Eurocamp: ‘Least favourite bit was leaving’ – A child’s view
Continuing restrictions on international travel made it a bumper year for UK tourism hotspots in 2021.
But with those being lifted, tourists have been heading abroad in huge numbers thanks to pent-up demand.
Prior to the pandemic, the worldwide travel and tourism industry accounted for just over 10% of global GDP. Now after a difficult 2020 and 2021, with, some false starts in the industry due to new variants of Covid-19, tourism is almost at a similar level now.
According to Abta, which represents travel agents, bookings for trips abroad were close to pre-pandemic levels last summer, even though the industry was far more severely hit by Covid than the domestic holiday trade.
For those who may still be wary, a ferry to Calais and the delights of Paris might be a way back for this family-of-four, including a nine-year-old and a 14-year-old.
The P&O ferry from Dover had its draw backs, quick and quiet going and a huge delay of two hours coming back – with little or nothing to do at the port during the wait.
The trip got off to a financially painful start. The road to Paris from Calais came with a 23 euro road (£20) toll sting – and you cannot seem to avoid it on the return.
Eurocamp’s La Croix du Vieux Pont, a two-and-a-half hour drive away feels like it is far away from civilisation, set in a lush, green rural part of Berny-Rivière in northern France.
The idyllic setting might have made the younger members of the party wonder if there was enough to do.
But once you get past the gated entrance to the site with its beautiful flower gardens there was never anything to fear.
Sold as a gateway to Paris, the Champagne regions, Disneyland Paris, and one of France’s premiere theme parks Asterix, La Croix du Vieux Pont has something for everyone, outwith the obvious attraction distractions – at a price, of course.
There are hundreds of mobile homes and lodges to suit families big and small positioned around two large lakes.
If camping itself fills you with nightmares about bad music festival toilets and uncomfortable tents, then there are ‘outdoor living’ alternatives here, again at a price.
We arrived at the end of June and stayed in a cosy lake-facing three-bedroomed Aspect holiday home – an on-site premium upgrade from your humble caravan of yesteryear – which next year for ten nights self-catering would, at the time of writing, cost a family back close to £2000. A safari tent sleeping six over the same period come in at less than half that at £860.50.
For that, of course, you get access to all the activities available on site – albeit most will incur an extra cost. While the beds may not be the most comfortable you will ever sleep in, the accommodation is spacious, has an extra large decking area with furniture, sun loungers and a table for those crucial under-the-sun barbecues and air conditioning, which was an absolute must during the hot summer.
There is enough here to spend ten days without going beyond this in-the-middle-of-nowhere setting – with four pools – one an outdoor manmade beach lagoon and another indoors with water slides which were a hit. There are also a whole host of sports and activities that you have to pay extra for from canoeing, cycling and fishing to tennis, crazy golf, ten-pin bowling, Laser Quest and karting.
That was a distraction from the fact that Wi-fi was iffy. It came as an extra cost – and was only free at the beach bar. Free roaming 4g was the alternative solution.
Another more than adequate distraction was an itinerary of daily free events, organised by an enthusiastic and inclusive animation team and are easy to take part in. They include table tennis, the enormously popular football, beach volleyball and basketball. Water aerobics was less popular.
Football would turn into a multi-national kickabout which led this unfit older guy having the first grazed knees for many many years after taking a tumble while attempting a foolhardy dribble between youths of more than half his age. Of course it was a foul!
Wasps are an issue if you are outside, whether at the six-euro-a-pint bar or by the lagoon, so covers for food and drinks become a wise decision.
Few know that there is a one euro payment for every returned plastic pint cup – allowing some knowing youngsters to make some money on the side collecting from tables.
My nine-year-old was particularly brazen in his collections having lost a 12-euro snorkel in the lagoon within hours of getting it.
Outwith the campsite, an hour’s drive will take you to Asterix, a theme park, named after the diminutive, fearless and quite ugly fictional Gaulish warrior living in the time of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars.
It is very very French, catering for an audience that on our day was mostly French, and there is rightly only a modicum of compromise for English speakers.
One elaborately concepted 25-minute show, Gauls – Romans: The Match – or to get it right, Gaulois – Romains: Le Match – seems (spoiler alert) set up to ensure the Italians lose.
This does not stop the park from being a major hit for my nine-year-old wannabe rollercoaster designer son and his 14-year-old brother.
Our theme park expert tells us that his highlight, Oziris is a rollercoaster launched at full speed 130ft up, and has six inversions – it goes upside down – which immediately counts me out.
Also on the itinerary has to be a first ever trip to Disneyland Paris – and after multiple visits to the much bigger and more famous Disney resort in Orlando, which is the most visited vacation resort in the world, it might have been a disappointment.
It certainly was not.
It is a 90 minute drive from the camp site and there are options Disneyland Park is like a fun-sized replica of Magic Kingdom, with all the wide-eyed splendour that makes the Florida resort so special, and during the summer, that bit less hot.
As you enter, it is hard to believe you are not actually in Florida, but 20 miles from Paris. The traditional railroad, charming Main Street, USA, eye-catching parades and the magical view of the fairytale turrets of Sleeping Beauty Castle are virtual replicas of what you will see in the US.
Highlight rides were Big Thunder Mountain, which the boys wanted on multiple times, Ratatouille: The Adventure and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, which is a more turbulent version of the traditional Florida Space Mountain.
The fireworks, one of the highlights of any visit are equally spectacular, and was combined with a breathtaking light-show featuring 300 drones creating an emblematic ’30’ to mark its anniversary – and shaped to look like part of Mickey Mouse’s head and ears.
Eurocamp’s La Croix du Vieux Pont.
There were further delights on leaving from the Marvel Avengers Campus, a new land in the park which was due to open within weeks of our visit, as there were seemingly inadvertent previews of some of the stunning drone light shows to come.
A shorter 25 minute drive from the Eurocamp resort takes you to a real fairy tale castle – and the setting for many movies including Merlin and The Man in the Iron Mask. Château de Pierrefonds a striking castle which includes most of the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages.
Laon with its enchanting streets featuring numerous medieval buildings lined with colourful balloons and lanterns is worth a 45 minute drive. Just make sure you go prepared that you might not get anywhere to eat at lunchtime.
Care must be taken in eating out on site. The lagoon bar offered basic pub grub at a price, with a basic bacon burger and chip costing 14.50 euros, while there is only one restaurant with a more refined menu in the form of La Brasserie WILLO.
For those who, like me, who craved a taste of decent French cuisine, Chez Micheline, which looks like it is converted from someone’s house and appears to double as a bar for locals, was a godsend, and a short walk away from the campsite.
But enough about the adults, what do the kids think?
My nine-year-old described Eurocamp as a “great place to visit with a beach-side restaurant with a pool next to it”.
He said: “There are lots of activities like ping pong, basketball, football and loads more.
“My favourite part was the slides in the indoor pool. You get very wet on them. It is so good.
“My least favourite part was leaving. I had enjoyed it so much, with the trips to Disney and Asterix which were amazing, and I would go back if it was £10m. I know we don’t have that. It is just called being dramatic.”
From May 2023: prices starting at £604.60 for a 7 night stay in a 3 bedroom Aspect.
With a range of accommodation options available at La Croix du Vieux Pont starting at £170, options include the Comfort range, the Azure range and the Aspect range.
As well as four different pools, at La Croix du Vieux Pont you can swim in the beachside lagoon lake on the parc.
You can keep active at this parc with a range of activities including enjoying a game at Golf de Monchy, Humières which is located within 50kms from the parc, near Compiègne. This golf course is offering up to 50% discount to Eurocamp customers staying at La Croix du Vieux Pont.
Located just over 70 miles away from Paris- Disneyland Resort Paris is located just an hour and half drive away.
The site was originally a farm and residence. The Residence is still there, adjacent to the site with its own grounds.There was also a factory on site for sugar cane production.
Initially the site consisted of touring emplacements, which came with little huts – built by the owner, along the banks of the river.
The campsite shop/bakery area was built in 2000, prior to that it was part of the reception area.
The restaurant held the campsite bar – which was expanded to its current setting in mid 00s, with a bowling/laser and indoor sports hall added mid 2010s.
The site only had one fishing lake, but in mid 00s, started expanding to the second lake, before developing the swimming lake.