“It probably did in here,” I tell him, as we stand and listen to what sounds like the muffled explosions above, accompanied by recreations of frantic telecommunications within the bunker. “This bunker was the Nazi command centre during the D-Day landings.”

There's lots to learn at the Caen Memorial Museum There’s lots to learn at the Caen Memorial Museum (Image: Paul Wojnicki)

He looks around, awestruck. I can tell from his face that being in this bunker, especially straight after touring the rest of the museum, really brings home how the Normandy Landings might have felt at the time. The landing beaches themselves are just too much like beaches, for a 12-year-old in the 21st century to associate with the horror of war.

As important as it is to remember the Normandy landings – we were there a week before the 80th anniversary – I’m glad that we made this visit during the middle of our family holiday rather than at the end. The contrast between the Mémorial de Caen and our Eurocamp holiday park – Domaine des Ormes – could not be starker and I’m hoping it will help the children realise how fortunate they are.

In the past few days, they’ve enjoyed the perfect campsite holiday, accompanied by family friends, that’s seen both sets of children have the time of their lives. On the campsite alone, they’ve enjoyed horse riding lessons, learned to wakeboard, ziplined across the camp and spent endless hours in the camp’s huge indoor waterpark.

Zipline fun at the holiday park Zipline fun at the holiday park (Image: Paul Wojnicki)

Off camp we’ve squeezed in a trip to the walled port city of St Malo, where they spent half a day exploring rockpools large enough to swim in, before discovering a huge man-made tidal pool complete with 1 metre, 3 metre and 5 metre high diving platforms. Luckily, we brought along wetsuits – this is Brittany and Normandy after all – and we managed to spend a couple of happy hours hurling ourselves from them. After that the kids frolicked on the pristine beaches, which they virtually had to themselves.

Diving boards at the sea baths at St MaloDiving boards at the sea baths at St Malo (Image: Paul Wojnicki)

Then there was the day trip to Mont Saint-Michel – the second most visited attraction in France – which was just a 30-minute drive from Domaine des Ormes. For me this is the highlight of any trip to northern France. The Mont is nothing short of breathtaking, with its magnificent Gothic abbey perched on a pile of medieval buildings on a rocky outcrop – that occasionally becomes an island.

As dramatic and atmospheric as the Mont is, the children were eventually begging us to leave. They enjoyed the trip of course but not quite as much as they enjoyed being in the waterpark back at Domaine des Ormes, or playing football, tennis, and basketball on one of the many sport courts that the camp has to offer.

The children enjoyed the perfect camping holiday The children enjoyed the perfect camping holiday (Image: Paul Wojnicki)

They’ve spent every evening exploring the huge grounds and woodland on the camp, complete with various bird species and red squirrels in the trees, goats wandering around the grounds and frogs, geese and ducks on the ponds. It’s such a huge site that it’s essentially a village, albeit one dedicated to family fun.

Brittany and Normandy also have some unique rail attractions, with several “velo-rail” possibilities in the regions that utilise disused rail tracks to explore by “rail bike”. These bikes are similar to those fun bikes found at Butlins or Haven camps, but in this case they run on railway tracks.

There are a number of these close to Domaine des Ormes and we chose to use La Gare vélo-rail de Médréac, around 40 minutes from our camp. We literally had the tracks to ourselves and enjoyed a short 7km route, which took us about an hour and also involved lifting the rail barriers to cross some quiet rural roads. The kids loved doing this and compared it to navigating locks on the local canal. The countryside was exceptionally peaceful, well apart from the squeals of delight of two Yorkshire families abroad, and it was remarkably easy to peddle, considering the weight of the railbike and passengers combined. At the end of the track, we even got to use a turntable to lift and turn the railbikes to the opposite direction. For the children this was definitely the highlight of our off-camp activities.

If we’d had a little longer in the area, we’d have probably made a day trip to Carnac, where thousands of neolithic standing stones are aligned in a row across miles of open fields, or taken a ferry to one of the islands in the Gulf of Morbihan, which enjoys a much warmer microclimate than most of Brittany. Both of these are only a couple of hours from Domaine des Ormes, as well as other islands and neolithic sites. But since we’re only here for four nights, and it’s the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, we felt it more appropriate to visit the Mémorial de Caen.

We exit General Richter’s bunker and climb a small hill toward the exit. Poignantly, there are poppies growing all along the side of the path. “Are we going back to the camp?” the kids ask. “Not yet.”

They collectively groan, until I tell them we’re heading to the beach. I just don’t mention that it’s one of the D-Day beaches…yet.

* Paul and his family stayed at Domaine des Ormes with Eurocamp in a premium three-bedroom mobile home. The unit contained a modern kitchen and bathroom, two twin bedrooms and a double bedroom. a large patio for dining outside and a BBQ. Four nights during May half-term cost about £380 at the time of booking. Domaine des Ormes is a popular site and often fully booked but Eurocamp have other sites in the region.

Brittany Ferries run from Portsmouth to St Malo in Brittany, around 30 minutes from Domaine des Ormes, and to Caen in Normandy, close to the Mémorial de Caen and Normandy beaches. Caen is around 90 minutes from Domaine des Ormes.

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