When I was a child my overriding memory of holidays were being squashed in the middle seat in the back of the car (I was the youngest therefore had the last choice) watching the French countryside whoosh past the windows. To this day I can't listen to Simply Red or eat cadbury's eclairs for the overwhelming feeling of carsickness to overcome me. I remember playing eye spy, word association games and eating the powdered sugar from the bottom of the sweet tin. We'd take our pillows from home and make little comfy nests in the back seat. The car would be full and hard to see out the back of and on the way home our feet would rest upon cases of wine. I remember driving up in the early hours of the morning and waiting in line with cars and lorries before finally being able to drive into the belly of a great big ferry. I remember the metal smell and the clanking noises as you emerged from the car and raced up the stairs holding those cold metal railings. We'd go to the deck and watch the land disappear behind a trail of froth.
Some years we took longer ferry crossings, where we'd try and sleep on the benches. We'd have activity books, packs of cards and happy families. One year we took a particularly rough crossing on a hover craft, the only one that decided to sail that day. I think my sister and my dad were the only ones on the whole boat who didn't throw up and the waves came up higher than the windows. It's fair to say that we never took the hover craft again.
Once in France we'd drive until we reached our campsite for the next a couple of weeks. We'd stop at the side of the road stopping places and hope that the toilets wouldn't be the hole in the ground kind where you'd have to squat. The parking always had picnic benches and smelt of pine trees, we'd stretch our legs before cramping back in the car to continue our journey. We'd pass by fields of sunflowers, poppies and corn, the occasional Chateaux on the horizon. Towns would look different and the highlight was always going to the big french Hypermarkets. We'd spend hours there, looking at all the fresh produce, bagging up cherries and being able to press the symbol on the weighing machines. We'd always be allowed to choose a bar of chocolate, the own brand, wrapped just in clear cellophane. I'd always choose either hazelnut or one with rice crispies in. We'd stock up on biscuits and if we were lucky got a Pez dispenser. We used to look at all the bikes and toys lined up and I remember using our 1 franc coins the get bubblegum and plastic rings from the little machines.
I remember the excitement of driving into the holiday park, finding the eurocamp reception and waiting in the car until my dad reappeared with the courier who would cycle ahead of use to show us our home. We'd usually stay in the tents, which had separate bedroom compartments and red framed metal beds. We'd roll out our sleeping bags and place our favourite toy we'd brought from home on the bed. There'd be a little kitchen and a big door to the outside sitting area complete with white plastic table and chairs and the classic Eurocamp red and green umbrella. Sometimes we'd take our bikes and set about exploring the row and begin to make friends with the other children near by.
We'd go to the kids clubs where we'd have our faces painted, we'd play board games and sports. Other days we'd spend all day by the pool, and always hoped for a park that had water slides. The campsites would be in big pine forest and be hot and sunny. I remember visiting French towns, walking around gardens and old houses. Sometimes we'd visit a beach and meet up with family friends who happened to be staying in the same area as us. The days were always long and my sisters were always my playmates. My parents would make friends with other English families and we'd share meals. I remember always eating artichoke, pistachio nuts and trying olives for the first time. We'd stay up late and listen to the crickets and hunt for fireflies. The holiday seemed to last for ages, and honestly I loved them. We did do other holidays, and were lucky enough to visit the USA a few times as well as Greece and Italy, but I will always associate my childhood holidays with France and Eurocamp.
Last year when we went to visit my sister in Barcelona we decided last minute to book a Eurocamp break a short distance from Barcelona. It was the first time we'd been back since I was a child and honestly I didn't know what to expect. But we had a great time, and Theo loved it and asked to go back again the following year.
We hadn't really thought about where we would go this year, and since we found out that Rohan is due to have potentially a few surgeries at some point this year, it made it really hard to plan and commit to putting money down. So when Eurocamp contacted me at the beginning of the year about visiting one of their parks, as part of a review, there was no hesitation at all. We wanted to try out another park anyway, so this was a perfect opportunity.
We've been thinking of trying to take Theo to visit Disneyland Paris for a year or so but trying to work out a way to do it. We can't afford to stay at one of the hotels or just go for a few days (we hardly go abroad so really need to make the most of being in a different country!) so when this came up we decided to combine the two and pick a park close to Disney. This also meant that we were just over an hour outside of Paris, and Theo has been obsessed with visiting the Eiffel Tower for a long time after seeing it in various books. We also wanted to find a park that emulated those childhood memories and had to have a good pool seeing as that's what Theo loves doing (and now Rohan too!)
As a note we could've chosen a park anywhere, and in the future now that we've got Disney out of our system, I'd love to be able to visit a different part of France or another country. Eurocamp have places in parks all over Europe and I'd love to visit Italy, more of Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Holland, Germany and all over.
We stayed at a park called La Croix du Vieux Pont, near the town of Soissons just an hour or so north -east of Paris. The park was also a really good distance from Calais which meant that after a short ferry crossing it was only about a 2 hour drive to the campsite (it took us more than double that to get from Bristol to Dover!) which was ideal for us, as Rohan is still young and being stuck in a car for long journeys isn't that enjoyable.
When we arrived we drove around a little trying to find the Eurocamp reception. Going back as an adult and being in charge of knowing where to go is such a different experience! We eventually found the right place and picked up the keys to the mobile home we'd be staying in. I was a little disappointed we didn't get shown to our place by a courier, one because of childhood memories, but two (and most importantly) we weren't quite sure if we'd got the right place straightaway and there was no eurocamp branding on the home so it took a little while to confirm that it was the right place, which would have been nice not to have the stress of trying to find it. Last year at the other park we stayed on we were taken to our mobile home and all was fine.
But once we'd found it we set upon exploring and unpacking. The mobile home was pretty new and modern and the facilities were great. We were staying in an Azure holiday home which claims can sleep up to 6 adults, but in all honesty I think 6 would be a squeeze. The living area was slightly smaller than I was imagining, and the space in the bedrooms pretty limited. Theo and Rohan shared a room, with a single bed and a travel cot set up. The other room had two single beds, but very limited space in between them, so would make sharing with two adults fairly cramped! The main bedroom had a great king sized bed, but again not a lot of room around the edges. But all the rooms come with a great amount of storage, so you just had to make sure that all your things were put away to avoid feeling over cramped. But if you were a family of four, five or even six (two adults and the rest children) I think the space would be fine.
The rest of the living space was pretty well thought out. There was a separate toilet and massive shower room, which actually was really good as our previous holiday home had a pretty small shower room. It meant that it was actually a better place to get ready than the bedrooms. The kitchen was pretty well equipped, and the appliances all modern. Something that differed from our last place we stayed in, was that there was a proper fixed table (the other had a moveable pull out table around the sofa) with six chairs, which was great for being able to share meals inside with. It did eat into quite a lot of the living space though, so I'm not sure whether it was for the best or not, but it was good for food preparation. One other thing to mention was that the main bedroom door opened right onto the kitchen and the chairs would often get in the way of the door being able to close so made it a little annoying! The rest of the living space was taken up with an L shaped sofa which was comfy, but perhaps didn't have the best covering to make it feel cosy. I might also add that it didn't have air conditioning, just a fan, and even in June it was quite warm, but I think that at some campsites they do come with a/c so it's worth checking if that's a big deal for you (I know in Spain last year in August it was definitely needed!)
It was all quite easy to keep clean which is good. We also requested baby items and it came with the classic ikea highchair (always a winner!) and a booster seat. Luckily we bought our own washing basket which doubled up as a baby bath which we used for Rohan an just sat him on the deck with! Because the holiday home was modern a lot of the features and building materials were also environmentally friendly, which I thought was a positive step. Another great feature was that all the windows had pull up black out blinds and mosquito nets, which made it easier to keep the light out of the boys room when they eventually went to bed, and we didn't get bitten once!
The best part of the holiday home was the great covered decking area out the front of the home. It was fenced and had a gate which meant it was perfect for Rohan to be able to be out there too without us worrying about him going down the steps. It also had a large table with lots of chairs and we spent most of our time out here, eating meals, playing games and storing our swimming things and shoes. It There were a few thunder storms whilst we were there, and it was great to be able to still sit outside and watch it whilst the rain poured down but be kept dry. The campsite was also brilliantly laid out meaning that each pitch had their own front garden, with sun loungers and a bbq, which had a lot of space and offered great privacy. I loved how much green there was, and each of the pitches in our area had their own willow tree. We also had a some very friendly ducks and little birds who liked to come and visit us daily and I just loved how peaceful it was.
We did really like our accommodation despite of the points I've mentioned. I think having less space is to be expected from mobile homes, and all the beds were really comfy and like I mentioned the storage was great. The homes come with all the basics you need for cooking and eating, and the beds with pillows and duvets. You have the option of adding on bedding and towels for an extra cost, which we did as it was just one less thing to think about and take up room, but you could easily just bring your own too if you were on a budget. You can also purchase an essentials pack which includes things like washing up liquid, oil and sponges, again great to not have to think about these things, but also easy to pick up at the supermarket.
We were given a welcome pack explaining bits about the park, such as opening hours of the shops, restaurant and pool. From memory and our last experience we did have a courier come round to our holiday home to check that we'd settled in ok and ask if we had any questions or needed anything, which we were disappointed to find that they didn't do here. We did have to go back to reception a few times to find out information, and whilst they were helpful it would have been nice to feel a little looked after and not forgotten! We had to go and ask about the kids club and certain questions about the park which could have been answered if they'd come for a check up. Anyway, on the whole they were friendly and perhaps some people prefer to be left alone to just get on with their holiday! (It may be different on other parks, as it was last year for us)
The park itself was really good. It was well laid out and easy to walk around and discover all it had to offer. It had all the facilities you could need, such as a well stocked shop and bakery with fresh bread daily. It had a gift shop which sold toys, clothes, postcards and stamps, a few laundrettes with self service machines and toilet blocks dotted about. There were also play parks, the pool complex and then a few different lakes. One of the lakes was for fishing and you could also hire out pedalos (which we did but will share later!) a smaller lake which was for swimming and surrounded by sand with a beachside bar and restaurant to get snacks, meals, ice-cream and drinks. There were quite a few really good play parks dotted around too. There was the main bar area and restaurant also, located by the pools, but again I'll write a little more about the pool later!
What we loved about the park was how green it was, each path and road was carefully thought out, and there were lots of trees, bushes, hedges and loads of beautiful beds full of flowers. There were climbing roses all over the place and it was all so well kept and looked after. The whole place was really clean too and it was a lovely place to walk around. There is also part of the local river than runs by the bottom of the park and an entrance to what looked like a formal park just by our home. We ran out of time to explore properly, as really I feel we needed longer than a week, what with having two days off the park going out and about. Really if you take out the two days for travelling we only had five full days, when really at least 10 days would have been the perfect amount.
Once we'd settled in and unpacked it was pretty late so we had our first dinner sitting on the decking and played some games. We were pretty excited to explore the next day, and recover a little from the journey. We visited the local supermarket about 20 minutes away and stocked up on all we needed for the week. We planned to eat mostly at the holiday home to save money (as we needed to save for our outings!) as well as picking out some childhood favourites, and maybe going a little overboard with chocolate and biscuits...
I'll leave it there for now and share a little more about the pools and beach, and what we got up to whilst on the park, as well as share our trips out!
I made a little video of our first few days too! Keep an eye out for more soon!
We were gifted our accomadation, travel and extras in return for a review, but all my thoughts, opinions, images and words are my own.