunshine, tourists posing for photographs next to them and bars and restaurants alive with locals enjoying the good life and visitors keen for a slice of luxury, it was hard not to fall in love with St Tropez.
And it was while we were sitting admiring the boats that we spotted former Sheffield United manager Gary Speed on the deck of what had to be the biggest and most expensive moored up that day.
With his designer shades completing the celebrity look he watched the world go by from the water while the rest of ‘St Trop’ looked on enviously as he and his pals lived the dream.
But thanks to Keycamp you don’t have to be on the rich list to live the millionaire lifestyle associated with the Côte d’Azur – the south coast of France.
With parcs across the region offering affordable self-catering accommodation for families, we were able to experience the life for a fraction of the price.
Choosing the seaside resort of Frèjus as our base, we stayed at Keycamp’s Domaine du Columbier parc, which was perfect for our children, aged seven and four, who would have quite happily spent their entire 10-day break splashing about in the pools, playing on the water slides and making friends at the brand new playgrounds.
There were children’s games organised around the pool and even out of season there was a mini disco one night.
But with such a beautiful stretch of France on our doorstep we used the parc as a convenient base to explore the region during the day but to return to at night for alfresco dining on our decking while the children played safely where we could keep an eye on them but give them their freedom at the same time – allowing them to mix with children from across Europe where language barriers were broken down through play… something money just can’t buy.
Our mobile home accommodation lived up to its name and did become the perfect ‘home from home’ offering us a kitchen, lounge and dining areas as well as two bedrooms and a separate toilet and bathroom.
It’s fully equipped and maybe some people spend hours cooking up culinary delights but we took advantage of the barbecue provided and ate outside most nights… there was also a takeaway and restaurant on the parc for when we were feeling very lazy!
The Roman town of Frèjus, complete with ancient ruins including an amphitheatre, was worth exploring during the day for its pastel-coloured buildings and café-lined streets and shops, but it also boasts spectacular beaches which we found the quietest most child-friendly along the entire coast, with youngsters able to paddle out into the sea for what seemed like miles.
It is a town of two halves, with the old quarter merging with a modern marina complex and promenade linking up to the neighbouring bustling resort of Saint Raphael – a popular cruise ship stopover point.
Saint Raphael also boasts a marina and beautiful sandy beaches but it really came alive at night when the pavements were crammed with artists, crafts, gift and jewellery stalls – perfect for holiday mementos.
Monaco was another of our day trips – and yet another opportunity to develop yacht envy – but it was worth the hour-long journey to soak up the atmosphere of the playground of the rich and famous. We also enjoyed driving around the streets following the Grand Prix circuit.
But the hidden gem we stumbled across was Port Grimaud, otherwise known as ‘little Venice’ because of its canals, lined not only with boats but also cafés, bars and restaurants. It was picture postcard perfect and just the place to relax.
Keycamp holidays have suited our family for the last six years – taking the stress out of going away with children.
For us holidays are all about spending precious time together as a family, away from the hustle and bustle of normal life.
Now that we have found a way of doing it without any hotel timetables to abide by but on parcs where there is plenty of life, like-minded families, and lots to keep the kids entertained, why would we risk the best two weeks of our year and do anything different?