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What is it? A summer trip to a European camping park village.

Where? San Vincenzo, on the coast in beautiful Tuscany, Italy.

Description: [millennium_master_bedroom.jpg]Tuscany is renowned for its stunning landscapes and tremendous views. Ross McGregor was so tempted he decided to brave it by visiting with 3 generations of his family to San Vincenzo in Tuscany to sample some of these delights and enjoy all it had to offer. So with an “Arrivederci” to the dreary British summer and “Buon giorno” to the Mediterranean sun (well it’s on the Ligurian Sea actually), would Italy be all it was cracked up to be?

Camping Parc Albatros is only just over 12 months old. It is ideal for all the family to enjoy a break in a mobile home. Or for the more adventurous amongst you, camping, and looking at the stars under canvas. On-site entertainment and a laid back feel to the holiday can be expected.

On site there is a large swimming pool complex with a lagoon style shallow pool that is great fun for the little ones, and a second deeper pool for general swimming. The beach is only a five minute walk from the camping park, which is across a road (that at times is quite busy) where you will be greeted with the gentle clear sea and shingly sand stretching along down the coastline. Table tennis, mini golf and bike hire is available on the campsite, and with the campsite being so big, a bike is really handy to get around much quicker. There is a free children’s club run by the tour operator, a games room with electronic video games and a children’s play area with swings, slides and roundabouts with safe sandy surroundings. During our stay there was an inflatable bouncy castle and slide & some ride-on toys, watched over by friendly assistants, Luke loved this. At €1 for half an hour, it was a bargain! Further afield, there are the cities of Pisa and Florence, and even Rome if you don’t mind a few hours’ travelling time & plenty of Tuscan villages to explore.

The on site open-air restaurant which serves typical Italian dishes was handy and good value, but had basic surroundings with plastic chairs & tables and sometimes slow service. The prices were not too high for Italy, with a three course meal around €30 per person. Occasionally there were pianists & cabaret entertainment in the restaurant. The nights really don’t get going until quite late, with the main evening entertainment on-site between 9.30pm until 11.30pm, again with an organized cabaret act put on by the campsite staff. The entertainment had a very European flavour to it!

The toddlers club, run by Canvas Holidays by the children’s courier closes during peak season, as they only have enough childcare staff for one kids club, which during school holidays needs to cater for the school-aged children. This was a real shame as it meant Luke (aged 3) only had the option of the main kids’ club which meant he also had to be accompanied by an adult & was sometimes a bit overwhelmed by the older kids. The kids’ clubs facilities for older children do look good though – more information on www.canvasholidays.co.uk

Local activities: Eating! Chilling out in the glorious sun and going to the beach. Touring the scenery in and around the area. Pisa is an hour’s drive away with the famous landmark of the leaning tower. The campsite is situated close to the small town of Populonia Alta which is a 10 minute drive away. It is a typical Tuscan hill-top village, rich in Etruscan history and offering stunning views over the Baratti Gulf. The popular resort of San Vincenzo is also a ten minute drive away, where you can find a supermarket and restaurants, as well as a wide, golden beach.

Wish we had known: That getting taxis or hiring cars would be so difficult for a large party. Booking car hire to pick up and drop off at the airport would have been easier as the taxis were very expensive – about L300 for 2 taxis from Pisa airport. In the end we managed to hire two cars towards the end of our stay which allowed us to be more independent for the last couple of days & also drive ourselves back to the airport.

Our top tip: Plan and allow for the siesta during the lunchtime/afternoon. Take a hat with you as the temperatures during the peak summer season can easily stay up in the forties. Obviously plenty of sun screen and be prepared for the food – it was lovely, so take an appetite.

Kids say: ‘Can I go on the bouncy castle and slide……again……please’ said Luke, not Ross!

Getting There: We flew into Pisa from John Lennon Airport, Liverpool. Flights are available with Ryanair, costing around L50 per person return. Flights from London Gatwick and London Stansted are also available. If you prefer you could catch the Eurostar from London to Paris then the overnight sleeper train from Paris to Florence. Although this is not too expensive option, it does take quite a while. Canvas Holidays include a ferry in their prices, however driving to Italy wasn’t an option for us with a toddler (& 2 grandparents!). Book www.canvasholidays.co.uk/etk to take advantage of the members’ offer for www.entertainthekids.com, an extra 5% discount.

About our stay: It was my first trip to Italy and I would definitely go again. The combination of the food, the sun, the women & their style (Kirsty says the men are pretty good too!) and in our case, we had the Tuscan countryside, the gorgeous coastline & some mind-blowing cities on our doorstep too! The first few days were spent getting our bearings on the huge campsite, taking dips in the pool and generally relaxing in the sun, settling into the European way of life. Although, if you’re used to staying in swanky hotels or luxury villas, be prepared that mobile homes (aka static caravans!) are not quite on the same scale. [kids_activities.jpg] The dust inevitably meant that the caravans weren’t sparkling clean, something which my Mum couldn’t really cope with. On changeover days they are cleaned by the holiday company’s on-site couriers who really tried to do their best, but realistically their job descriptions are far too demanding, for the number of staff and the hours they have available. But with an en-suite master bedroom, another 2 bedrooms (albeit with small beds!) and another small WC & shower-room, a dining area, kitchen & living space – and a balcony with table, chairs & parasol, there was plenty of space for all of us – as long as we didn’t get any rain! Canvas Holidays also provide each caravan with a BBQ, but it didn’t look like it had been cleaned for a year, so we gave that a miss. Anyhow, without a car to get out and about to explore the area, Kirsty started to get cabin fever after a while. Kirsty, Gregg and I took the train from San Vincenzo to Florence to have a day’s sightseeing in the city, whilst Nanna & Grandad looked after Luke. The train going there was quite old and battered but on the way back we boarded a new two storey beast, very impressive, but thankfully both were air conditioned – and on time! After the two and a half journey to Florence we realized we didn’t actually have much time to spend there & as the temperature was over 40°C we darted for the city sightseeing tour bus parked outside the train station. If you want to go into the art galleries & museums in Florence, you’d be well advised to book your entrance ticket & time slot in advance. You could easily spend a week in Florence itself. The open top bus tour was about an hour’s journey around the city taking in the sights and sounds of our guide, and gazing open-mouthed at the amazing architecture, then a ten minute drive high up into the hills. The views were spectacular with plenty of photo opportunities. But the taxi journey back from the station at San Vincenzo to the campsite was something else! Like a scene out of a movie, driving down the country lanes in the middle of the carriageway, at over 60mph dodging oncoming vehicles – it was no time for the faint hearted. I think we all kept our eyes closed. Franco told us he used to drive ‘for the police’ – we didn’t like to ask too many questions![the_famous_leaning_tower.jpg] When we finally acquired our hire cars, we also took another city sightseeing tour bus (this time with all 3 generations in tow) around Pisa and marvelled at the huge leaning tower. We went into the church next to the tower in the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), and it absolutely blew me away. I hadn’t seen art on this scale before, and it was definitely on a grand scale. The detail in the work was just brilliant and imagining the hours it took to develop such a piece was a feat in itself. All in all a great break, and it was a nice change to lull into the European way of life. The only disappointment was there wasn’t a toddlers club for Luke. But he enjoyed it, telling the cabin crew all about his trip on the plane journey home. European camping holidays are a fantastic, great value way to spend family time in the sun in a much more relaxed environment than perhaps some hotels would allow. [Ross McGregor is brother and business partner to Kirsty McGregor, Uncle to Luke and Chief Information Officer for entertainthekids.com.]

Created: 2007-10-23 22:42:11.490

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