Colin Ainscough takes the highway south for a camping trip in the heart of France.
In our increasingly high pressured world, it has never been more important to take a break from the stresses and strains of work, everyday life and, in my case, social media.
Personally, I love the get-away-from-it-all relaxation of camping, but definitely not the camping trips from my childhood where I watched my dad scratch his head and swear under his breath as he fought with a tangle of tent poles! My idea of camping is the more civilised, customised version of this classic holiday.
Just like today’s package holidays, contemporary camping is all about choice. You can pitch a two-man tent, bring a caravan, stay in a holiday home or lodge while packing your break with activities, or simply hiding away from the rest of the world. The choice is yours.
The flexibility that comes with a Eurocamp holiday is why we revisited the beautiful La Croix du Vieux Pont site in northern France this year.
The gruelling six-hour drive to Dover from Lancashire (which was more like nine hours after fighting through the mad Friday M6 traffic) may not be a relaxing start but, once you hit Calais safe in the knowledge you are only just over two hours from the site, the holiday feeling truly kicks in.
And the drive from Calais to the Berny Rivière couldn’t be further removed from our grey journey down the endless motorways of Britain. Rolling fields, quaint Provençal-style suburbs and agricultural land filled with crops reaching to the horizon provided the stunning backdrop on the drive to our temporary home.
The campsite in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France has not changed since we last visited in 2013. It was still filled with lush greenery and vibrant flowerbeds as we made our way down the sand-coloured gravel paths to the Eurocamp reception. As we pulled on to the corner of the site that would be home for the next week, we were greeted by more picturesque flowerbeds and willow tree canopies stretching over the contemporary style accommodation. The lounge area was comfortable, with a reasonably sized adjoining kitchen which included everything but a washing machine. Three bedrooms accommodated a maximum of six people and a sofa bed in the lounge took the sleeping capacity of this functional space to eight.
Outside, a large canvas sheltered decking area, which bridges the home to the garden, takes the living space to an impressive 32 square metres and comes complete with sun-loungers and a double gas barbecue. This is truly the ideal holiday home.
We also hit lucky with the weather. Occasional deep rumbling storms broke highs of 30C plus which saw me slapping on the factor 50 while heading to the refreshing welcome of the three onsite pools. The campsite has everything a holidaymaker needs - restaurant, takeaway, bakery, two bars, a man-made beach, three lakes, kids’ play area and numerous other activities.
However, if you are looking to keep your food costs down, the local Intermarché is only a ten-minute walk from the site.
WiFi was also available across the site, much to my delight and my wife’s despair. The catch was that it was very unreliable and even with the changes to the EU roaming charge laws, the signal was so poor all our devices struggled to hold a decent connection. For good or bad, I was definitely offline for the duration of the holiday!
If you fancy venturing a little further, the Berny Rivière is close to many other interesting places. A short walk leads to the small town of Vic sur Aisne, a 30-minute drive takes you to Soissons where you will find a medieval museum, art gallery and plenty of shops to explore, and just over an hour away is Disneyland Paris, currently celebrating its 25th year. We planned our trip to Disney a few weeks before, purchasing our tickets online. It’s well worth taking the time to research any trips you are planning before you leave and buying your tickets early, saving not only time but a few pounds as well.
The long day at Disney in scorching temperatures was enough to put us off the sightseeing trip to Paris we had planned for later in the week. Instead, we opted to chill out and take advantage of everything the site had to offer.
We spent the rest of the holiday hitting the pool, visiting the bungee trampoline and heading out on midday walks, either to the local town or around the beautiful onsite lakes, and sleeping on the holiday home sun-loungers. Sadly, we missed some of the more energetic onsite activities available to us, including archery and a zip wire which appeared to close during the peak of the temperatures.
Thankfully, there weren’t many other negatives during our stay. If you did have a problem, the Eurocamp team were always available to help.
Whether you are planning a trip to Disney, days out sightseeing in Paris, lying on a sunbed with a beer or glass of vino in hand, or just being able to do things at your own pace, you can make a Eurocamp break whatever you want it to be.
La Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite - northern France: 10 nights in June start from £1,300 (Three bed Avante holiday home, sleeps eight)
P&O ferry crossing from Dover to Calais return start from £55