You may, just MAY have noticed that I went on a trip to France recently with a lovely group of bloggers, courtesy of Canvas Holidays … (check out the #CanvasBloggers hashtag to see all of our tweets and photos.)
When I was first asked by Canvas Holidays to review their camping site, Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont, in Berny Rivière, France, I was delighted I’d been asked … but also a bit like “I’m not sure I’m really great at that whole camping thing – is there a hotel on site?” Not that I’m precious or anything, but I’m just not great at sleeping on the ground … unless there’s a thick mattress involved.
How wrong was I?! Canvas Holidays is nothing like that whatsoever … although you can, of course, camp in a tent if that’s your thing. Instead, we would be staying in a luxury lodge that could sleep 10 comfortably.
That’s more like it!
I met the other bloggers (Amanda from Ana Mum Diary, Nadine from Juggle Mum, Mark from Sonny & Luca and Amy from And 1 More Means 5) at Dover train station. I live in Kent so had the easiest journey, leaving home at 9am whereas the others had been travelling since 5am! Look – not tired face!
Stacey from the PR company for Canvas, was our delightful host for our trip and she met me at the station, alongside Katie (from Canvas) who was to be our minibus driver.
The last time I went on a ferry was back in the day in the era of the ‘booze cruise’ when you travelled to Calais just to stock up on beer for Christmas so to travel with DFDS Seaways was something of a revelation. We were treated to a £30 hospitality voucher each with the only stipulation being you had to spend it in one go at the restaurant. Picture the scene: 5 bloggers trying to buy £30 worth of miniature bottles of wine and ALL the Pringles … the poor barman didn’t know what had hit him!
Please check out my video!
We had a great trip across the Channel (not a seasick blogger in sight!) and once we arrived in Dunkirk, Katie expertly drove us to the campsite. I will say, however, that a 2 hour 10 minute drive isn’t ideal – it’s a bit of a trek, so that may put you off. However, it seemed a very straightforward route and the countryside is really pretty … I’m a big fan of wind turbines (odd, I know) and there were plenty to look at. Plus, it was a good opportunity to get to know my follower bloggers better … poor Mark didn’t know what hit him – the cackle factor was in full effect!
We arrived at the site at 6 ish and, after having a brief look around, we were shown to our individual lodges. And then went for a pint.
It wasn’t the height of season but there were a fair few people milling around and yet it was very, very peaceful … almost tranquil. The site is set in a parkland with trees, hedges and lots of surrounding greenery – it really was quite beautiful. There’s pretty much everything on site that you’d need – a mini supermarket, a bakery (that did the most amazing pain au raisins!), a pizzeria that stayed open until 10pm if you didn’t fancy cooking, a bar, a restaurant and there all nestled together so you really don’t have to go very far at all.
The clue’s in the title … we stayed in a ‘Luxury Lodge’, although I couldn’t quite get used to that ‘piney’ smell. I shared my lodge with Amanda and although we really should have tossed a coin, I ‘somehow’ managed to bag the biggest room (with balcony) and ended up feeling guilty for the rest of the trip. Although in my defence, I was kind enough to let her share my balcony every night whilst we shared a gin in a tin or two! I’m nice like that.
There were plenty of rooms to choose from – some with bunk beds, but most with double beds, and all rooms had storage in some form. Although it was billed as ‘luxury’ and it was spacious, clean and I could easily have spent two weeks there, I wouldn’t say it was luxurious in the same way that a 5* hotel is … but it has everything you need. Plus, which was my favourite thing about the whole place, you have your own front garden which is private, a massive gas BBQ and an even bigger table and benches that would easily seat 20 or so. So from an entertaining point of view, it was perfect.
The site was massive and we there was so much room between each accommodation you didn’t feel boxed in whatsoever. There’s a lake in the middle of the site with the option to take part in numerous watersports … or even just a leisurely pedalo, and some people were even fishing.
There were trampolines, trampoline bungee jumping, bowling, laser quest, soft play areas, playgrounds …. and, of course, several swimming pools (indoor and outdoor, with slides too!) You name it, this site has it. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever of your child getting bored. Seriously.
The Man-Made Beach (right next to the bar!)
My favourite part? A man-made beach that was shallow enough for young children to paddle in, and it’s right next to the bistro/bar so that you could all have dinner together and then just let the children go off and play whilst you enjoy a glass of something cold and sparkly. Some children were still swimming as late as 10pm, although I’m not sure Dexter would be a fan of getting cold and wrinkly!
The lovely Laura from Canvas – making me dance like a kipper!
One of the first things we did on our first night was be introduced to Laura, one of Canvas’ children’s club entertainers. She was awesome. She broke the ice (not that it really needed breaking mind you) with some really silly (but SO much fun) games that the children play. Put it this way, within 5 minutes I was playing a game which involved pretending to be a kipper … ie. Standing in the middle of a tent, pretending to be a loud fish. Perfectly normal.
I love the fact that the activities are all geared towards specific ages because with Dexter being totally ancient at 10 years old, he’s sometimes hard to please and we find at other kids’ clubs that the activities are all aimed at the younger children, so he gets a little left out. But that’s not the case here and I think he’d love the camaraderie that they seem to instil amongst the children. Failing that, he’d quite happily swim all day.
Mmm … the food. The food was fantastic! For breakfast, Katie and Stacey kindly collected lots of pastries and coffee from the bakery and brought it to our lodge – we all happily sat outside, chomping on croissants and jam whilst in the sunshine … it was glorious. For lunch, we actually went to Disneyland Paris (but I’ll blog about that in a separate post) and so they made us a great packed lunch of fresh French sticks with cheese and ham – with mustard flavour crisps! Lovely.
On our first evening, we tried out the ‘posh’ restaurant and it gave us all several options to choose from. Some of our party were vegetarians and the menu didn’t seem to cater for them but luckily they were happy to have the fish dish (which apparently was very nice.) I am rather predictable and always go for steak but was aware that in France you should always order your steak a little more well cooked than you would in the UK because they’re not fans of overcooking your meat … and rightly so. Thankfully, the steak came out perfect and the chips and garlic sauce were delicious.
OK, so I daresay coming to Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont La isn’t a ‘cheap’ option but then I truly believe you get what you pay for. You would really be able to cut the cost a lot if you came as a bigger party and perhaps shared a lodge but, bearing in mind the facilities and beautiful surroundings, I think it’s worth every penny. We didn’t get a chance to really check out the nearby villages but we did stop at one on the way back from Disneyland and it was everything you’d hope it would be – quaint, quiet, pretty. I even practiced my French on the old lady in the bakery – AND she understood me! If I came again, I’d take the time to check out what’s near the campsite.
You’ll see from my photos and those of my fellow bloggers that this isn’t your ‘typical’ campsite. It’s special … and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Canvas and Siren Comms for making my first ‘proper’ trip to France a truly memorable one.