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Fired Up at Fierbois

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What is it? A week in a mobile home at Keycamp’s Parc de Fierbois.

Where? Near Tours in the Loire Valley, France, right outside the tiny village of St Catherine le Fierbois.

Description: Can a mobile home “parc” deep inside rural France provide enough entertainment to keep three small children happy for a week? “Mais oui,” says Wendy Sloane, who took her three daughters to the Loire Valley and had a surprisingly good time…[keycamp.jpg]

To enjoy time with the children at a parc that has great facilities, including 250 acres of woodland, a lake replete with sandy beach, indoor and outside swimming pools and all-inclusive kid’s clubs.

Our kids loved the kid’s club, where they played water games, did loads of art projects, went on treasure hunts etc. We spent a lot of time in both the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and the lake, which has a sandy beach, as well as the playground. Older kids can play beach volleyball, basketball, football, tennis, and do archery, boules, badminton etc, and take advantage of the adventure park zip-wire, which goes over the lake. Cycles are also available for hire, as are go-karts and Rosalies, or family cycles, and pedaloes. See also Local Activities, below.

Unlike similar parcs there seemed to be no evening entertainment designed for children our age, which we didn’t mind a bit. We spent most evenings having a barbecue on our excellent deck and enjoying the weather – and the cheap supermarket wine.

The kid’s clubs are great, and offer two hours of free childcare in the morning and two in the afternoon. The girls who work there will also baby-sit in the evenings for six Euros an hour. All are CRB-checked and our girls seemed to really get on with them well.

No real pampering facilities are available here, but if you ask at reception they can certainly recommend something in the area. If you want a salt bath, head for the beach…

Local activities: This area is full of things to see and do. We spent a day visiting Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, or the Chateau d’Usse (see www.chateaudusse.fr), which gave inspiration to the fairy tale and boasts several rooms depicting scenes from the book. Clementine was in four-year-old princess heaven, but seven-year-old Tilly preferred the Grottes Petrifiantes de Savonnieres, less than a mile from Villandry, which provides guided tour of petrified grottoes (see www.grottes-savonnieres.com). Josie, nine, had a great day at La Recreation, a former farm that has been converted into a play park where everything is made from recycled materials. Ride in an old bathtub or shopping trolley, and bring a swimming costume for the water slides. Picnic a must as only coffee and ice creams are on sale. Drive to La Petit Netilly, about 20 minutes away (see www.tourism-touraine.com/recreation).

Wish we had known: That the only restaurant in the neighbouring village requires advance bookings. We arrived with three ravenous children at the Auberge Jeanne d’Arc and were rather rudely told to go away. Needless to say, we did – and we didn’t come back! We ate instead inside the parc, and while the food wasn’t fantastic it was more than adequate and the service was ultra-friendly.

Our top tip: The French are French, and unlike the more safety-conscious English are not overly worried about worst-case scenarios, or, it seems, the possibility of being sued. The indoor pool is on one side of the lake and neither it nor the lake has any lifeguards, life preservers, alarm or even a call box. We watched one small unattended boy crack his head on the side of the pool (thanks to his unruly friends) then run screaming looking for help, which was at least five minutes away. Others complained that a floating wooden dock in the middle of the lake had several large nails protruding from it, and that they had watched a handful of children cut their feet on them.

Kids say: “I liked swimming in the lake,” says Clementine, four. “The go-karts were fantastic,” adds Josie, nine. Adds seven-year-old Tilly: “I wish I knew how to steer!”

Getting There: Keycamp offers self-catering holidays to more than a hundred parcs across nine European countries, plus the USA, Canada and, most recently nine parcs in the UK. Each has wide-ranging facilities and a choice of mobile home, chalet or Supertent accommodation. A seven-night break at half term in May 2010 for a family of two adults and up to four children, staying in a two bedroom Villanova mobile home with decking at Keycamp’s Parc de Fierbois, costs from L430, including return Dover to Calais ferry crossings. This price includes an early booking discount of L71, available on holidays booked before 30 September. The same holiday in August will cost from L547, including an early booking discount of L35. Fly-drive packages are available through Keycamp at a supplement. For the latest deals, further information or to make a booking, visit www.keycamp.co.uk or call 0844 406 0319.

About our stay: I admit it, I’m a bit of a snob. And my husband Duncan is an inverted snob, although he won’t admit to that unless he’s very, very drunk (on expensive Champagne, of course). So when we received an invitation to sample yet another French mobile home parc – that would be our second in two weeks – we had mixed feelings. Surprisingly, when we arrived at Keycamp’s Parc de Fierbois we were both pleasantly impressed. The parc is located on 250 acres of woodland next to a beautiful private estate, accessible only through the picturesque fairytale village of St Catherine de Fierbois. The parc is large but not too large, with a gorgeous lake at one end – complete with a man-made sandy beach – and fantastic facilities. Although our mobile home was a bit smaller than the one we had stayed in the previous week, it was in a beautiful area near the lake shaded by tall trees and had a large wooden deck, replete with barbecue and umbrella (although be warned: some of mobile homes are in newly planted areas, and have virtually no shade whatsoever). We were conveniently just a hop, skip and jump away from the pools, the lake, the playground, the shop, the restaurants and bar. What more could a family want? [castle.jpg] Our children loved the kid’s club, where all three of them – aged 4, 7 and 9 – attended the same sessions and made fast friends with both the group leaders and the other children. When they got a bit restless we hopped in the car and took in some local sights (see above). Clementine, the youngest, was entranced with the Chateau D’Usse, the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty, while all three adored visiting a grotto of petrified caves to learn how dead animals can turn to stone within a matter of months (who wouldn’t?). [lake.jpg] Back at camp, we kept ourselves busy with daily activities of swimming, lake walks and long games of Rummikub and Uno. I also got to read several novels (a bonus) and Duncan came to terms with grilling delicious French sausages on the barbecue. We even made some new (adult) friends and invited them over to dine on our deck, where together we consumed conspicuous amounts of cheap supermarket wine that came in a plastic bottle (but didn’t taste like it did). In fact, most of our grub came from the hyper-markets outside the parc as the on-site shop was quite pricey – think L1.50 for a Kit-Kat – although this being France the baguettes sold there were cheap and warm from the oven. The shop is also conveniently closed for two hours during lunch time, like most markets in France, so advance planning is a must. All in all we had a good week, and left with our snobbery slightly tarnished, vowing to come back and sample a mobile home park again. The children had enjoyed an incredibly busy time participating in a variety of activities, I had managed to get some much-needed rest and Duncan was able to improve his culinary skills (or at least his grilling acumen), although with the British weather we won’t be firing up the barbie too often back at home. A win-win situation for everyone! (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 11:37:18.793

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