“We’ve just booked for next Summer. Earlier on I was talking to a woman who’s come here 22 years in a row!”
D and I were sitting outside the bar at La Garangeoire, a 5-star French holiday parc close to the Vendée town of Saint-Julien-des-Landes. The English couple next to us had driven down from Yorkshire, crossed the Channel and arrived in western France to catch the end of the high season. They were departing the next day. Before they left, they’d decided to make sure they bagged one of La Garangeoire’s much-coveted pitches for next summer.
Repeat visits seemed to be common at La Garangeoire. It made me wonder what it was about the medium-sized holiday parc that drew people back, year after year. Campsites are 10-a-penny in France, with over 2,500 across the country. There’d be no need to return to a place unless it were perfect.
I’ve already posted about La Garangeoire’s facilities on offer to families, and about our experience of the kids’ clubs. Having beaches nearby, a lake for canoeing or pedaloes, and plenty of entertainment for kids always helps. Here are some other reasons why I think La Garangeoire is a cut above the rest of France’s holiday parcs.
*We stayed at La Garangeoire on a hosted stay*
The owners live on-site
La Garangeoire is set in the grounds of a 19th-century manor house. The owners live on-site, and run the parc in a very hands-on way. Anne and Eric Bourgon, the descendants of the family who first established the campsite in 1964, were often to be seen riding around in a buggy, checking the facilities, or chatting to staff and visitors.
Eric, a trim, neat man with unmistakeably Gallic cheekbones, gave us a welcome talk . He explained that La Garangeoire is his family’s home as well as a business, so they’re passionate about keeping it beautiful for visitors, and for the family when the parc shuts down in Autum and all the guests leave. This was reflected in the impeccably clean grounds (even the communal toilet block for campers glistened), with well-tended flowers and plants trailing everywhere. Evening entertainment was low-key. The singer-songwriter performances, karaoke and pool party all finished early.
Staff had a no-nonsense attitude to clamping down on bad behaviour. Our welcome packs notified us that people who persistently made noise after lights-out at 10pm, or who dropped litter, would be removed. And one evening I saw a boy being scolded by a receptionist with the wrath of Thor, for sticking a plastic bottle in the back hub of his wheel, so it would make a noisy racket when he rode up and down outside the bar. The management would have no qualms in ejecting unruly or antisocial guests (so be warned….)
You can experience the real France at La Garangeoire
Unlike some holiday parcs, where you feel you could be anywhere in western Europe, La Garangeoire is inescapably French. Woodland and lakes typical of the Vendée surround the traditional stone buildings of the reception, bar and swimming pool hub. Verdant nature is just a short stroll away from the pitches.
Food and drink at La Garangeoire
Wine has been produced in the Vendée region since Roman times. Several vintages of medium-bodied reds and crisp whites from the Fiefs Vendéen were on sale in La Garangeoire’s shop. If you wanted to try out local fare, the take-away served préfou, the traditional Vendéen starter, crammed with local ham. The restaurant chef whizzed up a different set menu every evening, with French specialities like grilled “sablaise” sole, chicken in creamy mushroom sauce, or juicy fillet steak. As in many French eateries, the vegetarian selection was poor, but a couple we spoke to said they’d mentioned to the chef that one of them was vegetarian, and he cooked her a special dish (D cursed the fact that he didn’t also do this, after limping his way through a so-so Greek salad).
A sample menu of cheese and three different types of wine was available from the bar. The plummy red, complex white and refreshing rosé came alongside an elegant slate platter dressed with brie, Livarot, tangy goat’s cheese and Gouda flecked with fennel seeds. At €20 it was a little steep, but the wine was good quality.
Much better value, at €25, was the two-hour wine-tasting lesson, held in the dining room of La Garangeoire’s manor house (surprisingly homely for such a grand place). With ten other couples, we sat around a long oak dining table. A buyer from one of France’s leading wine distributors taught us how to tell whether a wine was ready to drink, and whether its aroma was of grapefruit, cinnamon, raspberry or even rubber. Along with eight different types of wine, she gave us a range of canapés to set our palates – pâté on toast, anchovies, melon, gherkins and crisps. We took home La Garangeoire wine glasses as a parting gift, along with ruddy faces and fuzzy vision (eight shots of wine is rather a lot).
There’s a range of accommodation
La Garangeoire had around 300 pitches, which were a combination of mobile homes, tents and caravans, with a handful of quirkier units like tree-houses and eco-cabins. Each pitch had a nature-inspired name: there were islands like Rhodes, Guadeloupe and Ile de Groix; forest creatures like sangliers (wild boar) and renards (foxes); we were in the flower section, with a mobile home called Œillets (carnations). The eco/nature theme continued in the recycling area, where you had the pick of at least five different types of bin for plastic, glass, tin, paper and food waste. Signs also encouraged us to take one of the free recyclable La Garangoire water bottles, and charge up a card so that we could buy water from the Eco-font (a steal at €0.15 per litre).
We’d been invited by Eurocamp to stay in one of their Avant 3-bedroom mobile homes, which I’ve posted about here. It suited us: I love the outdoorsy feel that you have when you’re sleeping in a cabin under trees, and taking breakfast on the veranda with birdsong to accompany your croissants and coffee. But if you prefered to sleep under canvas or snuggle up in your own camper van, the option was there.
What would make you go back to a place where you’d spent a holiday?
If you want to read more about La Garangeoire and this part of France, you might like:
We were sent on a press trip by Eurocamp to La Garangeoire, Vendee, France for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.
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