FINDING a holiday to appease those harshest of critics – the kids – is like trying to crack the Da Vinci code.
Taking a couple of 11-year-olds away from their world of Facebook and MSN, and swapping it for a campsite in the French countryside, sounds like a recipe for disaster.
But after a week at Domaine des Ormes with Canvas Holidays, the verdicts were swift and precise, ranging from “fantastic” to “amazing”.
And it’s easy to see why the youngsters were reaching for such superlatives.
The site caters for everyone: From the toddler to the teenager; the sporty to the adventurous; from born-entertainers to those who want to be entertained.
Domaine des Ormes is a huge site with three swimming pools, aquapark with slides, indoor pool, wave pool, boating lake, an 18-hole golf course, horse riding, tennis, football, basketball, adventure park in the trees (think Go Ape), zip wires and paintball.
The list is almost as endless as the fun you can have here.
After having one holiday cancelled this year due to the volcanic ash cloud, my wife Sharon and I opted to travel by ferry.
We booked a cabin with Brittany Ferries, travelling out from Portsmouth to Caen, and returning a week later to Portsmouth via St Malo (only a 25-minute drive from the campsite). Now this is the stress-free way to travel: it took 20 minutes from leaving our hotel in Portsmouth to actually having breakfast on the boat. You don’t get that at airports.
The journey was broken up with a trip to the cinema, enjoying the onboard entertainment (including a panto!) and taking a nap in the cabin.
When we arrived at Domaine des Ormes, we were met by a Canvas rep who personally escorted us to our caravan - a nice touch. We had opted for the middle-of-the-range three-bedroomed caravan (the plusher versions even have dishwashers!) and found it clean and modern. We also had a wooden decking outside with table and chairs, and a gas barbecue.
We had tried to book the incredible Fairytale Cottages, but they were snapped up a long time back, and after seeing them you could see why.
Another Canvas rep, James, then came to welcome us, and tell daughter Jenny and friend Keira about the various clubs and activities on offer – all free – a godsend to parents who pay a fortune for some sites in England only to be told you have to shell out for every activity on top of that.
And the kids were up and running. Throughout the week, they met up with the fantastic Canvas entertainers for several different activities: Radio Broadcasting, chocolate party, VIP night, and sweetie surprise. They were in the 8-11 age group, but Canvas also cater for 4-7 and 12-16 with up to three planned activities a day each.
When not in the clubs, the girls were in one of the many pools, tackling slides and wave pools for hours on end. They were deliriously happy. Sharon and I sunbathed, read our books, sipped wine and ate brie and French bread – now this really is a holiday!
If you love sport and adventure, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you want to do – there’s that much on offer. The circus even came to the site one night!
Also on site are a mini-market, a bar with wifi, restaurant and takeaway.
We even squeezed in trips to the walled town of St Malo, the little village of St Leonard’s (Sunday is market day) and the nearby Dol de Bretagne, well worth a visit. St Michel, Dinan and Rennes are all within a 45-minute drive.
But there’s more than enough to do for a couple of weeks if you don’t want to veer offsite.
We ended the week with a group hug, and I left the girls with the immortal question: “So what was the best bit?”
“All of it,” they replied in unison. And that summed it up perfectly.
Book online for Domaine des Ormes with Canvas Holidays at www.canvasholidays.co.uk or call 0845 2680827 Paul travelled with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Caen, and returned from St Malo to Portsmouth. Book online at www.brittanyferries.com