Sunday, 1 September 2019

Our Trip to Domaine Des Ormes with Al Fresco Holidays - A Review

This summer we have had the pleasure of spending a week at Domaine Des Ormes in Northern Brittany with Al Fresco Holidays. Situated near the quiet town of Dol de Bretagne and only a half hour drive from the port of Saint Malo, this site offers absolutely everything you could possibly need for a fun-filled family adventure.

Whether you are looking for somewhere to simply relax, enjoy a spot of fishing, or want a holiday that can provide an abundance of activities for all ages, then Domaine Des Ormes certainly ticks all the boxes. It is also a fantastic base to visit some points of interest such as Mont St Michel or Dinard.

In the weeks leading up to our stay, I spent some time planning our trip and making plans, which I wrote about in a preview post that can be found here. Some of the information I found out prior to our journey proved to be really useful, especially in terms of budgeting and finding out tips from guests who had stayed there previously. This was our fourth press trip with Al Fresco Holidays, but we are also regular customers so it was our 9th holiday with them in total, therefore even if I hadn't undertaken any research, I already knew that we would be sure to have a fantastic time away.

Al Fresco Holidays know that everyone looks for something different when choosing their perfect holiday, which is why they have a fantastic range of sites on offer ranging from the small and quiet, to the large and lively. They specialise in family mobile home holidays throughout Europe in a great choice of locations and with wonderful facilities too. Each site also has a selection of travel options to consider and Al Fresco can help you find the right park to suit your needs, whether you are looking for somewhere that you can drive to in your own car, or would like to take a ferry or flight.


The Journey to Domaine Des Ormes

For our journey we chose to take an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries. Flying into a nearby airport was also an option, as were some shorter ferry crossings from Portsmouth to Caen, but this would have resulted in a longer drive time in France, so we thought that the overnight ferry would be a fun new experience for us all to try. I will be honest though and say that I was incredibly nervous about staying in an inside cabin on the ferry and I had heard various stories about sea-sickness which did give me a little cause for concern, however I needn't have been worried.

We set off from our home in North Wales at 6am planning approximately 5 hours for our journey to Portsmouth with a breakfast stop along the way. Our ferry wasn't due to depart until 8:30pm that evening, so we made the most of the day and visited Marwell Zoo in Hampshire along the way, before visiting a local restaurant for dinner and then checking in for our boat at 6:30pm. The check in process was extremely quick and simple and despite being randomly selected for a security search of our vehicle, we completed the whole process and were ready to board within half an hour of arriving.

Boarding the ferry was just as simple and a member of staff guided us into a parking space on the boat. We had packed a separate overnight bag so we removed this and our cooler box from our vehicle and then made our way to our cabins to see what they were like. As a family of 5 there wasn't an individual cabin that could sleep all five of us, so we had split into two rooms of an inside 4 berth cabin which was on deck 2 and an inside 2 berth cabin which was located on Deck 8.


We were pleasantly surprised by both cabins, with them feeling much larger than I had expected. They were compact, but not as much as I thought they would be and each of them had their own en suite facilities with toilet, sink and shower. They were surprisingly comfortable and the pull down beds were easy enough to move and put into place. After viewing our cabins for the night, I immediately became more relaxed about the journey and we made our way to the show bar area to enjoy the evening entertainment.

The bar area was really spacious and my husband and eldest son would pop in and out onto the outside viewing deck in between entertainment to admire the views. The seating was clean and comfortable and there were more than enough tables and chairs for all guests. We were treated to a cabaret show, family quiz, children's disco and some kids fun and games, where both of my boys won certificates for telling jokes on the stage. The drink and snack prices were also really reasonable and we ended up staying in this area until around 10:30pm, at which point we returned to our cabins for some sleep.

Although I had been nervous before our trip, the journey was far better than I had expected and every single one of us managed to enjoy a full nights sleep before being awoken by the ferry morning alarm at 6am. This gives you time to pack up your cabin and enjoy some breakfast should you wish to, prior to disembarkation. Before we knew it, we were driving off the ferry and ready to enjoy our week long holiday together.

As we drove off the ferry and into the port, our sat nav app decided not to work, so there was a slight panic that we had no idea which way to go. Thankfully it seemed as though everyone was exiting the same way, so we decided to follow the crowd until we reached somewhere safe to pull over and used our data to obtain some directions. Luckily for us, it was a really straightforward journey to the campsite and only takes around half an hour from St Malo. Approximately 15 minutes into the drive we also began to see signs for Domaine Des Ormes, which meant that we ultimately managed to find the site with ease.


Our First Impressions of Domaine Des Ormes

We arrived on site at around 9am, however it is not possible to check in to the accommodation until 4pm. I was aware of this prior to travelling, so we had already made sure that we had some snacks and drinks ready for the day, as well as planning some activities to do to keep the children busy. We entered the main reception to make the staff aware that we were there and they provided us with our wristbands so that we could enjoy the site whilst waiting. The Al Fresco representative was friendly and welcoming and also provided some suggestions of activities that we could do. He also said that he had made the cleaning staff aware that we were already on site, so should our accommodation be available sooner, then he would give us a call which I thought was great service.


We decided to take a walk around the site first, in order to get our bearings and find out where everything was. The site has a really useful app called Les Ormes which features a map, copies of menus, lists of activities and a diary of events and shows. We therefore used the map to search for areas of the site that were of interest to us, which we found helpful. However, we certainly didn't need the map to spot The Dome, which is an incredible new building that covers a pool, lazy river, slides and wave pool. My children thought this looked amazing and I promised them that we would take a closer look once it was open later that day.


Accommodation

After a lovely morning exploring we received a call at around 1pm to inform us that our accommodation was ready earlier than expected and that we were welcome to make our way to the mobile home. We collected the key from reception and followed the directions that were provided. The site is very large, but it is easy to find your way around and there are signs pointing to each named area.

Al Fresco Holidays mobile homes are well equipped, comfortable, clean and modern. A large proportion of the mobile homes also come with decking areas, sun canopies and barbecues, so you can also make the most of the outdoor space as well. They are perfect for families as some of them can accommodate up to 8 people making them a very cost effective holiday option.


Within a few minutes we had found our Vivaldi Lounge mobile home and parked up outside. On all previous parks we have stayed at, we have been taken to our accommodation and shown around, so I did kind of miss this personal touch that we have been used to before. However, my husband said he actually preferred just being left to it, so I guess that this just comes down to personal preference.


Our plot was a really nice size and we had a large outdoor decking area complete with rattan furniture, as well as a lawned area with sun loungers that gave the children plenty of room to play outside. There was a nice amount of space between each mobile home, so you didn't feel like you were being overlooked and the grounds were all well maintained.


I absolutely loved being able to sit outside on the decking in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine as the sun set in the distance. It was so peaceful and tranquil and it was definitely one of my favourite places to just chill out and relax.

The Dome

Once we had settled in to our accommodation and unpacked the car, my children were excitedly asking for us to return to The Dome. This is a wonderful building which has covered some of the pre-existing facilities, as well as allowing the development of some new pool and splash areas, which can now be enjoyed whatever the weather. At 20 metres in height and 75 metres in diameter, it is quite outstanding and offers a tropical swimming area with water heated to 29 degrees celsius. My children were amazed by the building and my husband and I were equally impressed.


Although it wasn't fully complete during our visit, some slides, a lazy river ride, wave pool and lounger areas were all open for us to enjoy and we were also able to watch the completion of the new lazy river and splash zone, which then opened the day after we left. The staff were working so hard to get everything open as quickly as possible, but it was great to be able to enjoy the majority of the facilities during our stay.


My children particularly enjoyed the wave pool, especially as floats were also allowed. We had brought an inflatable crocodile, unicorn and some rings with us, so the kids were really pleased that they were able to use them to ride the waves. During our stay the wave pool would start at quarter past every hour and then last for twenty minutes. The waves would start off quite slow, before becoming fast and high which was great fun. There were also ropes placed either side of the pool that you could hold onto during the waves and use them to guide yourself out if you needed to, which I thought was a great safety feature.


The slides were also very popular with all of us and were great fun. It was lovely to be able to race down them with my children and make a big splash at the end. There was also a bubble spa area where you could relax on hidden loungers, which we also really enjoyed.


We loved The Dome so much that we actually ended up visiting every single day. On one evening during our stay there was a fantastic pool party that took place in darkness with a DJ and disco lights that lit up the whole building. It was a fantastic atmosphere and everyone was dancing away, including the staff. The pool party was one of our favourite evenings during the holiday and I am sure it will be a memory that my children will talk about for quite some time.

The weather was very hit and miss during our stay so The Dome proved to be essential for us, however if you prefer the great outdoors, then there are also a variety of other pools available to enjoy. These can be found at the Aquaparc which is a short distance from the dome, or alternatively there is an outdoor pool adjacent to The Club House and another at the Hotel which park guests are also welcome to use.


Activities

There are so many activities available to enjoy at Domaine Des Ormes including some that are completely free of charge such as The Pyracord, Aquafit, Football, Slip and Slide, Swimming and Fishing to name just a few.

In addition to the free options, there is also a wide variety of paid for activities, which are all offered at very reasonable prices. Emma and Ben absolutely loved the Zip Wire which cost only 6 euros for two goes. I thought that this was great value for money considering that all equipment is included and training is also provided to ensure guest safety, prior to using the wire. The Zip Wire travels past The Pyracord and over the large grass area, before heading over the pedal boat lake. Ben was a little nervous at first due to his fear of heights, but he absolutely loved it and couldn't wait to have another go.




Although Riley was old enough to take part in the Zip Wire, he decided to give it a miss and opted to go for a pony ride instead. He absolutely adores animals and he was so excited about seeing the ponies at the stables and going for a ride. This activity cost 10 euros for half an hour and there is no staff instruction, so you have to be comfortable at leading your child around a designated track by yourself. For older children aged 12+ you can also go horse riding with an instructor for an increased cost of 21 euros for an hour.


Riley was so happy riding his pony and he literally didn't stop smiling the whole time. The walk was well laid out and easy to follow so there was no risk of getting lost. Our pony was good as gold and we gave him lots of cuddles whilst on our ride. It was such a lovely moment seeing him so happy and he is now keen to start horse riding lessons at home.


Ben's favourite activity throughout the week was fishing and we spent a lot of time at the fishing lake near to the golf course. This was a beautiful and well maintained area, which was surrounded by tree houses and a huge lawned area where we could play with the stunning chateau in the background. There is no licence required for guests to fish on the lake, so as we had brought all our own equipment with us, this made it a completely free activity for us to enjoy. We were also regularly joined by a family of beavers, who would come right up on the bank to say hello, which Riley thought was amazing.



Other activities included a climbing wall, a high ropes course, archery, wakeboarding, golf, archery tag, crazy golf, gyrotrainning, paintball, tennis, pedalo hire, an escape room and a variety of different sports.


If you really wanted to treat yourself, then we also noticed the opportunity to go on a half hour helicopter ride, which looked incredible and we would often see the helicopter taking off and soaring through the sky. This costs 100 euros per person and requires a minimum of three people to take place. We have decided that if we do return next year, then we are going to save and treat ourselves to a special helicopter tour of the area.


Kids Club

Al Fresco and Eurocamp both work together to provide an excellent kids club, which is also completely free of charge to attend for their guests. Each club is split into different age groups with a huge variety of activities available.

We viewed the schedule of activities in the main reception and then went to the kids club tents to obtain some registration forms. These allow you to fill in your child's details, note down any medical needs or allergies and also provide consent for photographs and parent pick up. If they are in the older group then you can also give your permission for your child to sign themselves in and out which I did for my eldest daughter Emma who is 12.

Riley can be extremely shy, so although he wanted to try kids club he was very nervous about being left on his own. I explained this to the member of staff and she showed me to a picnic bench outside where she said I could wait if I wanted to, so that Riley could see that I was still there. This really helped to encourage Riley to join in and he very quickly made friends with some of the other children.

It was great to have a Kids Club available for my children to use and a fantastic way for them to make some new friends. Riley particularly enjoyed the Bubble Workshop and loved creating and popping all of the bubbles.


Food and Drink

A major benefit of the Al Fresco mobile homes is that they contain all the equipment that you need to prepare meals and self cater. We brought a lot of food cupboard basics with us such as tins, pasta, sauces and drinks and then bought some fresh items from the on-site Spar shop. There was also several large supermarkets all within a reasonable driving distance, but we had no need to use these during our stay.

When on holiday though it is nice to be able to treat yourselves and enjoy a good meal out together. Domaine Des Ormes offers numerous restaurant options ranging from a Creperie to a Pizzeria. We used the pizzeria and takeaway a couple of times during our stay and found the prices to be reasonable for resort restaurants.



My children particularly liked the Pink Cabin which served a huge selection of ice creams, waffles and pancakes on a daily basis between 2:30pm to 11pm. I initially thought that 2.50 euros for one scoop was expensive, but just look at the size of them! I am reliably informed by my family that they were absolutely delicious too. Unfortunately the Pink Cabin is only seasonal though and according to the Les Ormes app it is open between the 6th July to the 31st August.


The Club House offer a fantastic menu of French brasserie style cuisine and it is open all year round. The Bar is open everyday from 8am til 9pm and the restaurant is open between 11:30am til 3pm for lunch and from 7pm til 9pm for dinner. The menu features a selection of salads, sharing plates, pasta dishes and popular mains such as Grilled Rib Steak and Chicken Casserole. A kids meal deal was also available at a cost of 8 euros and included a main, dessert and drink which I thought was good value.

A snacking service is also available throughout the day and when the weather is nice, you can enjoy your food on the outside terrace which overlooks the beautiful chateau. Another restaurant was Pizzeria Chez Madeleine which offered views of the outdoor Aquaparc or the shows in the evening. They sold a great range of pizzas, salads, pastas and desserts and just like The Club House, they also offered a children's meal deal of a main, dessert and drink for a slightly higher price of 9.50 euros.

As we had taken a large amount of food out with us, we mainly self catered and also made use of the outdoor BBQ, however we did use the pizzeria and takeaway at Chez Madeleine on a couple of occasions and the food was delicious and plentiful.


Entertainment

Our experience with the entertainment was somewhat affected by the weather during our stay. Domaine Des Ormes has a superb schedule of shows, but the majority of these take place outdoors so sadly several shows were understandably cancelled. We had heard fantastic reviews about a light and sound experience which takes place on the outer walls of the chateau and is preceded by a large picnic party. This is where guests can gather and enjoy a huge picnic together, but a large thundery shower a few hours earlier led to this not going ahead. All was not lost though, as it was replaced with a pool party inside The Dome which we all really enjoyed.


We did manage to watch a couple of the shows though, the first being the Big Show Superhero which saw the likes of Batman, Ironman, Spiderman and The Joker all battle it out around the Aquaparc. It was fantastic and was a much higher standard that what I had expected. This was followed by a firework display, which again was superb and a lovely way to end an evening.

Riley really enjoyed the Kids Disco where the entertainment staff would teach children the dance moves to some popular party favourites. There was also the opportunity to meet the Les Ormes mascot at the end of the disco, which he was very happy about. As Riley is so shy, his older brother Ben always joins him to help offer encouragement and reassurance which is lovely to see.

Other entertainment that was available throughout our stay was a children's mini disco, karaoke, an ABBA night and an 80's night in Bar Du Moulin.


Local Attractions

We had initially planned to spend a couple of days off site visiting some local attractions, but my children were so happy making the most of all the facilities that were available, that we actually ended up staying on the park throughout the whole week.

However, there is plenty to see and do in the local area and some of the nearby towns and attractions looked fantastic. The reception area has plenty of information on everything that there is to do, as well as having plenty of leaflets available on places to visit.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mont Saint-Michel is only a 40 minute drive away and you can park all day for 13 euros, which includes a shuttle service to take you across the bay. At the top of the village streets there stands a stunning abbey, which I am sure offers some incredible views.

If you would like a trip to the beach, then the seaside city of Dinard is also a 40 minute drive and offers great views of the bay. A few kilometres past Dinard is Plage de Longchamp in Saint-Lunaire which offers a great spot for some surfing.

Family attractions such as Alligator Bay near Mont St-Michel and The Grand Aquarium in Saint Malo are also great options for day trips. We drove past The Grand Aquarium on our way back to the port and it looked absolutely huge!

Our Journey Home

We were all so sad when it came to leaving Domaine Des Ormes as the week had quite literally flown by. We left the site just after 8am, so our Al Fresco representative came to check us out the night before and to return our cleaning deposit which meant that we didn't need to worry about waiting around in the morning.

The journey back to the port was really straightforward and we hardly came across any traffic on the way, making it a nice and pleasant drive. On arrival in the port the process was just as quick and easy as when we had arrived and was simply just a case of providing our reservation number and passports, before being guided into our queue line ready to board the ferry.

As this was a daytime crossing we had no cabin booked, which in hindsight I wish we had done, just so we had somewhere private to go and relax and charge our phones in between the daytime entertainment. The journey crossing was due to take around 8 hours and with daytime cabins only costing around £26 for a four berth, then I would definitely book one of these in the future.

We certainly felt the crossing a little more on the return journey and it did get our tummy's turning at times. Riley also suffered with some dizziness, so we did our best to distract him as much as we could with the onboard entertainment. We enjoyed a full cooked breakfast shortly after departure, where the kids were each provided with a goody bag and we then heard an announcement to tell us that there was a cinema on board and tickets were available to purchase.

I went to the reception and was delighted to see that they were showing Toy Story 4, so we booked tickets for the 12:30pm show. This cost us £25 for a family of five, so it was also far cheaper than if we went to a normal local cinema. Riley didn't complain once during this so I think that having something to concentrate on definitely helped him on the journey.

Straight after the film the entertainment staff put on a fantastic pantomime of Peter Pan, so again this kept the kids busy for another couple of hours and made the time pass far more quickly. There was even the opportunity to have your picture taken with the cast after the show.


Our Al Fresco Holidays Experience

Overall we had a fantastic time at Domaine Des Ormes and we are already looking at booking to return next Easter. We loved the huge variety of activities that were available, which meant that we could have a relaxing day just fishing and sunbathing by the lake, whilst the next day could be completely action packed with high ropes, horse riding, swimming and watersports.

The Al Fresco Holidays experience was superb as usual from start to finish and if we ever went to the main reception with any questions, we could always find a representative to speak to. Prior to our holiday I also spoke with several chat representatives online to ask various questions and every advisor that I spoke to was polite, courteous and offered great customer service.

Our accommodation was spacious and comfortable and we particularly enjoyed the outdoor seating which gave us a lovely place to relax in the evening. I felt that the mobile homes were nicely spaced out which also gave you some privacy without feeling overlooked.

If you are therefore looking for a holiday park that offers plenty of activities amongst beautiful countryside surroundings, then I would definitely recommend Domaine Des Ormes!

For further information on Al Fresco Holidays, you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Website - www.alfresco-holidays.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/alfrescoholidays
Twitter - @AlFrescoHols
Instagram - @alfresco_hols
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/AlfrescoALF

There are currently some fantastic offers available on 2020 holidays, so be sure to check out their deals and availability here - https://www.alfresco-holidays.com/deals-offers-inspiration/2020-holidays


*Disclaimer: This was a press trip, which means that we were provided with complimentary accommodation and ferry travel for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. Food, drinks, activities and other associated travel costs were all at our own expense. Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated. This post contains affiliate links.

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