My Canvas Holiday memories – Sarah Stokes
We are delighted to be welcoming Sarah to our 50th anniversary ball – her Canvas story stretches over the years and it’s so lovely to hear that her young family have just enjoyed their first Canvas adventure together.
“My love affair with Canvas begins in July 1981 as we head down through France by car, three sisters squashed in the back surrounded by sleeping bags and plastic bags full of cuddly toys and clothes, Mum and Dad in the front negotiating their way along the unfamiliar side of the road:
‘Muuuuum, can you rewind the Joseph tape so we can hear ‘Any Dream Will Do’ again?’
‘When’s lunch? Do we have to eat that funny cheese?’
‘Are we nearly there yet?’
We arrive at our first ever campsite, Val de Cantobre in Cevennes (still going strong) and see our orange and blue tent for the first time. Rushing in excitedly we decide quickly who is going to sleep where (me back left, my elder sister back right and my little sister stuck in the middle with the curtains down – all on tartan camp beds in our own ‘rooms’!)
Car unpacked we take in our surroundings and make ourselves cosy by the light of our gas lamp. The following morning we look out across the mountains from the terrace as we eat baguettes and croissants from the tiny campsite shop (having been ‘encouraged’ to ask for them ourselves) and drink chocolate milk (no fresh milk back then, refusal from all three girls to drink UHT!). It’s all so unfamiliar but so exciting.
We spend the next three weeks having a glorious time swimming in the pool, jumping on the trampoline, playing with new friends and having fun whilst Mum and Dad relax knowing that we are safe. We spend some time at the campsite at Nimes where we get grubby building dams and staying up late playing whilst the adults chat and enjoy a glass of wine or two, always coming back to the comfort of our orange and blue tent.
For the rest of my childhood and teenage years throughout the 1980s and early 1990s we squeeze ourselves into the car and make the long journey south from Edinburgh to many different campsites forming memories that will stay with me forever: swimming in the freezing Ardeche and following the current downstream, staying up late and dancing to French pop tunes at campsite discos, mixing with British, Dutch and French children playing in pools and playgrounds, communicating through signing and just having fun.
In the teenage years, meeting many new friends, having crushes on older boys from Holland, eating pizzas, hanging out by the pool or on the pier, late nights at the campsite disco, writing letters to friends once back home and always returning back to the familiar orange and blue tent.
Flash forward a few years. University finished, I wonder what to do with my first postgraduate summer. I see an advert for Canvas couriers. Why not? My sister had been a courier in the Vendee a couple of years previously and we had visited her and had a great time. I apply to be a children’s courier, get the job (think I might have waxed lyrical about my childhood at the interview!) and am extremely lucky to be sent to work in St Aygulf on the Cote d’Azur for the summer.
1996 – best summer of my life!
Having trained at Berny Riviere, I am let loose with my orange shirt and navy shorts – always worn with pride – and after a few weeks of montage arrive at la Residence du Campeur.
The Hoopi tent is at the back of the campsite and every morning and afternoon I welcome children from ages 4 – 11 to take part in various activities from kite making, to mini Olympics, to parachute games and of course the ‘famous’ once-a-week pyjama party. In the high season we persuade the site DJ to turn up an hour early and have a weekly disco for the kids always culminating in a big conga round the bar!
I make some fantastic friends that summer and will always remember it as the endless blue sky summer full of fun, nights out, karaoke, going to the beach, wonderful times with customers, adults and children, swimming in the pool, and generally feeling part of a great team.
It’s been a while since I have experienced a Canvas Holiday. My life moves forwards, I work for a travel company so travel further afield for many years. My old orange and blue sweatshirt is a little relegated to the back of the wardrobe. Gone but not forgotten. I have New Zealand out of my system, I go to Thailand, I hike in Alaska and ski in Canada. But every time I see an advert for Canvas I think ‘Maybe it’s time again soon….’
‘Mummy, can you play ‘Let it Go’ on the ‘Frozen’ CD again?’
‘Are we nearly there yet?’
We are back on the road again, and this time I am in the front passenger seat negotiating the same roads, heading south again. In the driving seat is my husband, Michael and in the back are my two daughters, one aged four and the other six months.
We are heading to le Soleil in the Languedoc Roussillon, another Canvas favourite. As we arrive on the campsite my spirits lift, and although for practical purposes we are staying in a mobile home this year, for me little else has changed and I am as excited as I was thirty three years ago!
We spend two weeks whizzing down the bumpy slides at the pool, coming out teeth chattering and always going back for more, eating frites with dollops of ketchup and freshly baked pains au choc, wandering along the windy beach looking at the beautiful Pyrenean backdrop, picking ripe, juicy cherries at the farm and tasting the local rose wine. We meet other families and enjoy teddy bears’ picnics and al fresco dining. We visit the local animal farm and go on our own mini nature hike to find minibeasts. My daughters are happy and relaxed and we will definitely be coming back on holiday with Canvas again next year. I have come full circle and I am sure that the love affair for a new generation has already started!”