This Spring half term, we sailed across the English Channel to stay for a week at Eurocamp La Vallée, in Normandy. Pretty, spotlessly clean and only a 15-minute walk from the sea at Houlgate, the family friendly holiday parc made a relaxing base for us to enjoy this beautiful part of France.
La Vallée is a medium-sized holiday parc, with a shop, restaurant, takeaway, laundry room, kids’ club and a pool complex. A train line runs along one corner of the parc, but at our end the only background noise came from the wood pigeons and starlings serenading us from the purple-leafed plum trees. There were plenty of shrieks from the pools, but at half term, the evenings were quiet.
I made a short video about our week at La Vallée with Eurocamp. Do have a look if you’d like to see around the place:
Swimming pools at Eurocamp La Vallée
French campsites have a good reputation for their swimming pools. La Vallée, more of a holiday parc than a campsite (there are very few tent pitches now), is no exception. The first thing we did after arriving was to change into our swimming costumes, and head for the pool complex. I think our children would have been perfectly happy if we’d spent the entire week there. The paddling pool wasn’t yet open for the season, but the 20m outdoor pool offered a refreshing dip when the sun was out. On the colder days, the covered pool was warm and inviting. No lane swimming for adults in there, though. It was full of youngsters, splashing around.
Waterslides at Eurocamp La Vallée
“Will there be slides?” This is the first question my son asks, when I tell him we’re going on holiday. La Vallée’s five waterslides catered for different sizes, and bravery levels. Austin loved the blue twizzly one. His six year-old sister Gwen enjoyed the ‘drencher’ slides, as the children christened them.
I had a go on the waterslide for over-11s – a zippy dark tube, where you emerged into a large bowl, and then plopped down a vertical drop. D made it look easy. I had the fear!
Playgrounds at La Vallée
La Vallée felt very safe. People greeted each other with smiles and nods; and there was a decent number of long-term residents, like the couple in the mobile home next to us, whose dog and cat lounged in the grassy area around the mobile home. We let Austin and Gwen wander around by themselves a bit, which we’d never do at home in London. Although the playgrounds had signs saying that children should be supervised, they felt safe enough not to have to watch their every move while on the equipment.
The holiday parc’s two main play areas were well-maintained. Both Austin and Gwen enjoyed jumping on the small bouncy castle, dangling off the monkey bars and scaling the climbing frames.
For adults and older children, the tennis and basketball courts were set a little way from the younger kids’ areas.
Eurocamp accommodation at La Vallée
Eurocamp invited us to spend a week in one of their brand-new 3-bed Azure mobile homes. We arrived to find a clean, bright interior, with Eurocamp’s welcome pack waiting, along with a telephone number for our holiday rep, in case we needed any help.
For our family of four, the Azure was spacious and well kitted-out, with thoughtful design features like blackout blinds and plenty of electric sockets. You can read my review of the Azure here. I also posted a little video tour on Youtube:
Eurocamp weren’t the only operator at La Vallée, but we saw more Eurocamp mobile homes than any others. Most were Azures, although we did spot a couple of Aspects and Avants (you can read my review of a Eurocamp Avant here).
Restaurant, takeaway and shops at La Vallée
Every afternoon, much to his excitement, Austin walked through the holiday parc by himself to the shop, to order our pastries and bread for the next morning. The shop also sold basics like juice, tinned food and (of course) wine.
La Vallée’s bar/restaurant served cocktails, beer and wine overlooking the pool. We were tempted to eat there, and to try out the takeaway, which sold pizzas, burgers and fries. But one of our favourite bits of a family holiday in France, is shopping at the local hypermarché. On the first day we drove five minutes down the road to visit Intermarché and, just across the road from it, a Géant Casino. This had a huge selection of freshly caught fish, local fruit and veg, and, of course, the finest cheese, produced just down the road.
We bought so much delicious food to cook in our Azure, that we didn’t need to eat out at all.
Eurocamp kids’ club at La Vallée
Our two are huge fans of kids’ clubs. They would have been happy to go to the Eurocamp kids’ club at La Vallée every day, but the club ran on a drop-in basis, with sessions every day, for two hours each morning and afternoon. This meant we could pick and choose our sessions, and mix them up with family excursions. The staff were lively, friendly and international, hailing from England, France, Ireland and the Netherlands. The clubs ran in English, though, with activities tailored to different age groups, and with a fun mini disco on the second night.
Austin and Gwen were both in Mac’s Fun Station, for six- to nine-year olds. In the peak season La Vallée will host a new range of activities in a Eurocamp kids’ club ‘plus’ – like zorbing, archery and hoverkarting. For our half term break, activities on the menu included superhero training, a scavenger hunt around the parc, and wizards and fairies.
The children’s favourite, though, was the chocolate party. It was a popular session, and became fully booked quickly – so our advice would be to book when you hand in the consent and safety forms when you sign up on the first day.
Family time in Houlgate
This part of Normandy is known as the Côte Fleurie, or floral coast. The walk from La Vallée lived up to the name, with wild flowers tumbling out onto the pavements, and glossy horses in buttercup-strewn fields.
Having said earlier that we didn’t need to eat out, the seaside town of Houlgate was so close by, with such a large selection of restaurants and cafés, that it would have been a shame not to sit out in the bunting-strewn main street, and try out some local fare.
France can be an expensive place for UK travellers these days, but Houlgate’s restaurants and cafés were reasonable. Moules frites – mussels and fries – cost around 11 Euros for an enormous bucket. We ordered a ten Euro three-course kids’ menu for Gwen, with tasty crèpes for dessert.
The house wine was crisp and refreshing; and the local cidre came served in an elegant teacup.
Houlgate’s beach was glorious: wide, sandy and (in May, at least) blissfully quiet.
We just missed Houlgate’s annual kite festival. In summer, kite-making workshops run every day. There was also horse riding, kite surfing and fossil-hunting, at the base of Houlgate’s cliffs.
Things to do near La Vallée
I’ll be writing more on the blog soon about Houlgate, and things for families to do near La Vallée. Houlgate is a historic seaside resort dating back to the nineteenth century. It was beloved of French dignitaries, like Marcel Proust, and its streets are tinged with history.
Houlgate’s a nice place for a wander, with a guided walking tour that you can pick up from the tourist office, and lots of interesting places to spot, like this rose garden where Proust used to sit and enjoy the ambiance.
Normandy’s historic D-Day beaches are all within reach of La Vallée. They range from between a twenty-minute and two-hour drive away.
One day we went to see Calvados being made. If we’d had more time, we’d have gone to other places making the cheese, butter, cider and caramels the region is famed for. It’s tricky to get to the small rural farms without a car, but the people behind the information desk at La Vallée were very helpful in directing us to the right places.
The ‘French Riviera of the north’ towns of Deauville and Trouville are a half-hour drive from La Vallée. Larger, and with more obvious wealth than Houlgate, they’re good places for people-watching, or for checking out the latest fashions in the Hermès and Louis Vuitton stores.
How to get to La Vallée
If you’re travelling from the south of England, the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen is convenient. We sailed courtesy of Brittany Ferries, and with Houlgate only a 22km drive from the port at Caen, the trip was quick and easy. You can read about our ferry crossing with Brittany Ferries here.
It’s also possible to travel from Dover to Calais, by ferry or Eurotunnel, and then to drive down. The nearest airport to La Vallée is at Deauville.
We were guests of Eurocamp at La Vallée. For the latest prices and availability, visit the Eurocamp website. All views are my own.
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