I have to admit I was always sceptical about Center Parc type breaks. Even though I’d heard good things, I wasn’t convinced – probably due to the adverts on TV that really didn’t work for me. However, when I heard about the new Village Nature outside Paris, an eco-friendly resort (joint venture between
Euro Disney S.C.A. and Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs Group) I was game to try it out. I like the concept and I wasn’t disappointed!
An ode to the relationship between man and nature, the park is set right next to Disneyland® Paris just 30 odd kilometres from the French capital.
Utterly family-friendly, it a new kind of sustainable tourism and even though we only spent 2 nights there we all felt like we’d been on a real holiday. The change of scenery to the greenery, the central lake and 297 acres packed with activities worked a treat.
Only 10% of the space is built up, and even those buildings blend into the landscape thanks to plant walls and the 868 cottages being built low and out of wood. They are also set apart from the ‘heart’ of the village: the lakeside promenade where you’ll find a supermarket, a handful of restaurants, the welcome house (where one books all activities) and the impressive glass contemporary structure housing the huge Aqualagon with its outdoor geothermal lagoon and 30° C heated pools
Further afield you’ll also find the Extraordinary Gardens where family scavenger hunts take place, the Forest of Legends, with amazing playgrounds and our favourite:
the Belle Vie Farm, home to a host of adorable furry animals, as well as workshops and a restaurant with its own incredible indoor soft play area.
My one gripe? The distances really require transport for the smaller guests, so my tip is to bring along (or rent) bikes/scooters etc. There are electric (ever so quiet) buses that tour the grounds but it’s hard to keep track of the timetable (download the app!) and they only run every 15minutes which can seem a long wait if you left the nappies behind! Next time we might splash out and hire a golf cart.
We stayed in a Cocoon VIP apartment. Surprisingly spacious, the décor is simple yet soothing – almost Scandinavian style with its own outdoor space, a lovely wooden deck with a view and an ‘egg’ shaped hanging swing which was a big hit with the kids! Natural elements like wood and tree-inspired carpets are prevalent, not to mention Fair Trade bathroom goodies.
We really loved the fact that there were 2 full rooms for 4 of us. No squeezing into the living room foldout sofa-bed and tiptoeing around for the parents – Hallelujah! The giant Jacuzzi bathtub (with a view) was also a lovely bonus.
Because the resort is brand new, everything is in pristine condition, which is a real treat. And because it’s been well thought out, the experience is smooth and fun, taking the stress of logistics that often comes with a family break, away. Even dinner out at the surprisingly delicious vino-themed Cépages restaurant was blissful. Kid friendly and beautifully designed, the kids played outside after gobbling up their tasty, plentiful and reasonably priced meal while Mummy and Daddy could linger a bit longer over the Black Angus steak and the Foie Gras accompanied by fabulous Coteaux D’Aix Rosée. We clearly need to come back more often!
My advice to make a stay even smoother? Book all activities well ahead and plan a schedule before your arrival as it can get busy so do check what’s on when. It’s also worth noting that some of the attractions (zipline, jeep tours etc) are offered by outside companies so you can’t just pitch up and improvise.
In just 48hours we managed the bread baking workshop, a ‘farmhand’ for a day (2 hours) experience and adventure at the zip-line. My son, 6 loved both his time taking care of the animals and shaping dough, which we could later take home to eat.
There was also time for a dip in the Aqualagon and a go on the crazy slides there, two visits to the Belle Vie Farm’s fantastic playground and a grand tour of the outdoors. Not to mention that on Day One, we also made it out to neighbouring Disneyland® Paris! But that’ another story.
Les Villages Nature® Paris 0845 351 0820
A four-night stay in a Country Premium Apartment that sleeps four people arriving 14 May 2018 is priced from 399€ (down from 529€ saving 130€). All accommodation features free Wi-Fi, fully-equipped kitchens with dishwashers, furnished terraces or balconies and flat-screen TVs. Baby beds and high chairs are available in all cottages and upon request in apartments.