La Croix du Vieux Pont is a remarkably attractive, family-friendly campsite on the banks of the River Aisne north-east of Paris, where mature willows and poplars shade its green grounds. It was recently classified by Eurocamp as a “village plus” – which is to say that it is spacious, with bars, restaurants and a bakery on site, as well as a host of activities. It is also the company’s most popular site, ahead of perhaps more obvious locations such as Brittany and the costas of Spain.
Its greatest selling point – and the feature that makes it stand out over other Eurocamps we have stayed in, from the French Riviera to Provence, is surely its waters. For while this site is undoubtedly one of the largest Eurocamps, it is also singularly peaceful, with accommodation that backs on to two huge fishing lakes, allowing campers to pitch a deckchair behind their garden and simply stare across a glistening expanse.
Rather more busily, the pool complex includes indoor waterslides, a semi-covered, heated outdoor pool, shallower indoor pool and an indoor splash pad area ideal for toddlers. You can hire pedalos or go fishing on the lakes, and there are indoor football pitches and table tennis.
There is also a man-made “beachside” lagoon, which is good for a swim and hosts the nightly, staff-led children’s disco. The playground will suit even the most fearless children, while kids’ clubs run from archery lessons to a clown academy, tennis to trampolining.
In the working village of Berny-Rivière in Hauts-de-France – a comfortable two hour 45 minute drive south-east from Calais. It is within an hour not just of Paris, but also Disneyland (coach day trips are put on to both), as well as the very Gallic Parc Asterix.
At 40 hectares (99 acres), it really is a sprawling site, taking around half-an-hour to walk the perimeter, with lots of small “streets” off the lakes, creating that village environment.
The swimming pools and children’s Fun Station activities are tucked away from the majority of accommodation, meaning life is tranquil, even during the busy school holidays.
The range is extensive. We stayed in a three-bedroom Azure Plus holiday home with a master bedroom and two rooms for children (one with bunks), shower room, kitchen area and, perhaps most importantly, a large, part-covered decked terrace that ran the length of the lodge.
There are also safari-style tents (with fridge and kitchen) as well as pitches for campervans and tents with shared dishwashing and washing areas. More luxurious are the swish, two-storey Swiss chalet-type villas.
Our lodge had ample room for parking and deckchairs at the front, and direct access to one of the lakes through a charming oval cut into the hedge at the back of the garden.
Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a lead. There is limited accessible adapted accommodation for those in wheelchairs, and means of accessing the pools.
The food and drink
There is an on-site supermarket, which does the basics, and a large supermarket within a five-minute drive, where you can load up.
Restaurant-wise, Berny Burger does fast food (though can get busy, so isn’t always that fast), while Brasserie Willo is more upmarket, with steaks, mussels and duck on the menu.
A stall selling candy floss as big as your face sets up each afternoon, while a bar by the lagoon offers pizzas, burgers, smoothies and the like. There is also a pub next to the swimming pools, with games room upstairs.
A Eurocamp selling point is that sites are safe for children to amble around – the only caveat here being that you must keep an eye on young ones around the lakes. You really needn’t leave the site if you don’t want to, and a morning stroll to the shop to pick up fresh baguettes for breakfast, with a quick stop at the playground on the way back, is a delight.
About a half-hour away are the medieval chateau at Pierrefonds, where the BBC series Merlin was filmed, and the Forêt de Compiègne – a vast forest perfect for cycling and hiking. At nearby Chantilly and its Living Museum of the Horse, rides are available for children – although, more locally, there is also a stables over the road, where you can book time in the saddle from €15 (£13.40) an hour.
Parc Asterix. Yes, Disneyland Paris gets the fanfare, and fair enough, it is terrific. But for half the price, you get to meet characters from the Goscinny and Uderzo comic books, rollercoasters aplenty, live theatrical experiences (a contest between Romans and Gauls in the amphitheatre) and a truly French experience. There are no concessions to English speakers here and it is all the more atmospheric for it.
The park reopens on 8 April, with a new zone, Festival Toutatis dedicated to the God of the Gauls, and a €36m rollercoaster, Toutatis, that reaches speeds of 110km/h, alongside a vast new playground, Le Sanglier d’Or.
How to book
Absolute bargains are available outside school holidays, when seven nights in a safari tent can be as cheap as £175 for a family of six, or £203 in a three-bed Comfort lodging for up to eight. Expect to pay four to five times this in peak periods, eurocamp.co.uk