“We’ve been here six times,” said the woman behind me in the queue at the bakery, “and now we’re afraid to go anywhere different in case it’s not as good.” This was in Cambrils in Spain, and she wasn’t the only one who said it. One family reportedly rented the same house in Cambrils every year, so they could stow their hurls and helmets in the eaves of the roof instead of lugging them over on the plane each time. That’s dedication to a much-loved holiday spot.
After our trip to Cambrils, I wrote about it (here), and got dozens and dozens of messages from people saying much as they love Cambrils, they’d like to try somewhere new but can’t break away. I can see the attraction – not just with Cambrils, but with any holiday destination that’s good. Holidays are meant to be easy and restful – how better to achieve that than to go back to somewhere that was easy and restful last year and the year before? (And has your hurls and helmets in the eaves.)
However, until this year, we’ve never gone to the same campsite twice. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid, we tried somewhere new each year – caravan parks in Kerry and West Cork, and once one in Killiney in Dublin, just down the road from where I live now (in our defence, we didn’t live in Dublin the year we went on holidays to Dublin). In later years, we went to campsites in England and Wales, and eventually the deliciously foreign soil of France.
I guess many of us tend to recreate childhood holidays, and now as a grown-up with a husband and my own kids, I’ve opted for trying new places each year – even if it means mild panic in the last day or two before we go, wondering if it will be alright or if that awful review on Trip Advisor is true.
Until now, that is. Last year, we had six gorgeous days in Union Lido. Afterwards, we tried booking Marina di Venezia, Bella Italia and Union Lido for specific dates in July, and Union Lido was the one we got.
In the run up to it, I could see the huge attraction in returning to the same destination – we knew what to bring and what to expect. There was all of the excitement and none of the trepidation – none of the “what if it’s awful” worries that go along with trying somewhere new. And when we arrived, there was a funny kind of excited nostalgia for the sights from last year – the check-in office, the golf cart to take us to the Eurocamp area, the flowers, the sunshine, the dusty tree-lined path to our seaside-blue mobile home.
For me, the greatest appeal was that we wouldn’t lose two days to getting our bearings. I am certain not every family is like us in this respect, but I find we usually spend the first 24 to 48 hours being, well, a bit cranky. We don’t know where anything is, it’s all a bit confusing, we brought the wrong something-or-other and the shop doesn’t have that thing we desperately need. The great thing about returning to Union Lido, was that we could avoid all of this.
Except we didn’t. Somehow, we were still a bit unsettled, even though we knew exactly where everything was. There were a few reasons for this, I think. The mosquitoes were rampant, we were all bitten more than usual. The weather was very hit and miss – blue skies and 30 degree sunshine gave way to a thunder and lightening storm on our first day, and the same on day two. But it was more than that again. Somehow, I think we expected the holiday to just unfold itself like a well-designed, well-oiled deckchair, but it didn’t. It needed help.
On day three, my husband and I had an early morning confab. We made a plan. We checked the app (Union Lido has its own app, as you do) to see if there was anything our kids’-club-resistant kids might actually try. We booked a table in the restaurant we never went to last year. We started planning a trip to Venice and talked about trying other towns. Because while Union Lido has pretty much everything you could want from a campsite, for us, holidays don’t just happen without a little help.
Later that morning, I bumped into a friend, someone who’d been there before too. We chatted and found we were both having the same experience – we hadn’t avoided that getting-our-bearings bit just because we already knew how to get to the beach and what time the shop closes. Reassured that we weren’t the only ones, we got down the business of enjoying the holiday, thunderstorms and mosquitoes notwithstanding.
We did lots of what we did last year – we spent plenty of time at the Laguna Aqua Park, which has eight or nine waterpark style slides as well as sandy lagoon-style pools, Jacuzzi pools and a small lazy river.
We went to the Marino Aqua Park – no slides, but a proper pool for swimming, and a much bigger lazy river. I went to the beach every morning before the others woke up – Union Lido has its own beach, a seven- or eight-minute walk from the Eurocamp mobile homes. Sometimes I brought one of the kids to the beach in the afternoon or at night, and every time, it took my breath away.
I had coffee in Blu Bar while watching my youngest run around the brilliant activity park – a giant playground in a green area just back from the beach.
We had dinner in our favourite place – Dog Bar in Dog Camp (the friendliest staff in Union Lido) and gave Cantinetta Lispida another chance (and still found the food only okay).
But we tried lots of new things this year too.
We had dinner in Ristorante Al Mare, a restaurant we didn’t try last year because it looked a bit fancy on the outside. It’s not fancy, and the food is good – we went back a second time and decided it ties with Dog Bar for best meals out.
The kids tried horse-riding in the sports centre across the road (outside the campsite, and you have to pay for it).
The youngest tried Circus School and Kids’ Club, keeping him busy for four afternoons in a row. We discovered a brunch place and a souvenir shop we hadn’t spotted last year and I discovered that Dog Bar do an excellent sparkling Rosé by the glass.
The kids tried night swimming, Funny World, the inflatable park, and for valuable life lessons, the arcade (“kids, the house always wins” “no honestly, Mum, if you just give me fifty cents I know I can win big this time”).
We also looked into renting a car, but decided to simplify things with a bus trip to Jesolo instead. We took the number 5 bus from outside the campsite (it takes about about twenty minutes) and got off at Piazza Internazionale. From there, it was a few minutes walk down to the beach for a walk and a Fanta, then back up to the main strip which is full of tourist shops and restaurants. One thing to note – most of the shops don’t open until 5pm (after siesta) so Jesolo is more of an evening town. We had one of the loveliest meals of the holiday in Al Bucintoro da Gino there, and the highlight for the kids was the serve-yourself ice-cream in Mu (the grown-ups were slightly less excited by the pay-by-weight system.)
We went to Venice again, this time going a little later in the day, coming back around eight o’clock at night.
The goal is to see the sunset from there some time but little legs weren’t going to last that long this year. We’ll be back.
And that’s the thing, I know we’ll be back. Not next year, because we want to try something new, and not the year after, because that’s too soon. The kids had mixed feelings at the news that we won’t return next year – “but we’re Union Lido people now” said one of them, looking sad. And that’s it – though I’d like to try new places for the next two or three years, I can picture us returning to the same spot again. I imagine there are other elements to the campsite we didn’t see this year, and there will be new additions, and of course, there will always be the breathtaking beach. So we’ll try something new, but we’ll definitely be back. We’re Union Lido people now.