What is it? A week in a mobile home with Canvas Holidays in the four-star, family-run Sologne Parc des Alicourts campsite.

Where? Right outside the village of Pierrefitte-sur-Sauldre in the Loir-et-Cher Valley in Loire, France.

Description: If a sprawling mobile home parc sounds like your own private holiday hell, think again. As Wendy Sloane found when she took her husband and three daughters to the large Sologne Parc des Alicourts, a well-run parc with good facilities and caring staff can be holiday heaven… [canvas.jpg]

To visit a large and incredibly well-run French parc, which surprisingly was filled predominantly with friendly Dutch tourists, with a few British and French people thrown in.

The Sologne Parc des Alicourts has an enormous lake with sandy beach, fully-equipped luxury spa (see below), and indoor and outdoor pools. There are several playgrounds, mini-golf, table tennis and a host of other activities, from golf to pony rides, plus kids’ clubs and regular nightly entertainment.

We enjoyed a few evening shows, which were rather amateurish and therefore fun. We especially liked the Voyage Show, which took us on a whirlwind tour to “countries” such as Hawaii and Africa.

The Hoopi’s kids’ club is available for children aged four and up, and all three of mine had a ball – two hours every morning and two in the afternoon. Price is inclusive, and it gave us a bit of time to read uninterruptedly. You are advised to stay on-site and accessible while the kids are in the club.

The Parc des Alicourts has a state-of-the-art spa with a big variety of treatments on offer. Children are allowed in the spa’s indoor swimming pool area for a few hours in the afternoon (see below), but the jets are turned off for safety reasons.

Local activities: We spent several days visiting nearby villages such as Loches and Richilieu, which are astoundingly beautiful and not well-known to tourists. We also loved just driving though the countryside, admiring the gargantuan sunflowers and enormous bales of hay dotting the tiny fields. The kids adored our trip to the ZooParc de Beauval (www.zoobeauval.com), which has more than 4,000 animals, including the rare White Lion and White Tiger, as well as a cute baby anteater on display behind glass. Pricey but nice – picnics not allowed so we brought one in anyway and ate discreetly.

Wish we had known: That WiFi would be so expensive – and that the reception is generally bad. If you are desperate to check your e-mails, you can pay about 10 Euros for an hour on their lobby computers. The lobby also has a (free) lending library, with both children’s and adult books in French, English and Dutch.

Our top tip: If the weather is bad take the kids with you to the spa – the price is actually cheaper if you are accompanied by a child. Few people seem to realise that kids are allowed, so we took them in one rainy afternoon and the place was practically empty. As the outdoor pool was a bit too cold for Tilly’s liking, she greatly enjoyed being in the warmer water. Ask for kids’ opening hours, which can vary.

Kids say: “I loved this place a lot because of everything,” said Clementine, four. “Can’t we watch another show?” asked nine-year-old Josie.

Getting There: Bookings for those arriving 17th May 2010 for 7 nights in a Maxi Tent at Sologne Parc des Alicourts, including a midweek return Dover to Calais ferry crossing for two adults and up to three children, is L196. Prices valid for bookings made before 25th September 2009. Mobile home bookings will cost more.

About our stay: Driving through the rows and rows of varied-looking tents lining either side of the winding gravel roads, we scoured the area for signs of our own pitch. “Ah, this is what they mean when they say Canvas Holidays,” I remarked to husband Duncan, looking at the coarse fabric doors flapping in the breeze. “Those tents look fab.” And fab they were, from basic two-person pup tents to enormous eight-person tents that were fully equipped with kitchen facilities and, in some cases, gargantuan satellite TV dishes. We, however, pulled up to our own pitch to find not a tent waiting for us, but a mobile home. In fact, it would be the third mobile home – no, really – that we had stayed in over the past three weeks. “So no canvas for us then,” I said as we began to disconsolately collect our things from the boot of the car, picking off some dried sweets that were stuck to the back of a dirty pillow and collecting a trio of (thankfully unused) sick bags. “Look kids, another mobile home! What fun!” But were our little angels disappointed? Mais non! Our experienced travellers, aged 4, 7 and 9, were quickly getting used to mobile home living, and were beginning to like it. Love it, even. And, as we were quickly learning, the most interesting thing about mobile home living is that no mobile home – or mobile home parc – is the same, even if they are in the same country or even, errm, the same valley. The Sologne Parc des Alicourts is a family-run site in the Loire Valley, the second one we had visited there, and is certainly the biggest one we had ever seen. It was run with military precision and was clean and orderly, filled predominantly with polite, well-mannered Dutch tourists who went to bed early, drank almost no alcohol and talked only in hushed voices after sundown. It would be difficult to imagine a parc of this size being so well-organised and tranquil were it to be crammed with British tourists, but there you have it. Our children loved the kid’s club, the pool with its many water slides and large wave-making machine, and the beautiful mad-made lake. Best of all, they adored a small hammock some kind tourist before us had considerately left near our pitch, tied between a tree and a lamppost. They set up their own camp there, with a picnic blanket, some books and a stuffed teddy and Moomin Troll. Come all this way and the one thing that makes the kids happy is a piece of old netting. [canvas_lake.jpg] Our week in parc passed without incident, although one night it was so hot all of us found it impossible to sleep, feeling like we were roasting away in a sardine tin that had been left to bake in the sun. Josie in particular found in tough going, as her bed was a bunk near the ceiling. Our mobile home was sparkling clean and even had two toilets, but the fact that our neighbours across the way had air conditioning made our own situation that much more difficult to bear. Still, we were able to improve upon not only our table tennis, swimming and barbecuing skills, but also get six nights’ fantastic sleep with nary a lager lout within earshot, which isn’t bad. And while we didn’t allow the children to take the hammock back home with them, at least they have happy memories of their little home away from home. [hammock.jpg] Would we come back? Definitely. But were we to visit again in summer, we’d bring along a Dutch dictionary – and two large electric fans… (Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She divides her time between writing, travelling and taking care of her three young daughters.)

Created: 2009-09-10 12:09:30.463

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