SUN, SAND AND SEA AT SPIAGGIA E MARE
For most people, not all, just most, driving across Europe to reach a holiday destination would fill them with horror and dread, probably a quicker/safer option for ‘most’ would be the fly-drive…The Callaghan Posse are not ‘most people’, oh no! Flying with children in tow and trying to locate baggage inside the airport terminal isn’t my (Daddy) idea of fun, I would much rather pack the car outside the house, enter the destination into the sat-nav, turn on the air-con and crack on. To reach our destination at the Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park, Italy we had a lot of physical driving to do. I won’t bore you with the hours, the toilet breaks, the monotony and the ‘are we nearly there yet’, and that was Just Lynne, but our journey included a Swiss Sleepover at Camping Aaregg, Switzerland just to recharge the batteries after a long day in the car.
CAMPING BY CAR
The journey from Camping Aaregg, Switzerland to the Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park, Italy should have taken us around 7 hours, but the scenery over the Susten Pass was so spectacular we just had to stop and take photos, lots of photos. We also hit Milan at rush hour therefore we didn’t arrive at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park until 22.58, the cut-off time for booking in was 23:00, talk about cutting it fine! I have to say, this is a common occurrence for The Callaghan Posse, we are NEVER early, always just on time or slightly late, but NEVER early, ‘we must try harder in future’ is a regular expression in our house. Upon arrival, the first thing we notice is how quiet Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park is at 22:58; no music, no parties, no noise…that’s always a good sign. We provide the security person with our information and he hands us the keys to our Eurocamp Vista Mobile Home…let the holiday begin…tomorrow! It’s 23:20, we are exhausted and the girls are fast asleep. When we packed the car we placed the bedding in last, Lynne grabbed the sheets and made the beds. The girls were already in their pj’s so it was a quick transition from car to bed, and they slept the whole night.
ASTA LA VISTA BABY
I (Daddy) am not the kind of person who camps, I prefer luxury! Before the sprogs came along our holidays took us to the luxurious water villas of Komandoo, Maldives, or to mountain top log cabins in Canada…oh how I long for those holidays again! Our accommodation at Spiaggia e Mare is clean, homely, modern and reasonably spacious for a basic mobile home, everything that a family of four could possibly need. There are two bedrooms, an equipped kitchenette, toilet, shower room, seating area with a folding dining table and most importantly, air conditioning. The mobile home is shaded by exotic looking trees and has a large decked terrace for Al-fresco living, there’s also a BBQ and seating. Cook ourselves? On holiday? Doubt that the BBQ will get any use from The Callaghan Posse and the decking was used to store the pool inflatables, sandy flip-flops and to dry towels.
SPIAGGIA BY SITE
Spiaggia e Mare has excellent facilities for camping, caravans and motorhomes, although we stayed in a mobile home and had no use for facilities, we did take a peek and the communal toilets and shower blocks are well maintained and exceptionally clean. From the Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park main reception there is a paved pedestrian walkway lined with trees that leads to the accommodation areas and to the main hub of Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park. In the main area there is a fantastic waterpark with slides, pirate ships, splash parks and large pool with plenty of loungers for sunbathing. Just beside the pool area is the restaurant and bar, with a small games room attached, there is also a play area to keep the children entertained as they wait for their food to be served. Directly opposite the restaurant is the main stage for the nightly entertainment, and to the rear of the main stage is Mini Club, a great place for the children to expend energy and make new friends. Although there are several entrances to the beach, the main entrance to the private beach is just a hop, skip and jump away from this area. There is a very well stocked shop at the far end of the camp, quite a bit of a trek from our accommodation but still easily accessible from anywhere on camp. It’s day 1 and the weather is perfect, a temperature of 36oC and we still have 13 days left to enjoy it all…fandabbydozy!
WHY ARE PIRATES CALLED PIRATES…THEY JUST ARGGGGHHH
We arrived late on the Friday night so Saturday was our first day exploring Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park. One of the main reasons Lily-Belle chose this particular park was for the fantastic waterpark and pool complex, and in all honesty, it is amazing, this area was our first port of call. The waterpark has a large Pirate Ship with jets that squirt those who dare to board. The Crow’s Nest has been replaced by a rather large tipping bucket that water trickles into, once filled, whoooooosh, the bucket tips and pours gallons of water over the unsuspecting ‘kiddie pirates’ playing in the lagoons below. There are two huge supervised slides, slide one is Hydrotube, this is the most popular and has a couple of twists and turns, and slide two is Kamikaze, this beast has a sheer drop to launch you at speed into the pool below, both proved a firm favourite with children (and adults), although a word of warning for the men who tackle the Kamikaze…hold your nads otherwise they end up in your throat! Painful! The splash park is designed for smaller children, with mini slides, water canons, spraying fountains and tipping buckets, but beware, there is a crocodile lurking near the slide ready to gobble up bite-sized babies…do not leave them unattended! Matilda loved the splash park and it soon became her favourite go-to place during the holiday.
POLO, BUT NOT THE MINTY ONE
If splash parks and slides aren’t your thing, just a 1 minute walk across the bridge is a huge pool with plenty of sun lounging space for a little R and R. We frequented both areas depending on what activities the girls wanted to do. Matilda (age 2) soon began jumping in completely unaided, but the last day of our holiday at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park she surprised us all by diving in unaided…totally fearless, or nuts, not quite sure which! The main pool is host to the daily Aqua Aerobics sessions with the lovely Lucy, a member of the Tibush Animazione 68 team, this water activity proved extremely popular with Mummy, Lily-Belle and Matilda. The Mini Club host different pool competitions everyday at 12, activities such as water polo, diving-retrieval, best pool entry and disco dance to name a few. Matilda was always quick out of the blocks for the competitions, not because she wanted to participate, but for the lollies that are handed out at the end…Mini Club hand out a lot of lollies! A big plus that we found for children was that they were allowed to take inflatables into the pool, Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park is one of the few Eurocamp sites that allow this. The children (and adults) had endless fun playing with inflatable Orca’s, Crocodiles, Lilos and Unicorns to name but a few. A small downside to the Water park and Pool area is the lack of shade and there are no sun umbrellas poolside, much needed to keep our pasty white skin from cooking!
SPECS IN THE SAND
For Lynne and I, a selling point for Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park was the private beach. The golden sand is exceptionally clean and the water warm and shallow. Beyond the breakers the water is deeper and much cooler. There are pedalos available for hire at a cost of €10ph and canoes are free, but we never used either, far too hot and far too energetic. There is a lifeguard on the beach from 09:00-13:00 and from 14:00-18:00. Mini Club also use the beach for volleyball and football competitions which is great for teenagers. If you are staying at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park’s own accommodation, you get two sunloungers and one sun umbrella next to the beach bar, this is included in your price. We didn’t book direct, so the cost to hire the lounger and umbrella was €14 per day, we just used our beach towels rather than waste the cash. Beside the Beach Bar is a small climbing frame to keep children occupied. The Beach Bar serve really tasty burgers and is also great for fresh croissants at breakfast time, something we availed of most mornings. For us, the beach was great for evening walks when the temperature was much cooler, Lynne took advantage of the early morning sun to get a tan, but I, being ginger and fair skinned, waited until late afternoon before venturing along the beach. Comacchio town is just a short walk along the beach should the mood take you.
DADDY IS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER
One particular beach day my darling wife requested I take Lily-Belle and her Orca into the water, I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea as the last time I went into the sea (at Rossknowlagh, Ireland) I stood on a Weever Fish and ended up in hospital, the pain was excruciating! Anyhow, into the warm sea we go and after about 20 minutes of fun and larking about, little miss falls off the lilo and kicks my very expensive sunglasses off my head and into the sea…a lot of fumbling around in the murky water, but gone…I swear I almost cried that day! We trundle back to the shore, I wasn’t the happiest of campers. I spent the rest of the day on the internet and phoning shops (in the UK) to try and locate the exact same pair, which I eventually did, and local to where I live which was a bonus. Sunglasses put to one side for collection when I get back home, Daddy is a happy camper again and I make my way to the Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park site shop to purchase a temporary €10 pair. Note to self: never listen to the wife ever again!
TO KIDS CLUB OR NOT TO KIDS CLUB
There is a fantastic Mini Club at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park which is ran by Tibush Animazione 68. We had never been a big fan of Kids Clubs before this holiday, except for when we stayed at Marina di Venezia Camping Village, but on the Saturday night we attended the ‘Information Show’ on the main stage that tells guests about the activities that take place each day, afterwards there was a mini-disco that Lily-Belle and Matilda absolutely loved. During our holiday we got really friendly with Andrea the DJ and also with Réka, Mádálina, Bence, Lucy and Skandar from the Animation Team, they were an absolute hoot, although Matilda didn’t really take too kindly to Skandar…poor boy! Surely she would come round to him by the end of the holiday? The Animators put our minds at ease to know that our children would be safe and in capable hands should they attend Mini Club the next day. The second week of our holiday we had new animators arrive including Alice from the original team, she had been off work on crutches with a damaged ankle, and Rosalie, Lichelle and Sergio.
HEY HO, IT’S OFF TO KIDS CLUB THEY GO
Lily-Belle woke early and advised us that she was going to Mini Club, and of course, Matilda wasn’t taking no for an answer and tagged along. There are lots of activities in Mini Club which is open daily (except Saturday) from 09:30-11:30 and 15:30-17:30, the activities varied with face painting, mini olympics, building sandcastles, pool trips, treasure hunts, chasing the monster (a member of the animation team, on this occasion it was Bence, cycled around the site with a mask and cape and the children had to locate him) and much more. Our girls attended Mini Club everyday and they loved every minute of it. The amazingly talented and friendly animators really helped bring Lily-Belle and Matilda out of their shells. Both girls grew in confidence on this holiday, and I honestly believe this was down to the Animators and how they interact with the children. The weekly highlight of Mini Club is when the Animation Team gather the children and take them to the Pirate Ship, where they all stand under the tipping bucket and wait for it to soak them, loads of fun.
BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES
There is just one restaurant on at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park, Asporto, which has both indoor and outdoor seating. We had the very unfortunate event of being asked to go indoors on a night there was a ferocious storm; thunder, lightening, rain, wind…the lot. Tables and chairs were blown across the play park, the lights went out and utter chaos ensued. The Callaghan Posse didn’t bat an eyelid, rather than go indoors I opted to take photos, we live in Northern Ireland and wind and rain are an everyday occurrence. It wasn’t all bad though as we met the Jaksic family amid the chaos, a lovely family from Dublin, Ireland which is just a few hours drive from where we live, we spent quite a lot of our holiday with them and had great craic (Irish for fun).
FEED ME NOW SEYMOUR
The Asporto restaurant menu is extensive with fresh fish being the obvious choice. Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park is located right next to Porto Garibaldi so the fish is as fresh as can be. Lynne is far less adventurous than the children and I, we are happy to try all of the local delicacies, whereas Lynne is quite set in her ways when it comes to food, as Tommaso, our (friend) waiter, found out each day, spag bol eat and repeat…boring! Matilda doesn’t really do sitting around a table during meal times, even at home she is up and down like a yo-yo; so she would take herself off to the play park then come back to the table every so often for a fork full of food, which by the way, was delicious every time. I tried something different most evenings, although the ribs were ordered on more than one occasion, and not once did I/we eat a meal that I/we didn’t enjoy or wouldn’t recommend. Like clockwork, every night at 8pm, and just as we were finishing our evening meal, the Animation Team would form a conga line that would weave its way through the play park gathering children as they went, the line would eventually make its way back to the main stage for the evenings entertainment.
A TRIP TO LITTLE VENICE
Just a short walk along Spiaggia e Mare’s Holiday Park private beach, or a few minutes drive, lies the elegant town of Comacchio, also known as Little Venice. As previous visitors to Italy, Lynne and I had done the whole Venice thing before, this year we decided to give it a miss as the temperature was stifling, and with a two year old and eight year old in tow, thought it wouldn’t be a wise move. Comacchio doesn’t disappoint as a small town. A beautiful island town with lovely old buildings and galleries, a good selection of restaurants and the most amazing Gelateria Parlours; I seriously never knew ice cream could come in so many colours and flavours. During our visit we happened to bump into the Jaksic Family; Daymian, Karen and their children, Killian, Chloe and Laura. It’s lunch time so we grab dinner as a group. We stopped at the Le Gresine Pizzeria, the menu is typically Italian with pastas, pizzas, seafood and specials on offer. We use the afternoon to get to know each other a little better and the kids keep themselves amused with fidget spinners. As we sat eating food next to water inlets, we saw tiny little fish dart about, the five children enjoyed lobbing chunks of bread in to feed them. Outside one restaurant we saw a Swan with cygnets, as we drew closer taking photos, it became very clear that they were all plastic…doh! After food we head to the Geletaria for ice cream, the day is hot, and I mean really hot, +35oC and ice cream is very welcome. We all head our separate ways and do a little exploring.
DEFINITELY NOT PAINTING BY NUMBERS
I am not a professional photographer, far from it, I am more of a point and click in auto mode snapper, but I felt really drawn to the amazing architecture and the structure of the many bridges in Comacchio and happily snap away. We came across a large arched doorway with cast iron gates and behind the gates was a Gallery, works of art by renowned local painter Alex Fumagalli. The paintings are so vibrant in colour with floral designs appearing to be his forte. Sadly, we had no room in the car, I comment to the artist how beautiful his works of art are (using Google Translate), and we leave…empty handed. Such a shame, I would have loved to have purchased at least two of his paintings for the house.
COME ON AND DO THE CONGA
Mini Disco, for me, was the best part of our holiday at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park. Each night at 20:00 the Tibush Animazione team would jump on stage and perform energetic dance steps as the children all bopped along. Watching our two very shy girls stand at the front of the stage and try to copy all of the moves just made my holiday. The evenings entertainment began with a Mini Disco for the younger children, followed by a show put on by the Animation Team, and then the night ends with a Disco for the teens and adults. Every night was a great night and we were never ones to leave the party early. The shows ranged from Mr and Mrs, where they get couples up from the audience, to movie quizzes and cabaret. Such a laugh watching the Animation Team dress up and pretend to be different popstars, including Tibush himself as Bob Marley with a very large over-sized joint in his hand. Have to mention Bence who was amazing as Michael Jackson, and even pulled off the infamous moonwalk to perfection.
DON’T GET INVOLVED
Lynne had warned me that under no circumstances were we to volunteer for any of the couple activities, unfortunately for us, we had become quite friendly with the animators so they made a bee-line for us on Mr and Mrs night, thankfully it wasn’t anything too energetic, just a limbo and sexy dance for Lynne…which she won. She hasn’t repeated the sexy dance since getting home, but I am working on it! On another night Lily-Belle and Matilda formed part of a team with our Irish counterparts, Chloe, Killian and Laura, they played games and quizzes to gain points, their team came 2nd and they won medals and lollipops, they were far more interested in the latter! At the end of most evenings Lynne and I would make a hasty retreat to the bar for a cocktail or a Grappa Latte (coffee with a shot of Grappa) mixed by either Giulia or Alberto, miracle makers with a mixer, the perfect nightcap.
WHAT A THRILLER
The Tibush Animazione Team do an amazing job, they are full of enthusiasm and have endless amounts of energy, one can only imagine how difficult it must be doing their job in such extreme temperatures, +35oC every day. Once a week the team gather children and put on a themed show. Lily-Belle had become really friendly with a lovely young lady from Scotland, Riley, they really hit it off and both were selected to be a part of a spooky show. The show was very well choreographed and the children were amazing.
NOT THE USUAL GRAB GIFT
One particular evening, we were sat around a table near the bar when Lynne spots something move out of the corner of her eye. Beside the restaurant there are two ‘Claw Grabbing’ machines with an assortment of teddies in one, and footballs in the other. Upon closer inspection, there was a boy, aged about 9 or 10, inside the machine, clinging desperately to a football, he looked petrified but wasn’t willing to let the ball go so he could climb out of the hatch to freedom, no way! The restaurant owner was summoned and let him out, no harm done. Four adults (Lynne, Myself, Daymian and Karen) sat debating whether or not he should get to keep the ball, with Karen thinking he duly deserved it because ‘he nearly died’…oh Karen, too funny! It was only in hindsight did we think…should have videoed that, £250 on You’ve Been Framed and we didn’t get a picture either! Just to say, the owner did let him keep the ball…tut tut!
BOOGIE NIGHT ON THE BEACH
Every Wednesday night at Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park the Animation Team set up shop on the beach instead of on the main stage, unfortunately for us it rained the first Wednesday we were there so the night was cancelled, the second week the Wednesday evening was just perfect. We spent the entire evening with the Animation Team and the Jaksic family as this was their last evening, we would be sad to see them leave the following day. Lily-Belle and Killian had become good buddies and were content dancing, drinking (juice) and chatting the night away, it was quite cute to watch. Lily-Belle and Riley danced the night away at Mini disco. We had an amazing night and by far the best night of our entire holiday, Andrea was the DJ for the evening and he played a great mix of tunes. The night ended with a midnight free-for-all splashing session in the warm Adriatic Sea.
You may have noticed whilst reading our BLOG that we haven’t mentioned Mosquitos, you know, those pesky little blighters that suck the living daylights out of some people, and leave others alone. Well…this is intentional, we believe they need a whole section to themselves. We have travelled around Europe on a few occasions, and in complete honesty have never ever had an issue with mosquitoes…until now! In a word…HORRENDOUS! They were everywhere, and not just at night, they were biting at all times of the day, but night time was definitely worse. We chatted with locals who told us it was the worst they had ever seen. Everyone seemed to get bitten at some point but unfortunately for me, I seemed to be a local delicatessen for Mossies, they ate me alive. After a few days of being bitten by Tiger Mosquitoes, I began to show symptoms that indicated an allergic reaction, my legs began to swell, I had a high temperature and began shaking uncontrollably, severe nausea and headaches…I didn’t feel well at all. Lynne spoke with one of the staff at Spiaggia e Mare who advised me to go to the local hospital immediately, my right leg was so sore and I couldn’t weight bear at all. There is a non-emergency unit in Comacchio, and after a couple of hours of prodding, probing and blood tests, they sent me to the emergency unit in ?????. The Dr at Comacchio rang ahead and told them to expect me. The journey took around 30 minutes and upon arrival I was immediately admitted to a room, no waiting, straight in. The Dr began asking me questions and at the same time I was being stripped by the nurses, more bloods taken and put on a drip of cortisone for 2 hours, followed by 1 hour of antibiotics. Blood tests were sent away to a lab and returned to the hospital within 1 hour, the result…cellulitis. The Dr wanted to keep me in for 7 days!!!!! We were meant to be going home tomorrow!!!!! Almost on bended knee I pleaded with the Dr to prescribe medication and let me leave, after much toing and froing the Dr said he would release me on the grounds I extend my holiday for 7 days and report back to him daily. No problem, happy to stay. Anyway, I was given strong antibiotics, a whole months worth and released with a promise of returning the next day. My symptoms began to subside by mid-afternoon the next day and a visit back to the Dr confirmed this, he was happy and so was I. To confirm, I wore repellent purchased in Spiaggia e Mare and obviously it didn’t work for me. Would it put us/me going back….no way, we loved Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park and would happily return, but maybe I (Daddy) will wear a suit of armour.
SEVEN NATIONS OF FRIENDLINESS
On holiday we enjoy meeting people and this holiday was no exception; we met Animators from Hungary, Italy Russia and Germany, as well as meeting fellow holidaymakers from Scotland, Ireland and Poland. We love listening to the different accents and thoroughly enjoy the culture differences. Lily-Belle is already planning her ‘Around the world’ trip for when she turns 18…she may have to take me (Daddy) with her.
WOULD WE GO BACK
Definitely. Camping, whether in an actual tent or a mobile home, may not be for everyone, but we have come to realise that it’s a great way to holiday on a budget, especially with young children. Spiaggia e Mare Holiday Park has something for everyone and is located in a great place.
LILY-BELLE (age 8) SAYS
I really love Spiaggia, there’s lots to do and I really enjoyed making friends with Riley, Killian, Chloe and Laura, we had loads of fun in the pool and on stage when we were in the show. It was my Daddy’s birthday when we were away and the animators threw him in the water which was really funny. I liked seeing the little Gecko’s when we were walking up to the restaurant each night. I can’t wait to go back.
MATILDA (age 3) SAYS
Daddy I like the pool and playpark. Daddy, you annoying me!
Input from Daddy, M was too busy with the new puppy to do her bit for the blog, hence I was annoying her just by talking to her, but I will say she also loved the free lollies handed out by the animators.
tip: buy mosquito repellent from Avon, we have heard (since returning home) this works really well with Tiger Mossies.
tip tip: we took a scooter and balance bike for the girls, great to get about the park.
tip tip tip: don’t ask for mayonnaise or pineapple with your pizza…you have been warned!
Ireland to Holyhead: Irish Ferries £294.00 (return trip)
Eurotunnel Folkestone to Calais: 1 car £85.00
DFDS Ferry: Dunkirk to Dover £60.00
Nearest Airports: Rimini (102km) and Bologna (105km)
Spiaggia e Mare: booked through Eurocamp – £350 (special offer holiday)
Date of stay: 23rd June 2017 until 10th July (mid season)
Tel: +39 0533 327431
information, currency and prices are correct at time of post
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All views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Posse and are correct at time of publication. Photos taken by Andrew Callaghan for use and distribution by Around The world In 18 Years.