Last week, Flea and I were invited to review a holiday with Al Fresco at Camping Sanguli, a campsite just outside Cambrils on Spain’s Costa Dorada.
The Costa Dorada is a favourite with British families and it’s easy to see why – there are miles and miles of long sandy beaches and the weather is generally hot and sunny – during our visit, the temperatures averaged a fairly toasty 35 degrees. Flight time was just over two hours from Liverpool, and as it’s only a 20 minute drive from Reus airport to Sanguli, it’s the perfect destination if you don’t want the hassle of driving (which I very definitely didn’t).
So what did we make of it?
Camping Sanguli is an absolutely brilliant location for families. The parc is large, but there are no fewer than four different swimming pools, equally spaced through the site, so the individual pools don’t feel too crowded. There’s no denying it’s a busy and popular site, though, so this isn’t the place for you if you want seclusion and tranquility.
There’s a tropical pool with waterfall and children’s area, an Olympic sized pool with two water slides, and another two pools with slides and children’s area. Similarly, there are two restaurants, two take-aways and two supermarkets – making it easy to stock up on fresh goods each day. There are children’s play areas, and even an amphitheatre where there’s evening entertainment. I liked that the site has its own visible security team who patrol the park – it felt very safe, and there were more lifeguards on duty at the swimming pools than I’ve ever seen at this sort of resort before. I think the pools have all been upgraded for 2013 – the photos on the website don’t really do them justice at all.
I reckon Al Fresco has one of the best locations on the park – it’s less than two minutes walk to the main pool, supermarket and entertainment area, but the pitches are still relatively quiet and with a thoughtful layout that allows you a degree of privacy that you often don’t get on these resorts, particularly when they are fully occupied. There’s a children’s club for Thomson Al Fresco guests, which runs from 10am to 12pm and 4pm to 6pm. The two reps for the children’s club were particularly brilliant, and Flea loved the weekly “Wet and Wild” session which is basically a huge, chaotic water battle.
Like many of these sites, Camping Sanguli advertises itself as having WiFi but it’s patchy – and works best in the parc reception and restaurant – we didn’t manage to get a signal in our accommodation, but there’s a decent 3G signal in the area, so I was able to catch up with email daily.
Our accommodation was great – spotlessly clean, with a good-sized twin bedroom and a double, a small bathroom with shower, and separate WC. All the Al Fresco accommodation on-site has air conditioning, which is an essential when it’s hot – unfortunately, our unit didn’t work properly for half the week but the rep was very attentive, calling in every day to try and repair the unit, and then calling in an engineer when he had no luck. The reps were also great at advising on local activities and excursions, making recommendations of what they thought we’d most enjoy.
The Sanguli resort sits between the Spanish resorts of Salou and Cambrils. It’s really close to local bus routes, making it a piece of cake to get out and about and explore the region. It’s also right across the street from the beach. Result!
We drove through Salou a couple of times during the week and I’ll be honest that it’s not the sort of place we’d visit – the strips of tourist shops, pubs with Sky Sports, nightclubs and fast food restaurants seems geared more towards teenagers on holiday – but Cambrils is a pretty seaside port with some nice restaurants on the front, and a quieter beach that is sandy with shallow water, making it great for children. All of the beaches locally are well serviced, with restaurants, bathrooms and showers.
Wherever you stay, Costa Dorada is unashamedly a place that wants you to have fun. You can try just about any watersport you can think of in this part of Spain, and a few more besides. There’s snorkelling, parasailing, jet skis, banana boats, water skiing and much more, all within 10 minutes of the campsite. There are also regular boat trips from Cambrils Port, heading up and down the coast as far as Barcelona.
We took a half-day trip on a catamaran with Creuers, costing around 50 euros for both of us – Flea loved being able to sit on a net at the side of the boat, dangling her toes into the waves, but the highlight was being able to walk down a staircase straight into the Med – and then (when she was a bit braver) simply taking a flying leap into the ocean from the front of the boat.
And one of the biggest selling points of Sanguli Resort from Flea’s point of view – it’s just 10 minutes away from Port Aventura, one of Europe’s largest theme parks – which this year opened a brand new water park, Costa Caribe. Sanguli is also just a few minutes from Aquopolis, an even larger water park – and Flea’s new Most Favourite Place in the Whole Wide World.
For my money, Aquopolis offers the best value day out with children – tickets cost around 20 euros for kids and 30 for adults (though you can get discounts by buying online) and are valid for the whole day. Once inside, there are around 20 rides and slides, from the terrifying to the gentle. You can lock your valuables in a locker, meaning you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in yourself, and there are plenty of good value food outlets that could teach UK attractions a thing or two. Although there are plenty of thrill-rides, there are also a couple of absolutely huge areas just for smaller children with mini slides and water games, too. And if the kids get bored of slides, there is a dolphin show twice a day that’s lots of fun – you can book a private session to swim with dolphins but we didn’t try this out ourselves.
Just over an hour from Salou is the city of Barcelona, and we took a bus to explore the city. Plana runs two buses an hour from Cambrils and Salou to Barcelona and a return ticket costs around 20 euros. I absolutely love the city of Barcelona, and I was really excited to show Flea Gaudi’s famous Familia Sagrada. My top tip if you’re planning to visit is to buy tickets online in advance or join a tour group – the queue to get inside the church snakes halfway around the building in the hot sunshine if you don’t already have tickets.
Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Mat (thanks!) we were recommended a restaurant for lunch called 7 Portes, down near the city port. This restaurant has been around for 175 years, so you can forgive it for being a little bit on the stuffy side – especially when you taste the food, which is fab. The cod fritters and paella were highlights for us – but feel free to tell the waiter you don’t want the bread rolls they plonk on your table, which added 8 euros to our bill. My favourite thing though, is that on your receipt, they tell you which famous person has sat at your table before. It’s nice to know my behind has occupied the same spot as Joan Collins. I know, right? La-de-da!
We finished off our day in Barcelona with a stroll down Las Ramblas, the boulevard that runs through the centre of the city. There are great shops, bars and stalls lining the street and we picked up a few souvenirs and then chilled out with a cold drink while we waited for our bus back to Sanguli, where there was just time for one last dip in the pool before bed.
Details: 7 nights accommodation in a 2-bedroom Rossini mobile home at Camping Sanguli in July costs £1,470. Return flights from Liverpool on Ryanair cost an additional £386 for one adult and one child. Special offers and discounts are available at certain times of year, see the Al Fresco website for details. We received free flights and accommodation for the purposes of this review. For a limited time, you can see more photos of our trip over on Facebook.