We took advantage of the Tesco rewards to book a static via Thompson Alfresco for a cheap low season break. We chose the site because of its easy 3 hour drive from Calais.
This huge site is set either side of three lakes, one side is 99% taken up with statics or wooden lodges with a few small hardstanding pitches. The far side is set up for touring and pre-errected tents. These pitches backed onto a river and some road noise could be heard. They had little or no hedging seperating pitches and seemed to get little sun. There were many toilet blocks scattered around the site, all modern and seemingly well equiped though of course as we were staying in a static we didn't actually use any. Most of the static pitches were huge and well manicured. As the campsite is long and thin and we were at the furthest point we found the walk up to the main facilities and shop which are situated at the entrance a chore. We didn't use the restaurant so cant comment but the take away was good. We didn't go to the bar, being off season there was no entertainment on offer. The pools themselves are very attractive though we felt the temperature could have been a few degrees warmer. Didnt like the changing rooms, situated under the pool they were dark and grubby and I thought the steps up to the pool area dangerous as they were wet and slippery.
The site is beautiful, lots of open space and the lakes were beautiful though we were dissapointed to see how small the actual beach lake was. The other two lakes were popular with the fishermen and you can hire canoes and pedeloes by the beach cafe.
The site offers a bus to Disney (15 euros) and Paris (20 euros), which we didn't use although it was obviously popular as on those days the campsite was deserted. We drove ourselves to Disney which took about an hour and a half, it was a busy route but doable. We also visited Pierrefonds, Fort de Comte and the Armistice clearing. Lots and lots more things to do and see in the area which we hopefully will be able to do on a return visit in the near future.
This was only our second visit to a French campsite; the other being to Le Pin Parasol in the Vendee in August, and the two sites couldn't have been more different.
Firstly, this one is very much larger and although still classed by Eurocamp as medium, it feels large. Rightly, though, they do describe it as 'lively' rather than the previous campsite, which was considered 'peaceful', so that might cloud my judgement slightly.
First impressions weren't great. We found the campsite easily (it is signed in the village but Eurocamp sent good directions in any case) and on arrival, we saw big signs with the tour operators all listed, who have their receptions in different parts of the site. We drove past the back of the swimming pool complex and some rather dark, wet pitches and the overall impression was that everything was rather scruffy and tired. It didn't help that it had been raining so there was a lot of mud and full puddles everywhere.
Most of the UK tour operator pitches are centred on an area to the north of the far lake, and this area was much nicer with open, sunny pitches of a good size - you can park your car and still have space for a BBQ area and loungers etc. It was nice and safe for children as there were only 8 or so statics in each cul-de-sac and each was well set-back from the road with high hedges to the back and sides (although this didn't make the static feel dark) so you did have a fair amount of privacy.
We were only on a short stay so didn't use all the facilities. We were a bit disappointed that you had to pay for the bouncy castle and trampolines as the children wanted to use them but I didn't fancy forking out for 10 minutes bouncing. The play area was fine, although not overly exciting. We used the pools a few times. You approached through a dark and damp corridor and the changing area was a bit wet and muddy underfoot and I don't think I'd have wanted to have got changed there - it all looked it needed a revamp as my local swimming pool has better changing rooms! The pools themselves were a hit with the children, although again, didn't look very well looked-after as there was brown limescale down the swirly slide. There was a lifeguard there but some older children still insisted on mucking around and going down 5 together and nearly whacking you as you arrived at the bottom. I don't think I'd have spent long there relaxing with a book either as it was busy and noisy (even in term-time!).
The takeaway was fine - nothing special but handy to have on site and no more expensive than you'd expect. This area has plenty of shops though - lots of decent supermarkets and hypermarkets within easy reach. The on site shop was good too - although seemed to have erratic opening hours out of season (to be expected, I guess).
We spent a day in Paris, catching the train from Compiegne, which was fab and we also loved the Armistice Museum at Compiegne. Absolutely fascinating. The whole area was affected by both world wars and we would have liked to have spent more time exploring the area. The surrounding villages are charming.
Overall, I don't want to sound too negative as it's really just a matter of this site not being our cup of tea. We prefer somewhere smaller and quieter so only came for a short break because it was convenient for Paris (and was still open in October). However, we did think overall the site looked a bit tired and scruffy and because of the number of operators, it lacked the family and personal touch of some other sites. That said, it seems to be very popular so I suspect this is just our personal opinion. I should say that we would consider visiting again if we wanted to explore the area further.
La Croix du Vieux Pont should undoubtedly please you. This particular area of Picardy however may not offer the facilities often found in a more commercial area (such as a coastal location).
If you're planning to spend the days recharging your well drained professional batteries, you will. If you plan to spend your days running around 'tack shops' or moving from pub to pub then forget it.
So, what are the positives? First the site is only a 3 hour drive from Calais, and as usual, driving in France is a dream. (No motorway middle lane hoggers - The French understand that lanes 2 and 3 are for overtaking!). Second, the site (despite other reviews on other review sites) is NOT hard to find. Yes we had sat nav, but once you've found your way to Berny Riviere, via either Compiegne (to the West) or Soissons (to the East), there are ample signposts. Third, the site is largish, but very well laid out for both the pre-booked Keycamp/Canvas/Eurocampers and the independant Caravaners and Campers (of which we are).
Facilities overall are first class, and compared with some other sites we've stayed at - outstanding. If I had one minor quibble, it would only be that the toilet block closest to our pitch was a fairly lenghty walk, and if you've downed a bottle of wine or two in the evening, then a walk to them at 3. 00am can be a bit daunting as the lighting situation is not fantastic.
I should point out that other reviews have mentioned the 'average' and 'unclean' toilets. Allow me to expand. If parents of children who are barely potty trained allow them to use the facilities unsupervised, then seats covered in 'pee' or 'poo' are to be expected. Don't blame the site, blame those who have little or no responsibility. Moreover, it would appear to me that there are 'adults' who also have an inability to carry out the most basic of functions in a manner more akin to family pets.
With regard to the shops/restaurants/burger bar etc, yes they are more exensive than those found in the local towns. However, your local corner shop is generally more expensive than Tesco or Asda.
As to the restaurant, we ate here only on the one occassion, but I would again suggest that a few basic steps. Step 1: Your in France, why should the staff speak English? Step 2: The food is French, if you want Steak & Kidney Pie and Chips stay at home or go the Benidorm. Our meal was excellent, the service was first class, and l'addition very, very reasonable. The only thing that spoiled the meal was the hoards of Brit's who looked (for looked substitute stared continually) on in disbelief as we tucked into our Cuisse de Grenouille and L'Esgargot, as they devourded their 'Fish and Chips'. - May I also add that the art of pointing to a ring doughnut with one hand, and making a gesture with a pointed finger on the other hand, a-la Matt Lucas in Little Britain (look into my eye, not around my eye, into my eye) and thundering the words 'Two of those' is not in any phrasebook that I've ever read!
Pools - yes, there are, and yes they were incredibly busy. Lakes, three, one swimming (paddling), one fishing, and one for the ducks and canoists. And other facilities in various locations all combine to make this site well above the average.
Outside of the camp, the small villages of Vic Sur Aisne, and Fourtenay are within walking distance, as is Berny Riviere. However, it is worth making a trip to Soissons, or even Compiegne for a more particular shopping trip.
Again the main stores in France stand head and shoulders above those found at home, with massess of fresh fruit, veg, fish, meat etc. As oppossed to the pre-packed plastic products found in the UK.
Will we visit again? - maybe in the future as we generally like to move around from year to year. Would we visit again? Absolutely - when the time comes.
On a final note, if you leave the site and turn right towards the town of Soissons, as you join the main N31, approx. 500 meters on the right is the little mentioned 'Auberge Saint Martin', a small, but gem of a Les Routiers restaurant. If you are 'French' enough to eat here, I can wholly and thoroughly recommend sampling the delights of the menu. But NO Pie and Chips! A superb four course meal, with wine (and other alcohol beverages) for four people, for less than £80. 00. Oh, the staff don't speak English - but there again why should they?
We drove to La Croix du Vieux Pont from Dunkirk with our touring caravan and the easy journey took us just about 4 hours using the A26 and A1 motorways with a couple of leg stretch stops on the way.
We arrived at Reception and were shown to our pitch by a young lady on a golf cart. We were allocated a pitch on Alle des Pommieres right next to a childrenís play area and the bakery, shop and reception.
The street was quite narrow and it was a struggle to manoeuvre our twin axle caravan onto the pitch but the lady asked our neighbours to move their cars to give us more room and a few people came and helped us to push it into place.
There had been a bit of rain before we arrived and the people who had used the pitch before us had put cardboard down over a muddy patch on the grass. The cardboard had gone soggy and mushy so the lady sent for a maintenance man who picked it all up and threw it away before we pitched. She even went round the pitch picking up bits of rubbish that the previous occupants had left behind.
We had taken our direct water feed kit but we couldnít use it because the threads on the tap had corroded away and our hose couldnít connect to it. Reception did say that they would get it fixed but that didnít materialise, certainly not in the fortnight we were there. Luckily though we had our Aquaroll as well so it didnít really matter too much but it is worth bearing in mind if you are planning on using a direct feed.
Once we were settled and the awning was up we could appreciate what a lovely pitch it was and how well located it was for all the amenities. The street we were on had about 10 plots on both sides of the road. Our side of the road was all tent, motorhome and caravan plots and across the road were pre-erected tents owned by Canvas Holidays and Eurocamp. The plots were all defined with their own hedged gardens and there was even a gap in the hedge at the back of the plot so that the childrenís playground could be accessed easily.
There was a selection of shower/toilet blocks for us to choose from in close proximity and they were all pretty much the same. The blocks close to us seemed fairly old but clean with plenty of hot water (although the pressure was a bit weak).
There were 5 showers in the block closest to us (behind reception) but two of them were out of order for all but the first two days of our holiday. Having said that, there was never a queue to use them.
The showers are the push button type and it is also worth noting that the lights donít come on until you have closed the door and locked it. It took a few minutes of head scratching and feeling around the walls and looking behind doors to work that one out.
There are washing machines and dryers available around the site and you buy tokens from Reception for 4 euros for a wash and 3 euros for the dryer. There are no irons available in the laundry rooms so take a travel one if you need one.
The swimming pools were like kid soup during the two weeks we were there but it was to be expected because it was peak French holiday fortnight and the site was completely full. I only ventured in twice but our kids were in there every day on the slides and the lazy river.
There were lifeguards on duty but it was all pretty relaxed compared to some places we have been where the lifeguards blow their whistles at you if you breathe. There were a lot of balls flying around and the noise was horrendous so although there were loungers around the pool I canít imagine it was very relaxing for the people lying on them. We just used the pool to swim in and used our own garden for relaxing.
The bakery and shop opened at 7. 30am and closed at 7. 30pm and I used to buy a lovely litre bottle of white wine for 2. 46 euros. The baguettes were 85 cents and not the hard, crusty things you get in supermarkets over here. They made their own pain au chocolat, croissants and doughnuts as well as loaves.
We didnít eat in the restaurant but we did have pizzas from the take-away on the day we arrived and we had kebabs another night which were so big that one would easily do for two people. The take-away wasnít cheap but we enjoyed what we had.
The kids went on the pedalos and the canoes, trampolines, bouncy castle and the ping pong tables. You could buy table tennis bats and balls from the kiosk for a few euros. The beach was nice to sunbathe at for a change of scenery.
There is a large grassed area to lie on and it never felt crowded. Some of the caravan touring pitches were located around the lake and they looked very nice but not separated in any way so they didnít have the same privacy that we had on ours.
We had a walk around the Le Parc area and were so pleased that we took advice before we booked and asked not to be allocated a pitch there. Some of the pitches were muddy and dark and there was what I could only describe as a stagnant ditch of water running through it that didnít smell too fresh. There was also some sort of derelict outbuilding that smelt of urine and damp.
Offsite we used the Cora supermarket at Soissons, a 20 minute drive away and the Intermarche on the main road going out towards Compiegne, again about a 20 minute drive away. There was also a small Intermarche in Vic sur Aisne 5 minutes away from the site but it didnít have as much choice as the others.
We ate at Chez Michelin a couple of times and we booked our table the day before to make sure we werenít turned away. It was exactly a mile from the site main entrance and took about 20-25 minutes to stroll there. If you use the site exit located near the lakes it cuts a little bit of distance off the walk.
The restaurant itself reminded us of Allo Allo with a little bar at the front and a few tables in a room at the back then through the back doors there was a little patio area with a few more tables. Both nights we ate there were hot evenings and the indoor restaurant was full of flies so we opted to eat on the patio which was full of wasps.
The food was nice enough but donít expect everyoneís meals to arrive at the same time if there are more than a handful of people in the restaurant and donít forget that you must order your vegetables separately.
We took the site bus to Paris and thought it was excellent value at 75 euros for 3 adults and one child. They drop you off about a 10 minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe and you get about 10 hours to explore Paris. We bought open top bus tickets and used it to hop on and off at all the attractions.
We used our free Sky TV tickets for Disney on another day but we went there under our own steam rather than using the site bus as we wanted to see the grand finale at 11pm. It was very easy to find using the sat-nav. When you get back to the site late at night there are some barriers up so you have to park on the car park behind reception then collect your car the next day when they move the barriers.
We visited the Armistice Clearing near Compiegne a 30 minute drive away and saw where the armistice was signed which ended the First World war and where the French capitulated in the second world war.
There is a little museum there and they have mocked up the interior of Fochís railway carriage and the exhibits are all in French so make sure you take a dictionary if you need to translate.
There isnít much to see but it was a very moving experience. Whilst out and about we visited a couple of First World War cemeteries and again it was very emotional. The area is where the trench fighting was between the French and the Germans so every village has a war cemetery.
Another lovely place was Pierrefonds. It is about 30 minutes to get there and it was breathtakingly beautiful. They have a little train that goes around the town and takes you up to the chateau entrance where you can get off or stay on the train to go back down to the town square.
There isnít much to see inside the chateau but the outside more than makes up for it. As you approach it there is a bend in the road then all of a sudden it is there up on the hill in front of you. I defy anyone not to say ďWowĒ when they clap eyes on it for the first time.
All in all we had a fantastic first holiday in France and came back hungry for more. We would definitely visit the area and La Croix du Vieux Pont again but France is such a huge country and we canít help thinking that there is too much more to see to justify going back to the same place.
Stayed at this site for our first ever french 'camping' type holiday and must add as a first timer you cannot go far wrong here.
It was approx 2. 5 hours drive from Calais and fairly easy to find (once we sorted the satnav!), also signposted on the approach if you approach from the Soissons or Compiege ends.
We had booked via lifestyle in their 2 bed Amber which was no7 van, quite small even for a family of 3 but nipping clean so cant really complain. The vans location was opposite the go garts which to some would be disastrous but to us with a car mad 4 year old was great! (they close them off anyway around 8pm and don't usually open up till after 9am).
Facilities, you couldn't ask for more and is ideal for anyone with young children with go karts, trampolines, bouncy castle, parks, space to run around, 3 pools, pedaloes and crazy golf! What I must point out is other than park and pools you need to pay for everything and at 2 euro a pop on go carts/castle/trampoline it does soon mount up so beware! The cafe bar next to these sell a 'leisure card' which is actually worth getting as you get an extra few euro on it eg pay for a 20 euro card and it has 30 euro worth of stamps on it. We used all 3 pools and found them clean, 2 covered 1 open, however if you want a sun lounger around you have to get in early I think!
Reception was well stocked with information on local area and staff were very helpful and knowledgable. Trips 2x weekly to paris and DLP also, however we drove to DLP which was easy enough approx 1hr away and parked as per the helpful folk on here at disney village car park for 8 euros.
I would estimate approx 90% of those staying here were english with the balance being a mix of dutch and german families. We were fortunate enough to share our 'plot' with a lovely dutch family and I feel this added to the overall holiday.
Bakers and shop on site for morning pastries and bread, 2 restaurants (cant comment on as didn't use) and bars (pool and beach). During our stay they put on a fireworks display at the beach bar which was lovely, however music did go on till late that night and could be heard around site.
Intermarche is Vic Sur Aisne (2 minutes drive from site), or Cora hypermarket in Soissons (15 mins) which we tended to use.
Pierrefonds is well worth a visit, beautiful village and chateau, we sat by the lake and had crepes which were delicious. Also had a visit to the Armistice Clearing which is on route to Compiegne.
Would recommend for any first timers out there, and we would defo go back at some point.
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