I love everything about France, even if my last trip was memorable for very different reasons. But then who’s not nearly been arrested for human trafficking at some point in their lives? Really, just me?
Well that’s probably best told in a separate post which you can read here.
When I was kindly invited on a press trip by Canvas Holidays to review their Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont site in Berny-Rivière, with a day trip to Disneyland Paris thrown in, I decided against telling the kids where I was going.
Instead my plan was to send them a postcard of me sat on Donald Duck’s knee, dressed in as much Mickey bling as I could find alongside the message,
“…because daddy eats all his vegetables!”
My trip started a day early so I could spend a night visiting friends in London, and to have an opportunity to tick off as many Underground faux pas as possible.
Standing on the left of the escalator. Check.
Stopping abruptly at the top to read the signs. Check.
Making eye contact and wishing someone a good morning. Check.
Assuming I could navigate my way around because I once played Monopoly. Check.
By some minor miracle I made it to St Pancras (not to be confused with a pancreas so google informed me) where I met Stacey who was to be our wonderful guide for the trip and my fab fellow bloggers,
Travelling down to Dover with South Eastern Trains took just over an hour and was hassle-free, where we were greeted by Katie from Canvas Holidays who was to be our driver and all-round nothing-is-too-much-trouble-er(?)
Now I can only assume Dover’s cliffs gained their name before Simon Cowell’s teeth set a new benchmark for what constitutes white, but as they disappeared into the distance we settled down to a complimentary dinner courtesy of DFDS Seaways. And snacks. And because the vouchers were only redeemable in a single visit enough miniature bottles of wine to sink a smaller ship.
After arriving in Dunkirk we set off on the two-hour drive to La Croix du Vieux Pont during which I took the opportunity of a quick nap, and not just because two hours in a minibus with six women will invariably cover topics of conversation unsuitable for the solitary bloke who doesn’t get out a lot.
La Croix du Vieux Pont is a stunning parkland site that looks far newer than it is. The grounds are clean and well-kept, and it has a lovely family friendly atmosphere in which you’d feel more than comfortable letting your children walk around on their own.
My previous camping experience begins and ends with a tent pitched in a ditch, which after a night of rain left me waking up in a puddle so deep I thought I’d wet myself by biblical proportions, so the Deluxe three-bedroom lodge I was staying in really did live up to its name and would comfortably sleep seven.
Despite being positioned in rows as you’d expect, each property has a spacious garden to the front, enclosed by trellis that allows for plenty of privacy.
Outside there were sun loungers, and on the decking area a table and chairs plus a large gas barbecue.
Inside there’s a fully equipped kitchen with more facilities than I can claim to have at home, including a microwave, dishwasher, kettle, toaster and fridge-freezer. It’s all open plan with the dining area leading on to the living room where you’ll find a sofa, stereo, DVD player and a TV that includes UK channels.
Also downstairs is a bathroom with shower, a separate toilet and a spacious double bedroom with its own TV.
Upstairs there were two more bedrooms (one of which had bunk-beds).
Where the site really comes into its own is the facilities and activities that cater for all ages, from toddlers to adults.
There’s a selection of shops that include a boutique, small supermarket, pizzeria and bakery that sells amongst other fine things a lovely pain-au-raisin, a bar and two restaurants.
The two main swimming pools (one of which can be covered) are wonderful and there’s also a separate childrens pool with water slide, a jacuzzi, sauna and solarium.
The list of activities is endless. Tennis, football, trampolining, table tennis, go-karts, basketball, archery, mini golf, 10 pin bowling, laser quest, volleyball, bicycle hire, indoor soft play and so much more besides.
The beautiful lake provides further opportunities to stay active with canoeing, pedaloes and fishing.
And if that’s not enough, Canvas Holidays also provide an exclusive free Children’s Club that impressively caters for youngsters of all ages by splitting it into age groups.
We even tried some of the games aimed at the younger children, and in doing so proved conclusively that I’m not smarter than a four-year old. Nor can I dance like a Kipper but that’s a whole different story.
But for me the pièce de résistance was the man-made beach with adjoining snack-bar . (Oh c’mon, think yourself lucky I got this far before crowbarring in my first French phrase; and believe me I had more than you could throw a bâton at!)
I’ll also apologise now for the clichés to follow but the beach is where holiday memories are made.
The bar provides the perfect setting in which to eat your dinner or have a drink whilst watching your kids play with their new-found holiday friends, on a beach, way beyond their usual bedtime. That for me is what a family holiday is all about.
The food at the beach bar was delicious, as it was in the main restaurant, and offers a great range of drinks and cocktails too.
If you can drag yourself away from the site there’s some lovely provincial towns close-by that are as picturesque as you’d imagine. I would have some photo’s to show but I was too busy eating yet another pain-au-raisin from a patisserie we passed (I know, I’m obsessed).
Larger supermarkets, bars and restaurants can be found in the town of Soissons which is a 15 minute drive.
The site is also ideally placed for Disneyland Paris, being just an hours drive away (a bus service is also available from the camp-site).
Now I admit to being a little cynical when it comes to Disney; that is until I walk through their gates.
Had they sold an Elsa costume in my size you would have found me hours later pirouetting back to the minibus like Tinkerbell’s ugly sister.
We only had half a day at the park but it was enough to convince me I need to return with the family. The boys would love it although at three and four I think I’d leave it another year before taking them, if for no other reason than to have another twelve months in which to watch EVERY Disney film there is.
Now before leaving the UK I was having a recurring nightmare in which I wrestled a crocodile, only to wake up on the floor with my limbs wrapped around the bedside table. I suspect it was only recurring because Janet was lay beside me making snapping noises for her own amusement but I can’t prove that.
Stay with me, there is a point to this story, you see I don’t dream about crocodiles any more, not since going on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror!
Now my nightmares are exclusively about being stuck in a falling lift.
It’s not healthy. I’m still suffering from a pulled muscle due to bracing myself in my sleep!? It was genuinely terrifying although I didn’t really scream like a girl … it was far higher pitched than that!
All the rides we went on were brilliant. I’d liken them to Alton Towers only bigger, better, longer lasting and with better visual effects and staff performances thrown in. I didn’t really need the Ghost train breaking down midway through but I’ll not dwell on that for my own mental well-being.
I can’t mention the rides without pointing you in the direction of the hilarious video of Kate’s taken on Big Thunder Mountain. There’s a ‘boob blackout’ you really do have to see.
It was a wonderful trip with great company and the only negative I brought back from my whole time away was that we weren’t there for longer.
Back to Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont. It’s not cheap, but speaking as a penny-pinching Northerner it does offer great value for money, particularly for a larger family/group.
There’s the option of mobile homes and tents to make it more affordable, and they currently have some big discounts for the school holidays as well as last-minute deals and late September getaways.
Would I go back? Absolutely. It’s more a case of when than if.
Did I send the postcard of me sat on Donald Ducks knee? Unfortunately not, but I did bring the boys some Disney goodies back. OK so I bought them in the local Pound store but shh, they don’t need to know that.
To see the trip as it happened you can check out #canvasbloggers on Instagram and that there Twitter.