Perfect the art of parc life, Gallic style
Holiday parks offer some of the best deals for budget French breaks. Simone Kane highlights what's new this summer
Best for water babies
Families can make a splash at Camping le Vieux Port at Messanges, Gascony, which has been awarded five-star status for 2012 in recognition of its exceptional range of facilities and high level of service. Home to one of the largest campsite waterparks in France, its eight pools, water chutes and wave pool will keep kids occupied, while parents can relax in the Jacuzzis and solarium. Those in search of a little more luxury can opt to stay in one of the safari tents, which sit on their own decks, sleep six and offer large, furnished living areas.
Venue Holidays (01233 629950; venueholidays.co.uk) has a week in a pre-pitched tent, for two adults and up to four children, for £773, including return Dover-Calais car ferry crossing, for arrivals on 28 July.
La Croix du Vieux Pont just outside the village of Berny-Rivière, Picardy, is designed around three lakes – for fishing, boating and swimming. The last – with its own sandy beach – makes this just the spot for families with young children who can safely splash around in the shallows. The swimming complex caters for inclement weather, too, featuring indoor pools with waterslides alongside the outdoor pools. A new service for this year allows holidaymakers to manage their budgets by booking breakfasts and dinners and paying for ice creams and drinks in advance of their holiday.
Keycamp (0844 406 0319; keycamp.co.uk) has a week in a two-bedroom Villanova mobile home, sleeping four adults and two children, for £952 per party, accommodation only, for arrivals up to 10 August.
Best for rural pursuits
A €1m (£800,000) investment transformed the old farm and campsite at Domaine de Litteau, in lower Normandy, and won the site four stars. Peaceful pastimes are the order of the day: try trout-fishing in one of the two on-site ponds, or walking in the neighbouring Cerisy Forest. In partnership with the Montfiquet forest and tourism board, Domaine de Litteau offers a range of kids' workshops, as well as guided walks for all ages. This year, the campsite also constructed a modern indoor swimming complex, which includes a waterslide, paddling pool and hot tub.
Siblu Villages (0871 911 2288; siblu.com) has a week in a two-bedroom Elegance mobile home, sleeping six, for £563.50, accommodation only, for arrivals on 28 August.
Al Fresco Holidays has added Val de Bonnal in Jura, in the eastern Franche-Comté region, to its portfolio for 2012. Set in the grounds of a former water mill, the park has its own swimming lake and beach, as well as an impressive collection of outdoor pools and chutes. And the surrounding landscape of this regional gateway to Switzerland and Italy offers plenty to please those who prefer active pursuits – including canoeing, cycling, hiking and horse-riding.
Al Fresco Holidays (0871 971 0600; thomsonalfresco.co.uk) has a week in a two-bedroom Puccini Riviera mobile home, sleeping six people, for £749, accommodation only, for arrivals on 28 July.
Best for wine-lovers
Oenophiles should make their base at Domaine d'Oléron on the Ile d'Oléron, just off the Atlantic coast of Poitou-Charentes. The tranquil, family-run site is available through Canvas Holidays for the first time this year and offers the opportunity to explore the nearby cognac and wine-producing areas, then return to uncork their favourite tipple. Within easy reach of the nearby mainland resort of Royan are the vineyards that produce the wines collectively known as Côtes, while the claret districts, such as Médoc, are a little further afield.
Canvas Holidays (0845 268 0827; canvasholidays.co.uk) has a week in a Maxi Tent, for two adults and up to four children, for £558 per party, including return Dover-Calais car ferry crossings, for arrivals on site on 20 July.
Way down south, on the Mediterranean coast, a stay at Club Farret gives wine-lovers the chance to visit the vineyards of the Languedoc – a region that produces more than one-third of France's wine. This site is one of Keycamp's designated "Lifecycle" parks, a recently introduced programme that offers bike hire, free cycle tours and cycling tuition for children. Direct access to a long stretch of sandy beach and the lively seaside town of Vias-Plage, just outside the park's perimeter, make this a good family option.
Keycamp (0844 406 0319; keycamp.co.uk) has a week in a two-bedroom Villagrand mobile home, sleeping up to four adults and two children, with decking and air-conditioning, for £1,211 per party, accommodation only, for arrivals on 11 August 2012.
Best for a sporting chance
Families can give their own Olympic performances when they take part in the new Summer Games programme from Al Fresco Holidays. Available at six parks across France, including Chateau des Ormes, Dol-de-Bretagne, Brittany, a range of games and activities will have families competing against other nationalities. Alongside participating in games such as volleyball, baseball and mini-golf, parents and children can team up to take part in traditional tests of skill such as wheelbarrow, egg-and-spoon and three-legged races, and tugs of war, while the Eliminator assault course and trials inspired by TV show The Cube will offer further challenges.
Al Fresco Holidays (0871 971 0600; thomsonalfresco.co.uk) has a week in a three-bedroom Vivaldi mobile home, sleeping six people, for £921 per party, accommodation only, for arrivals on 29 July.
Meanwhile, it might not be an Olympic sport yet, but cowpat throwing is on the agenda at the Fête de la Bouse, which takes place near La Tranche-sur-Mer, in the Vendée, on 29 July. The best place to pitch up and partake is the four-star Camping Les Dunes in La Tranche. The marshland village of Triaize – home to the annual cowpat festival – will be the site of muck-flinging, plus demonstrations of how to cook over a cowpat fire.
Matthews Holidays (01483 285213; matthewsfrance.co.uk) has a week in a two-bedroom Focus Mobile Home, sleeping a family of up to six, for £949 per party, including Portsmouth-Caen or Plymouth-Roscoff return car ferry crossing, for arrivals on 26 July.
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