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Review of Eurocamp at La Pointe St-Gilles in Brittany, France

Reviews
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Posted by Richard Hammond at 12:07 on Tuesday 07 March 2017

Richard Hammond and family try out Eurocamp’s pre-assembled camping experience at La Pointe St-Gilles in Brittany

On board the ferry, photo: Richard HammondOn board the ferry, photo: Richard HammondGoing on your first Eurocamp experience feels a bit like joining a club. Mention it to friends and some will never have heard of it while others will nod knowingly and tell you that they go on Eurocamp’s outdoor holidays every year, or have fond memories of childhood holidays with the company.

Eurocamp doesn’t run campsites (or parcs, as it calls them) itself. Instead it pairs holidaymakers with over 180 parcs across Europe that offer pre-assembled tents, lodges or mobile homes (and, more often than not, kids clubs and activities for guests to tap into while they’re there) – and installs its own, seasonal, staff at them to manage guests’ experiences. Decide on your parc and preferred style of accommodation then either book accommodation-only or buy a package that includes ferry or Eurotunnel tickets (many parcs are also easily accessed by train, though if you travel by train you’ll need to book your rail tickets independently).

Benodet main promenade photo: EurocampBenodet main promenade photo: EurocampFor our first family Eurocamp holiday we chose La Pointe St-Gilles, a medium-sized (450-pitch) parc just outside the small town of Bénodet, on Brittany’s southern coast. Open from April to October it offers a wide range of facilities and activities and, we felt, would give us a fairly typical flavour of the Eurocamp experience. Also, at only 90 minutes’ drive from the ferry port at Roscoff, we could leave our house in the early morning, catch a daytime sailing with Brittany Ferries from Plymouth and reach the parc at La Pointe St-Gilles by teatime – as stress-free a journey as possible with young children, with the added excitement of a ferry ride (and a chance to escape the car) in the middle.

Before you go
Various extras can be pre-booked, from favourite pitches on a particular site to welcome packs for the kitchen (dishcloths, bin bags, washing up liquid…), larder (coffee, tea, wine, crisps…) and bathroom (shower gel, soap…). Unless you’re booking a top-of-the-range mobile home bedlinen isn’t provided at most sites so one of the most useful add-ons is linen hire. This costs from £12.50 for a single bed so many guests prefer to take their own bedding or pack sleeping bags but unlike more seasoned Eurocampers (who all seemed to have a roof box and bike rack) we found this a useful way to save space in the car. If you have babies or toddlers in tow you can cut down even further by hiring a range of specialist equipment, from travel cots, high chairs and potties to bed rails and buggies. Bikes can also be hired once you’re on site.

Inside, our mobile home was equipped much as any basic self-catering cottage would be. All the essentials were covered – including cutlery, crockery and pans - but don’t expect champagne flutes, spiralisers or Nespresso machines; if there’s something you can’t live without, take your own. With young children we were glad we’d taken plastic crockery and cutlery with us but otherwise managed well with what was there. If you’re a first-timer, forums on sites like Mumsnet and Tripadvisor can be very informative for tips on what other Eurocampers pack when they go.

If you’re driving, don’t forget to check the rules of the road in the country you’re heading to before you leave. For France this meant making sure we’d packed a warning triangle, reflective jackets and headlight deflectors but also being aware of differences in traffic laws - that it’s illegal to use a hands-free phone when driving in France, for instance.

And, while this may sound obvious, if you’re taking an overnight ferry it’s well worth packing an overnight bag so you don’t have to unload the whole car until you reach the parc. This is also worth bearing in mind if you’re planning to break your journey; there are no fixed arrival or departure days with Eurocamp and no minimum stay so many holidaymakers make the journey to their chosen parc a road trip, avoiding an extremely long drive at the start and end of their holiday by stopping off at another parc for a night or two along the way.

Classic Mobile Home photo: EurocampClassic Mobile Home photo: EurocampThe accommodation
This varies widely from camp to camp. Some are small sites with safari tents only. A few just have wooden lodges. Most, however, have a range of accommodation to choose from, starting with empty pitches for those who want to take their own tent, caravan or campervan (these can be booked via a sister site – Eurocamp Independent) and running right through the spectrum from standard tents (pre-erected with basic beds, hanging storage, kitchen equipment and outdoor furniture) and safari tents (similar to the standard tents but with everything stepped up a gear – more space, wooden decking, Victorian-style brass beds, wooden garden furniture…) to two- or three-bedroom mobile homes in a choice of seven different levels of luxury, and style.

La Pointe St-Gilles offers almost all of those, with a choice of five of the mobile homes in two- and three-bedroom options (including a version that’s adapted for wheelchair-users) plus standard tents, safari tents and the Eurocamp Independent option.

Having been on a family camping holiday in a tent the previous summer, where we’d spent a lot of time anxiously trying to keep toddlers away from easily reachable gas stoves and storage boxes packed with knives and matches, we decided to play it safe this year and opt for a mobile home so we could put anything we needed to out of reach of small fingers.

Petit Train, photo: EurocampPetit Train, photo: EurocampOurs was a Classic model, the most basic two-bedroom mobile home, and it worked well for our family of four. We had more storage than we needed in the double bedroom and just enough in the kitchen/ dining area. A second bedroom had bunk beds plus a pull-out bed (which we used instead of the top bunk for our still-too-young-for-top-bunks boys) and there was a small shower room and toilet. If it had rained all week we might have felt a little cramped as there was only a small area of clear floor space inside the home but the most basic homes are really just designed for eating and sleeping. For hanging out each one comes with a private deck (with a second dining table that we used much more than the internal one) and a small lawn area – plus access to the parc’s wider facilities, of course. If you plan on spending more time in and around the mobile home, you might want to upgrade to one of the larger models.

Another factor in our decision to go with a mobile home rather than a tent was that, having not been to a 450-pitch parc before, we wondered how noisy it might be at night. In fact we needn’t have worried about this as everyone around us scrupulously obeyed the parc’s noise notices: at 9.55pm there would be raucous chatter around the embers of evening barbecues but at 10pm it fell silent, every night. Our position might also have been a factor in this. Some guests might prefer to be as close to the central facilities as possible but we were pleased to be sited on a leafy avenue on the outer edges of the parc, well away from the potential noise of a disco or other evening entertainment.

Outdoor pool, Le Pointe photo: EurocampOutdoor pool, Le Pointe photo: EurocampThe facilities
Like most parcs of its size, La Pointe St-Gilles has plenty of on-site facilities. Our week in Brittany was on the cool side and, as the parc’s outdoor pool wasn’t very warm and our two boys are still dipping rather than properly swimming, we spent more time on the slides at the smaller indoor pool. Also a hit was the children’s playpark, with its smart, modern swings, slides and climbing frames. And, while our children were too young for the kids’ clubs, we spent a happy few afternoons at the parc’s Mini Fun Station, on a field just off-site, helping ourselves to its games, books, toys and soft play equipment.

Play Park on the Site, photo: EurocampPlay Park on the Site, photo: EurocampThere are some additional activities guests can sign up for, including free swimming and cycling sessions for toddlers. Our boys spent a couple of afternoons with Eurocamp cycling teacher, Eleanor Vanstone, practising their balance bike skills. While our older son was already a confident cyclist he arguably got more out of this as he had the concentration skills to listen to Eleanor and pick up some tips. Our younger son enjoyed the bike-based games involving picking up coloured cones but, at nearly three, wasn’t so good at keeping still to listen to Eleanor's thorough instructions. But both of them loved borrowing the bikes after the sessions and hurtling off around the grass on them.

Cycling tips from Eleanor Vanstone. Photo: Greentraveller/Richard HammondCycling tips from Eleanor Vanstone. Photo: Greentraveller/Richard HammondAdults, meanwhile, can book in for a massage, a sauna or a dip in a sleek (and child-free!) pool at the parc’s modern spa. Access is separate to the parc and treatments are booked and paid for directly with the spa.

On a more practical level, the parc also has a well-equipped coin-operated laundry room for mid-holiday clothes washing. And just one note of warning: we found the advertised wifi exasperatingly slow and unreliable. This was a paid-for extra yet it was so slow that, after a couple of days of basic webpages not loading, we gave up on it altogether. If you want to watch children’s TV programmes or films, definitely go armed with a pre-loaded tablet or DVD player (unsurprisingly there are no TVs in the mobile homes) and, if you need to check emails while you’re away, we recommend making your own (alternative) wifi arrangements before you go.

Fouesnant Market photo: Richard HammondFouesnant Market photo: Richard HammondThe food and drink
La Pointe St-Gilles has a restaurant, snack bar and bar beside the pool area but with young children we made the most of fabulous local markets (our favourite was the small organic one in Fouesnant on Saturday mornings, for home-baked bread, cheeses, made-to-order pizzas and sweet little strawberries) and supermarkets and did our own cooking.

We also ventured to the parc’s minimarket for freshly baked croissants and baguettes on some mornings. And did a good taste test of the local creperies over the week. Our favourites were La Crêperie de Benodet down by Eglise Saint-Thomas-Becket (order a goats cheese, fig and walnut version and little ceramic cups of Breton cider to go with it) and Crêperie de l’Abri, a stylish little spot five minutes from the same church, by ferry across the Odet river (€2 per adult), in picture-perfect Sainte-Marine (don’t miss the apple and salted caramel or pear and dark chocolate here).

Our favourite beach photo: Richard HammondOur favourite beach photo: Richard HammondThe local area
One of the reasons we chose La Pointe St-Gilles was because of its facilities yet we used them less than we expected to. Mainly this was because we discovered a gorgeously quiet, scenic and sheltered beach at the far end of Benodet and tended to veer towards it on most days (there is also a small beach directly below the parc and a much larger, busier, one stretching all the way along the seaside in the centre of Benodet, the latter with a handy Mickey Mouse kids club in high summer: pay a few euros and children can play on its trampolines, zip wire and wendy houses on the beach).

Getting to our favourite beach meant a 30-minute walk: 20 minutes around the pretty, rocky headland to the town’s main beach then another 10 minutes round the Pointe du Coq to the Corniche de l’Estuaire and its string of little beaches. Finding our preferred spot we would sit in the sunshine looking out across the sailing boats of the Odet river to the wooded shores of Sainte-Marine and Mouger on the opposite bank while the boys played on the sand.

Petit Train tour, photo: EurocampPetit Train tour, photo: EurocampFrom here it was a five-minute walk to the Crêperie de Benodet – or about half that to the terminus for the town’s Petit Train, a little tourist train that ran from here right back to La Pointe St-Gilles – a fun, and much appreciated, way to get back to the parc at the end of the day without driving (or, if we were feeling lazy, to get to the beach too; tickets cost around €5 return for adults, free for under-fives).

Further afield, the parc is within easy day-tripping distance of many pretty Breton towns and villages, from the artists’ town of Pont Aven to Quimper with its 13th-century cathedral. Boat rides along the Odet river and the Glenan archipelago are also popular (dolphins can sometimes be spotted around the latter).

The Odet River, photo: Richard HammondThe Odet River, photo: Richard HammondThe green
La Pointe St-Gilles has been awarded a green key label for its efforts towards sustainability. The parc’s energy- and water-saving initiatives include generating some of its electricity via solar panels, installing motion-sensitive lights and taps in the central toilet block and providing clothes horses at all mobile homes to encourage air-drying (rather than tumble-drying) washing. Many kinds of waste packaging can be recycled at the large recycling area opposite the car park. The site is reachable by public transport (see below) and served by a tourist train.

Off to the pool! Photo: Richard HammondOff to the pool! Photo: Richard HammondHow to get there by public transport
The nearest ferry port is Roscoff, 90 minutes’ drive away, served by Brittany Ferries from Cork and Plymouth. Portsmouth to Caen (four hours’ drive), Cherbourg (four and a half hours’ drive) or St Malo (just under three hours) are also popular routes, as is Poole to Cherbourg.

>> Plan a route and book your ferry crossing with Brittany Ferries.

The verdict
We loved it. For all our careful pre-trip planning, however, it wasn’t the planned ingredients that made the Eurocamp recipe work so successfully but the unplanned ones – the days on ‘our’ beach and the fact that a family with similarly aged children, with similar interests, arrived at the mobile home opposite ours about two days into our trip.

From then on we spent every evening relaxing with a glass of wine and a book out on our deck - and cooking up a barbecue - while the children happily played between our mobile home and their friends’. This is what made the holiday really pay off. And is no doubt what brings veteran Eurocampers back year after year.

>> See our full listing for La Pointe St. Gilles Campsite, Bénodet, France


Disclosure: Richard Hammond was a guest of Brittany Ferries and hosted by Eurocamp. He has full editorial control of the review, which is written in his own words based on his experience of visiting the parc. All opinions are the author’s own.

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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