An affordable Center Parcs: Head to France to save hundreds on your family holiday with châteaux and theme parks nearby (and plenty of wine for the adults) 

  • A family of four can save £667 on a 4-night break at a French Center Parcs
  • Everything from the bike hire to a visit to the spa is great value for money 
  • Nearby to Bois aux Daims are medieval towns and Futuroscope to explore

Cycling through the forest, energised from a morning dip and balancing a baguette and some freshly baked croissants on my handlebars, I bid a cheery 'Bonjour' to all and sundry. 

I'm feeling pleased with myself.

I feel every inch the holidaying Francophile returning to her second home villa on the outskirts of some medieval village deep in the Loire Valley. 

A family of four can save £667 on a four-night break at a French Center Parcs

A family of four can save £667 on a four-night break at a French Center Parcs

In fact, my destination is a purposebuilt three-bedroom holiday lodge, identical to the 5,000 others peppered across the same forest.

The dip I have just enjoyed took place in a pool boasting not one but ten slides, my bike is hired and the bread I'm carrying comes not from the local centuries-old bakery but a visiting market. 

Because together with my husband and three children, we decide to get our annual fix of French life from an international chain of identikit holiday villages. 

We are staying in a French Center Parcs.

'Oh, no,' friends at home had said.

Mais, oui,' we replied because, as the Daily Mail has reported, even with travel costs, a family of four can save £667 on a four-night break at a French Center Parcs over a British one.

Everything from the bike hire to the spa (£17.50 for a two-hour slot) is great value. 

The family left the campsite for three afternoons and ticked off seeing a magnificent chateau 

The family left the campsite for three afternoons and ticked off seeing a magnificent chateau 

Around an hour's drive from Bois aux Daims is Futuroscope. Not quite Disneyland, but the second-biggest attraction after the Mickey Mouse Parisian themepark

Around an hour's drive from Bois aux Daims is Futuroscope. Not quite Disneyland, but the second-biggest attraction after the Mickey Mouse Parisian themepark

The pool complex is included, but our daughter Loulou, seven, also goes horse-riding for £10 and all three children enjoyed a treetop climbing session for an even more reasonable £7.70 each.

And then — without wishing to sound too cheesy — there are all the things you can't put a price on, like family bonding, and that fabulously exhausted feeling you get at the end of a day in which you have spent a good proportion either wading across a wave pool or pedalling through a forest.

Only our admirable capacity for red wine, pain au chocolat and fromage save us from becoming unbearably smug.

Thankfully, there is just enough of real France to take the edge off that institutionalised feeling — a market selling meat, honey and baked goods once a week, an onsite bakery and a supermarket that sells camembert for one euro.

 The park is based upon multimedia, cinematographic futuroscope and audio-visual techniques. It has several 3D cinemas and a few 4D cinemas along with other attractions such as these water bikes

 The park is based upon multimedia, cinematographic futuroscope and audio-visual techniques. It has several 3D cinemas and a few 4D cinemas along with other attractions such as these water bikes

Nearby to the campsite is the picturesque medieval town of Montreuil-Bellay (pictured) which boasts stunning countryside

Nearby to the campsite is the picturesque medieval town of Montreuil-Bellay (pictured) which boasts stunning countryside

I admit that when we first arrive at the new 260-hectare Bois aux Daims site not far from Saumur, and drive past street after street of indistinguishable regimented lodges, we do question our decision. 

But on our second day it pours with rain and the appeal of the aqua mundo pool complex and indoor children's play area suddenly increases tenfold.

We manage to drag the children off site for three of the afternoons and tick off a chateau and the medieval towns of Montreuil-Bellay and Saumur. 

And on the day we leave, we drive for just over an hour to Futuroscope. Not quite Disneyland, but the second-biggest attraction after the Mickey Mouse Parisian themepark.

This is the point: at CenterParcs, they know what works. Little wonder it has become the go-to destination for stressed-out working families seeking to reconnect with their children. Magnifique!

TRAVEL FACTS 

Prices at Bois aux Daims (00333 11049 89754, centerparcs.com/gben/france) for a three-night stay for a family of four begin at £266. 

Book Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Caen through AFerry (0844 576 5503, aferry.com). 

For local activities see visit-poitoucharentes.com 

 

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