Wednesday 26 May 2010

Keycamp - Château de Drancourt parc, St-Valéry-sur-Somme, Picardy, France

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog post about Keycamp family holidays and all the brilliant little extras they can provide you with to get your holiday off to a stress-free start, we've just spent a fantastic long weekend at the Château de Drancourt parc near St-Valéry-sur-Somme in Picardy, Northern France. I've decided to do this review as a diary of our holiday, to show you how much you can pack into a long weekend. We all kept saying that it seemed so much longer than 3 days and that it made a really relaxing, rejuvenating break away from the stresses of home and work. Definitely something we now hope to do again as a family !

Friday evening :

Rush rush rush, as usual - 5pm, finish work. 5.30 pick up the kids from the childminder. 6pm drop the dogs off at the dogminder. 6.30pm throw the bags in the car. 7pm we're off ... Knowing that this would be a mad rush and that we'd all be tired after a long day at work and school, we'd purposely picked a parc close to home. An hour and a half later, we were driving through the lush green fields full of horses and up the impressive tree-lined avenue to the parc. We knew we'd have missed the cut-off point of 8pm for Keycamp reception so we'd phoned ahead and been told it wouldn't be a problem, "come straight up to the château" ! Oooh very posh ! We headed to the Keycamp reception and, as expected, it was empty - but there is a logbook where you can leave a message and they pop by regularly to check, plus a mobile phone number so you can contact one of the team 24 hours a day. I gave them a ring and 5 minutes later, Luke showed up on his bike to give us our key and show us down to our mobile home.

First impressions - wow ! As a family of 5, we were in a Villagrand Deluxe mobile home, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and the deck. It also had a big lounge/kitchen/dining area and not one but two toilets. Plus, the first thing the girls noticed : the Adventure Tent, already pitched next to the mobile home ! Talk about excited ! Time for a quick bit of food (the kitchen is fully equipped with hob, oven and microwave plus all the utensils and tableware you could ever need), a quick look around the parc then off to bed. Sweet dreams everyone !

Saturday morning :

Woke up and glanced at my watch through bleary eyes : 9.30am ! How did that happen ?! The girls are always out of bed by 7am at home ! Sure enough, they were awake and whispering and giggling in their room ! Baby Pierre had slept soundly in his travel cot. Big smiles all round. Until we mentioned that we'd need to pop out to the supermarket (literally a few minutes away) and maybe go exploring at St-Valéry-sur-Somme for a few hours - the girls had seen loads of things they wanted to do at the parc and didn't want to go out anywhere ! We promised to come back after lunch and headed off to the car.

Having read the write-up on the Keycamp website and studied the information boards in reception, we were expecting St-Valéry to be a total tourist trap : "St Valéry with its walled and gated medieval citadel and brightly painted quays is the jewel of the coast. In summer a little steam railway runs from St Valéry along the coast." It was busy but we managed to find a parking space easily and were pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices for parking and eating in one of the many restaurants.

Saturday afternoon :
The girls were getting impatient so as promised, we headed back to the parc. As expected, they immediately wanted to go to the swimming pool. No problem ! The parc actually has three swimming pools but, as we're off season, only one is currently open - the covered pool. As it was a blindingly hot day, they pulled open the roof part so that it is part covered/part open-air. The girls had a great time and particularly loved the slide into the pool !

On the way back to the mobile home to get changed, the girls oohed and aahed and petted the adorable Shetland ponies that you can hire (as well as bikes, and various other contraptions that you can pedal along in as a family !).

We headed back via the Keycamp reception, in which you can help yourself to the selection of toys, books, puzzles, bats and balls, etc. Back at the mobile home, the girls disappeared into their Adventure Tent with the toys and books borrowed from reception while I sorted out food.

Saturday evening :

Mike had immediately noticed that there was no TV in the mobile home. We actually agreed that the total lack of TV and computer (although there is an internet cafe somewhere on the parc, but we didn't go looking for it !) was great, because it got us spending time as a family, doing puzzles, playing frisbee, sitting and talking, ... But, he said with a sad face, he'd miss the footie on TV tonight. I suggested we head up to the Château Bar, because they were sure to have a widescreen TV up there, almost definitely showing sport. My hunch was correct (I'd popped by reception to chat to the Keycamp couriers and find out !) and while Mike sat in the main bar watching the footie with a pint, I headed off to the kids room just next door. While the girls watched Pocahontas on DVD (choice of English, French or Flemish language !), Pierre played with the assortment of toys and I watched the hundreds of swallows flying about just outside the window !

Sunday morning :

We'd decided to go out again for the morning and come back to the parc for the afternoon. This time we visited Mers-les-Bains, with its huge pebble beach with rows of white beach huts and impressive villas. We had lunch in a restaurant on the seafront, again pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices.

Having noticed the impressive looking cliff-top walks from the beach, we headed up to Hault to look down on Mers-les-Bains below. The white chalk cliffs look like the White Cliffs of Dover and the clifftop walks reminded me of Beachy Head in my native Sussex.

Sunday afternoon :

You've guessed it, the girls were begging to go back to the parc so we did ! First stop, the pool again, where everyone had just as much fun as the day before. Even baby Pierre decided he liked the water a bit better today !
Afterwards, the girls decided it was time for a round of crazy golf, where we had a great laugh trying to do some of the (in my opinion !) absolutely impossible holes !

Sunday evening :
Having checked out the prices at the parc's takeaway and found them to be very reasonable indeed - for example, €6 for chicken wings and chips, €3.50 for hot dog sausages and chips - we decided not to bother cooking tonight (sadly, I'd failed to convince Mike he wanted to make use of the gas barbecue in front of our mobile home !). We had a last wander around the camp, a final game of crazy golf and a good play on the numerous playgrounds, all of which made me feel very nostalgic as I saw (OK, and played on !) the wooden roundabouts, swings and slides of my youth.

Monday morning :
Everyone was a bit sad this morning, knowing we had to leave the parc and go back home. But I had one final ace hidden up my sleeve. I sent the girls off for a last play in the playground as I went to reception to buy a couple of postcards and secretly paid for a pony ride ! But not just any old pony ride. For €6, they give you a Shetland pony on a lead for 1/2 hour and you wander around the park wherever you want to go. We got Zorro, described as incredibly calm - which he was, except whenever he saw a dandelion and then veered off in that direction, barging us out of the way if we resisted. They may be tiny but they have a serious amount of strength and determination. We were in hysterics for the whole half hour and I've never seen such big smiles on the girls' faces !
A final lap of honour of the parc, including a quick bye-bye to our mobile home, and we really were ready to leave.

We had an absolutely fabulous time and were stunned by how much we managed to pack into a weekend. The parc is quite busy - it's used by Keycamp plus two other holiday companies - but we were amazed at how peaceful and quiet it is. Wandering around the roads, you do see the odd car but everybody respects the very low speed limit and you feel quite safe letting your kids run off ahead. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and you feel immediately disconnected from the stresses of home. Everybody speaks fluent English and French and everyone, both staff and happy campers, are all really friendly and stop to chat whenever you pass them.

Peak-season extras :

I had a quick chat with the Keycamp reps to find out what else is on offer at the Château de Drancourt parc in peak season. As we knew, there are two extra swimming pools, a big outside one with a slide and a small paddling pool for the kids, as well as a pool bar and sun terrace. We'd noticed a funky looking tent behind the pool area and discovered that this is the Mini Fun Station for babies and toddlers under the age of 5, like a big mother-and-baby group with a Tumble Tots programme of activities. (We actually only just missed out on this, although I'm not sure we'd have found time to do it all ! Mini Fun Station clubs run from 26/5 to 5/7. Tumble Tots runs from 26/5 to 16/7.) For the older kids (aged 4-12), there is also Fun Station For All, offering sports, arts and crafts, as well as family-oriented activities like family scavenger hunts, rounders and disco evenings. In honour of the World Cup, there is also a whole programme of footie-themed activities on the cards (along with all the matches being shown on the wide-screen TV in the Château Bar).

star rating : Top marks - I asked the girls and they said it deserved 11/5 !!!

for more information on Keycamp family holidays :


  1. Wow looks like you all had an amazing time :) looks like somewhere we would like too .... I'll have a look at their website for info.

  2. We are thinking of going here next year in August and your review has probably finalised the decision. It looks fantastic!

  3. Aww hope you have a fabulous time ! We were off-season but there will be even more on offer in August for the kids.


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