Self-catering at La Croix Du Vieux Pont

One of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. It’s a useful reminder for me about what I have eaten, what I have cooked, and as in this post challenges when cooking on holiday.

At the end of July we went on an Eurocamp holiday in France. Having visited Brittany last year and stayed at a Eurocamp site I had anticipated blogging about my  self-catering experience and what worked and what didn’t, but for some reason never got around to it. I wish I had as it would have made this trip a little easier. 

I did post my challenges with self-catering when we went to Calpe in 2016 and 2017.

This year we went with another Eurocamp to La Croix Du Vieux Pont in Picardy or Hauts-de-France in Northern France. So I have decided to quickly write up some of those experiences in preparing for self-catering.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday in 2016, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. We found the kitchens in caravans in the UK great for self-catering, if a little cramped. However I would usually take a range of ingredients and kitchen utensils to make my life easier when cooking. So I did something similar when we went to France this year.

At La Croix Du Vieux Pont, we had a three bedroom caravan which came with a well-equipped kitchen including a proper gas hob, an oven and an outside gas barbecue as well.

This was in many ways better than the equipment I have had at UK holiday parks, for example there was a washing up bowl and a draining rack! This made clearing up after a meal so much easier than just having the sink and draining board.

I took the following items with me to make cooking and catering easier.

Chopping board – for some reason the only chopping board I find in caravans are glass ones! So I always take a plastic chopping board with me.

Knives – I have found the knives on holiday either blunt or broken, so I have a large kitchen knife and a bread knife that I use on self-catering holidays.

I took a sieve with me, but in the end didn’t use it, as the caravan was equipped with a colander.

I took a spare baking tray, as usually there is only one in the caravans I have been in, in addition I took a pair of tongs which is useful for turning items on the grill. There was a long-handled barbecue tongs were provided which worked well for the outdoor barbecue.

Though I wanted to take my Tassimo coffee machine, I was overruled so we took a cafetière that worked well.

I took a potato peeler and I also took a pair of scissors, but there was one in the caravan.

The other things I take with me our sandwich bags, cling film and foil. This is easier to store uneaten food but also for packed lunches.

To help with washing up and cleaning, I took some steel scourers, washing up spongs, j cloths, washing up liquid and tea towels. In addition I take spare bin  liners as well.

I also took the following ingredients, though I know I could get some of these in French supermarkets, I wanted to avoid spending extra money on basics that I already had in the kitchen.

      • Pasta
      • Rice
      • Tomato pasta sauce
      • Pesto
      • Sunflower oil
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
      • Pepper
      • Parmesan
      • Various seasonings
      • Onions
      • Pepper
      • Butter

As two of our household are gluten free I also took a range of gluten free items as well.

I pack the fresh food in a cool box, which if we get a small fridge I use during the week as supplementary fresh food storage. The fridge though we got was pretty big and I didn’t use the cool box.

Overall I don’t think I missed anything, apart from some mustard and white wine vinegar to make a French dressing, so in the end we bought some dressing from the supermarket.

Coping with self-catering in Calpe

Calpe beach and Peñón de Ifach

Having spent another wonderful week in sunny Calpe on the Costa Blanca I was reminded that last year I hadn’t blogged about the challenges I faced. This is one of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. I think part of the reason I didn’t blog, was at the time we saw this as a one off place to visit and we didn’t intend to return, as we were going to go somewhere new. Last year when I went to Calpe though I did manage to cook some tasty food in the apartment kitchen, due to some “missing” items, I found it challenging. This year I faced similar challenges, however even though I don’t expect to return to Calpe, I am going to note down the issues, as I am sure it will still be useful for visits to other destinations.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday last year, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. The apartments at the Esmeralda Suites in Calpe from the brochure images (and Trip Adviser) actually looked okay and much better than what I was use to on previous self-catering holidays abroad.

Esmeralda Suites

This is a brochure image of the kitchen and no we did not get that rack of knives!

Esmeralda Suites Kitchen

So though I did cook and prepare a lot of meals in the kitchen there were some things I wish I had brought with me (and in some cases) weren’t possible to purchase locally.

The main challenge for me was kitchen knives. Now checking a few airline sites it is possible to carry kitchen knives in hold luggage (obviously not in carry on luggage in the cabin). There was a knife provided, but this was very blunt and the handle was cracked. In the end I had to go out to the local supermarket and purchase a replacement. I left the replacement for future guests. What I do wish I had was a proper bread knife. We did buy fresh bread, but it was challenging to cut, even with the new knife. If you like me enjoy fresh salads, having a decent kitchen knife to slice tomatoes or cucumber is essential.

There was a single chopping board, which meant continually washing it up as food was prepared. I have a fair few boards at home and on other (UK) holidays have often taken a chopping board with me.

The washing of the chopping board wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been a washing up bowl for the sink. Now I know this is a very British thing to do, but if you have a sink of washing up water, where do you put other liquids, such as when you drain pasta?

Talking of draining pasta, how do you do drain pasta or vegetables without a sieve or a colander? The kitchen came with a slotted spoon which I used instead.

Though we didn’t use any cans, without a can opener, it would have been a challenge. I was tempted to purchase some of the canned beans that you find in Spain, but they would have come home as there was no opener.

The other thing I found challenging was not having a pair of scissors, doing something as simple as opening a pack of pasta or coffee with just a blunt knife wasn’t fun!

One item that I usually have in the kitchen which was also missing was a pair of tongs, I did struggle now and then to move food from the pan to plates or to turn things in the oven.

The oven was also a challenge, as there was a drip tray and a rack, but no roasting or baking trays. I was resigned to “making” trays out of foil. I did find towards the end of the holiday disposable foil trays that would have been useful.

I did take some stuff with me such as non-stick foil, cling film, food bags, as well as some seasoning and other ingredients. These are available in Spain, but I didn’t want to spend money on things we had at home already.

So here is my list of things I would take with me if I ever return to Calpe.

Kitchen knife
Bread knife
Can opener
Sieve
Cafetière
Spare chopping board
Scissors
Tongs
Baking trays
Foil
Cling film
Food bags

What do you take on your self-catering holidays?