Two years ago Eurocamp was sold to French Travel company Homair Vacances group. At the time some people wondered if this marked the beginning of the end of camping and caravaning holidays, but since the sale Eurocamp seems to have created a new place for itself in the family holiday market, enticing a new generation of middle class holiday makers to try out it’s campsite based accommodation.
Last year after hearing positive reviews from friends we considered booking a trip ourselves, but hesitated at the idea of staying in a mobile home. So when Eurocamp approached us in February and invited us on a press trip I was intrigued to see if the experience would match up with the “basic but great” reports we’d heard from other families.
With 170 parcs in 11 countries the choice of destinations is a little over-whelming, so as we were traveling on our first trip as a family of four, we decided to stick relatively close to home, at the Domaine Des Ormes campsite in Brittany.
I kept a diary of our stay, with an honest report of our experience of the week…
We are traveling by Brittany Ferries on an overnight crossing to St Malo from Portsmouth, which means we have the whole day to pack up and get organised before leaving the house at 6:30pm for our 15 minute journey to the dock. As the distance each side is quite short we’ve decided to travel in our 1969 Morris Minor Traveller and leave our modern car at home. We’ve been making preparations for several weeks, buying spare parts (just in case) and borrowing a special compact travel buggy to fit in the boot. At Portsmouth we board promptly and head to our pre-booked 4 berth outside cabin. Alice’s travel cot is already set up for us, so I pop her in and Jim and Theo head off to explore the ship while she settles.
The ferry departs at 8:15pm and I get a lovely view of the Spinnaker Tower at sunset as we head out to sea. Jim and I take it in turns to sit in the cabin eating a picnic supper while the other one chaperones Theo at the play centre. He’s having a great holiday already and we’ve barely left the country. Compared to the stress of negotiating an international airport with two kids, this trip already feels like a winner. After food and playing, we are all in bed by 10pm and sleep surprisingly well, despite our bijou accommodation.
After breakfast of croissants and coffee on board we are off the ferry by 9am and after a couple of wrong turns we get on the road to Domaine Des Ormes, which even in a Morris Minor only takes us 25 minutes from St Malo. The entrance to Eurocamp is a little ambiguously signposted and we realise later this is because Eurocamp are actually one of about half a dozen companies with pitches at Domaine Des Ormes.
We check in and pay a 10 Euro deposit for a keycard to get on site. It’s 10am and I realise too late, that check-in isn’t till 3pm which means we have 5 hours to kill with two small children. We head off to explore the site and look at the outside of the accommodation which is the point a which we realise how many other companies are operating mobile homes here. There are some that look like big sheds and others which are more like safari huts. A couple of the Eurocamp ones we see look really tatty on the outside and I start to panic about what we’ll be given at 3pm.
We stop for a chocolat chaud and an early lunch. The site seems to be seriously lacking a nice cafe serving fresh snacks and croissants, so we have to make do with a pre-packaged Spar sandwich in a sticky bar full of fruit machines and Jeremy Kyle on the tv. Then it starts to rain… There’s still 3 hours to go till check-in.
Finally after wandering the site for a couple of hours we are given the keys to our cabin. It’s an Esprit class home up a quiet road and not overlooked by any other pitches. I ask about paying to upgrade to the much smarter looking Avant and I’m fascinated to discover they are almost identical inside. We decide to keep the Esprit and recklessly spend the £138 an upgrade would have cost us on luxuries and gin. Or maybe just gin…
We do a few runs up and down to the supermarket and reception sorting ourselves out and finally the sun finally comes out. We get Alice in bed, spread out a quilt on the grass and drink G&T and eat pizzas in the evening sunshine. Theo’s found a friend his age in the cabin next door and after the rain and frustrations earlier we start to relax…
I’ve decided to minimise my use of the internet while we area away only using the free wifi in the centre of the resort. Jim on the other hand is embracing the fact he’s already paid his fixed daily roaming charge for today and is busy watching a video of a dog chasing a squirrel round a tree. Some things never change…
Last night we realised we hadn’t been supplied with the beach towels we hired, so before breakfast we tell reception and they promise to send them to the cabin.
An hour later the kids are climbing the walls and desperate to swim so we decide to go to reception again for the towels and discover they are kept off site, so someone has had to be dispatched to collect them. We head to the playground to kill some time and chat to a family from Hampshire on their first trip here. They have similar thoughts to us, that this holiday is all about the kids (who are loving it) that the lack of free wi-fi in the cabins is actually a fairly good thing and that though the site is tatty in places it is much less commercial than Center Parcs which is a good thing.
Back at the cabin the towels for swimming have been delivered (hurray!) and we stop for lunch. Fresh French bread and a glass of red wine, a definite improvement on yesterday.
The people in the cabin next door have bumped into some friends who have been here for the last week in torrential rain and are about to return to the UK. They said despite the terrible weather they they have had great fun and wish they were staying another week.
In the afternoon we head off to the indoor pool. It’s not vast, but contains everything we need. A kiddy pool, slides and a mini lazy river. While we are swimming the sun breaks through the clouds and everything warms up enough for some brave Brits to disrobe and lie on the sun loungers by the outside pool.
The flush on our loo has broken so we report it at reception who promise they will fix it in the meantime we take the top of the cistern off and use the handle inside.
At 5pm Theo has a learn to ride session. It’s free and we can keep the bike for 24 hours to practice on. Because it’s low season he has the undivided attention of Sam the instructor and a fun hour practicing his slalom technique round cones on the basketball court.
Back at the cabin we barbecue steaks, kebabs and sausages we’ve bought from the supermarket. Everyone is exhausted and we are all in bed by 9pm.
We’re getting the hang of this! We get up have a shower, then Jim nips to the Spar for croissants and fresh bread for breakfast. Alice has gone native on us already and is fully embracing continental pastries.
We’re the first people at the pool for the free Learn To Swim session at 9:30am. Rachel is Theo’s teacher and once again he gets one to one attention. We book Alice in for the baby session tomorrow and Rachel loans us one of Eurocamp’s brand new kiddy wetsuits for her to wear in the pool so she doesn’t get cold. I’m so used to being “upsold” at every opportunity that I’m quite astonished that the loan of the wetsuit is free and I don’t have to sign anything to guarantee I return it.
After a hot chocolate back in the cabin, we regroup at the stables for a pony trek round the site. It costs 10 Euros and only lasts 15 minutes, but as this is the first activity we’ve paid for we don’t mind and most importantly Theo loves it.
We have lunch in the cabin and everyone except Theo has a lunchtime sleep. Afterwards we head to the kids club to return the bike and stop in at the playground for more swings and slides.
The forecast for tomorrow predicts rain all day and we are wondering how best to fill our time with two kids. We decide to head to St Malo for lunch and a stop at a shop that says local goods. We came packed for warm weather and so the promise of a selection of “local” Breton tops to bulk out my wardrobe is quite welcome…
You can read the second part of our Eurocamp diary here or watch a video tour of our accommodation below