Back in The Olden Times (as Flea charmingly referred to my youth this week) I did a lot of camping.
My Dad was a cub scout leader and we would regularly tramp off to a field to sleep in a tent, climb trees and splash about in rivers. We slept in scratchy sleeping bags on the floor, and woke with stiff limbs, crawling out into some muddy field or other for a campfire breakfast.
As kids it was a dream come true, but my Mum was never quite so keen – and with the benefit of age, I can see where she was coming from.
So I was a little bit nervous when I was invited to review a campsite in France with Canvas Holidays earlier this month.
I needn’t have been.
Canvas Holidays operates on a number of sites across France, Italy, Spain and Europe. If you choose to, you can camp in a tent – although these tents have fridge freezers, proper beds and electricity, so it’s not exactly the kind of camping we did as kids!
But you can also opt to stay in a 4-bed, lakeside luxury cabin, which is where we stayed on our flying visit to La Croix du Vieux Pont, a campsite in Berny Riviere, around 50 miles outside Paris.
The cabins, which are exclusive to Canvas Holidays on this site, are extremely spacious, with an outside deck, large sitting/dining room, fully-fitted kitchen, 2 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms to sleep up to 10 guests. For smaller groups, there are 2 and 3-bed cabins available, too. There’s even central heating, if it gets chilly.
However, we weren’t in France just to check out the sleeping quarters. Canvas Holidays had invited us to try out their Family Extra programme, which is designed to get families active, and having fun together – which I thought made a refreshing change from many activity programmes, which are based on the idea that you leave your children in a club while you relax. Family Extra, which is run in partnership with outdoor activity company In2Action.
Taking part in Family Extra means you get to play games, take part in sports on dry land and on water, and there are some gentler arts and crafts activities, too.
We had just a taste of the programme and it was nothing short of a revelation. There’s a point in life where most of us stop playing games like Splat and Poison, or running relay races, or throwing foam javelins around. We think those sorts of things are just for the kids. But honestly, our afternoon with Craig and Craig of In2Action was hilarious – I laughed so hard when Sue Reay from Female First threw her foam hammer into the top of a nearby tree, I almost did myself an injury.
And nothing – but nothing – is funnier than Water Bomb Volleyball – so much fun I taught Flea how to play, on our trip to the Isle of Wight last week. Get yourself a bowl full of water bombs, divide the family into teams, and take turns throwing a bomb and trying to catch it, without it bursting all over you. Best. Fun. Ever.
I think it’s a stroke of genius encouraging families to do these things together. I can’t think of a better way to make a holiday to France more memorable.
It helps that La Croix du Vieux Pont is a gorgeous site. There are three lakes, and a range of properties ranging from tents to mobile homes and cabins. The pitches are well set out so the site doesn’t feel crowded and there is a great on-site supermarket, restaurant and bar. The bakery serves fresh bread in the mornings, and kids will love the wide open spaces, playground, bouncy castle and artificial beach. There is a decent pool with water-slides, which isn’t as big as some we’ve see on this type of site, but it’s perfectly fine.
When we visited, the site had just completed a brand new indoor laser-shooting building, and a bowling alley, making it a great place to entertain the kids even if the weather isn’t amazing.
The location of the site is a huge bonus – just an hour’s drive from Paris and the attractions of Disneyland Paris. The campsite even runs daily buses to Disneyland if you don’t want the hassle of driving and parking. We spent our final morning in France at Disneyland Paris, and it was just as much fun as I remembered – check out this post for our top tips for making the most of a trip to Disneyland.
If you’re looking for an affordable, family-friendly place to stay in France that’s close to Disneyland Paris then I’d whole-heartedly recommend La Croix du Vieux Pont. There are so many different options for different budgets that there will almost certainly be something affordable for most families, and the site itself is perfect for school-aged children.
Notes: All travel and accommodation costs were covered by Canvas Holidays for the purposes of this review. Accommodation this July/August at La Croix du Vieux Pont costs from £398 for 7 nights in a Maxi Tent sleeping up to 6 people; rising to £1987 for 7 nights in a luxury 4-bed lodge sleeping 10, including return ferry crossings. But do check the Canvas Holidays website as there are always special offers and discounts available.