One of the major preoccupations of holidaymakers seems to be the suitability of the holiday venue for their children and it's true to say that, for self-catering holidays particularly, if the rental is well adapted to welcoming babies and children the adults will have a more relaxing holiday. You will find that many holiday property owners now take care to provide good facilities, but make sure that you check in the holiday property description or enquire about this subject to avoid being caught out without a cot... If you have a particular worry or phobia (streams, or ponds, or steep stairs for example) then it makes sense to ask the question before you book.
Packing the car with everything that you need for a baby can leave little space for anything else, so holiday cottages and gites with a good range of baby equipment provided are a real bonus. If you are looking at fly-drive it's essential. These days, a cot and a high chair are usually provided but you can also find holiday homes offering changing mat, bottle warmer, push-chair, baby bath, etc. For toddlers you may find a booster seat for the dining chairs, a toilet seat reducer, kiddies DVD's, etc.
On the Vendee-Gites holiday rental web site each Vendee rental property description has a useful list of the equipment supplied for babies and toddlers.
Sadly, questions of insurance and liability for holiday rentals now limit the extent of the facilities that can be provided for children's amusement. This has meant that, for example, swings and slides have become rarer and that bikes provided on site are disappearing. However there are some traditional things which are still often provided at many holiday cottages and gites, such as table tennis, badminton, table football, play-house, board games, etc. Larger gite complexes may offer a better range of facilities and activities as they can usually afford the more expensive or approved equipment and any insurance necessary.
Everyday life has its inherent risks and it's not possible to eliminate all potential dangers from a holiday rental property. However there is no real reason to assume that a well maintained holiday cottage will necessarily present significantly more risks than your own home. There are a few factors that may allow you that additional peace of mind with regard to the children, depending on their age and the things they usually get up to...
With toddlers, choosing a holiday cottage with a fenced outside space will allow you to relax more easily. In general the French like to enclose their properties with fences, walls and gates so you should be able to find a holiday let where you feel that the children are safe. Some properties that have larger open grounds may have a fenced terrace area or patch of garden adjacent to the house offering a safe playing area so check the photos or ask the question.
Idealy look for holiday cottages that are all on the ground floor. If not, check the configuration of the stairs in the photos and ask if one or more stair gates is provided.
Any modern electrical installation in France will have child-proof shutters on all the electrical sockets. These make it impossible to force an object into the socket, making protective covers unnecessary. Don’t worry about the exposed metal pin that sticks out in the socket – this is just the earth connection and is perfectly safe to touch. Telephone sockets : The older T-shaped sockets or don’t have physical protection but the phone line is at 50 volts and current limited, so is of no significant danger. The more modern small square network socket (RJ45) has a protection shutter. You can get a slight tingle off a satellite aerial socket or off a decoder, but this is the same as in your own home and is merely due to the fact that the dish is high up and that the decoder won't be earthed.
It's worth checking this as soon as you arrive at your holiday cottage, but many property owners are aware of this hazard and put the storage in a high cupboard.
Unfenced drops are unlikely in a modest holiday residence with a typical garden, but rambling farmhouses with extensive grounds might have this sort of problem somewhere, so with young children ask the question when you book.
As a good many rural holiday cottages and farmhouses have converted grain attics upstairs, it's common to find windows that are very near floor level. Some may have a simple bar accross the opening at about a metre from the floor. You can check the property photos for this aspect and if you have young children it’s worth asking whether these windows have a child-proof handle or lock.
TIP: If you find this problem on arrival, then closing the shutters can offer a suitable safety measure as the closing mechanism is often too hard to open for a young child.
For choosing holiday properties with swimming pools see these guidelines.
It goes without saying that a holiday property owner ought to ensure that any well is securely covered with a locked grill or non-moveable slab and thankfully this is usually the case. If you see "riverside location" or "fishing lake in the grounds" in the description it makes sense to ask the appropriate questions if you have young children. Taking a look at the Google satellite image is useful to put your mind at rest as to the nearness of any water.
These days you will find few eiderdowns and feather pillows in holiday accommodation, most now being polyester fibre filling. Recently purchased items are often treated against acarians and are low-allergy. If this aspect is vital to you then ask the question before booking to make sure. For pet hair allergies choose from holiday properties that don't accept pets at all - most property owners state clearly whether this is the case or not.
France is a relatively safe country in this respect and there is not much to worry about in the Vendee area and the west coast in general.
The chances of you seeing a snake, even in rural areas, are very slim (I've only seen three in over twenty years of living in the Vendee), but it makes sense to not take unnecessary risks in long grass off the beaten track... Adders and Asp Vipers are usually more scared than you are and will be off in a flash. In general the venomous snakes have eyes with a vertical slit pupil - don't rely on them having zig-zag markings, it's not always the case. You are more likely to cross the path of a grass snake (but it’s still very rare) and whilst these can be an impressive size they are totally harmless (there are many types all with different appearances, but all have round pupils).
As with anywhere in Europe, there can be ticks around in long grass, along forest trails, or in undergrowth, particularly during May and June. It's better to wear long trousers, socks and shoes when walking in areas that may be at risk. After a tick bite it is wise to have a test for Lyme disease a few weeks after. These tests are not reliable, so you should also watch out for the typical symptoms (even if you have not noticed a bite...) - slight fever, aching joints, impaired mobility, severe tiredness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, facial numbness, etc..
There are of course the usual bees and wasps, but of the flying insects, the big hornets and the large horse-flies are the only ones that can give a really nasty sting. A trip to the local pharmacy will usually suffice to get an appropriate treatment for these insect stings, but those with particular allergies to stings should always travel with an emergency kit wherever they go on holiday.
Other harmless things you may see in the Vendee area are small lizards, stick insects, praying mantis, toads, small bats, etc.. There is plenty of birdlife as well, including may large birds of prey and you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a barn owl at night.
Spacious villa on the coast. 4 en-suite bedrooms, and its own heated pool. Cycling distance to town amenities and beaches. At Bretignolles sur Mer - surfer's paradise!
Bretignolles sur Mer
Sleeps : 8
Bedrooms : 4
Pool : Private, heated. Roller-blind safety cover.
Indoor and outdoor games complex, central Vendee. For children of 3 to 12 years. Parent area and snack bar. €6 to €8.50 per child.
La Roche sur Yon
Open Monday to Saturday in the season, 10am to 7pm.
© VENDEE HOLIDAY EI, 13 RUE DE L'EGLISE, CHAPELLE THEMER, FRANCE. CO. REG. N° 795 060 243 00016. All rights reserved.