Showing posts with label Al Fresco Holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Al Fresco Holidays. Show all posts

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.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Planning Our Trip to Brittany with Al Fresco Holidays - Preview

If you are a regular visitor to the blog, then you will know of our love for family holidays. For the past few years we have teamed up with Al Fresco Holidays to check out some of their fantastic holiday parks across Europe, creating many special memories along the way. So far we have visited Sanguli in Spain, La Croix du Vieux Pont in France and Portofelice in Italy, experiencing a wonderful fun-filled time at each destination.

This year we have already returned to Portofelice twice in both May and July after falling in love with the park last year, but we shall shortly be visiting somewhere new and travelling on an overnight ferry to stay at Domaine Des Ormes, located in Brittany. This will be a new adventure for all of us, having never travelled on an overnight ferry previously, so although we are a little nervous about what the cabins will be like, we are also really excited to be trying something a little out of our comfort zone in terms of transport.

One of my favourite things to do when visiting somewhere new, is to plan and research. I love finding out about the area, the must-see places to visit and finding affordable family restaurants. I like to be prepared as much as possible, so I will also try and find out the prices of any nearby activities so that we can also set a realistic budget for our holiday.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
Getting to Domaine Des Ormes is going to take us approximately one full day so we need to ensure that we have everything sorted for our journey. We are planning on setting off from our home at 5am to make the 4.5 hour journey to Portsmouth, planning to reach there for approximately 11am allowing for some rest breaks along the way. Our ferry crossing isn't until later that evening, so we are planning on visiting some tourist attractions throughout the day (though we are currently undecided on which ones) in order to tire us all out so that we can sleep on the boat.

Our overnight journey will then see us travel onboard an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo, arriving early at around 6am, with disembarkation commencing at 8am. It is our plan at the moment to drive straight to the site which is approximately 40 minutes away from the port, so that we can get our bearings and make use of the on-site facilities for our first day, before being able to check in to our accommodation at 4pm.

We are taking our own vehicle, so we need to ensure that we have everything that we need to comply with French regulations, this includes both documents and kit so I have began to get everything together. In terms of paperwork it is compulsory to have your driving licence, V5 document and vehicle insurance. Whilst breakdown cover isn't essential, I would never leave home without it especially when travelling abroad, so I have double checked that our existing policy covers us in France and would always recommend taking this out before starting your journey as it could save you a lot of hassle (and money) should you be unfortunate enough to break down.

There are other items of kit which are also compulsory and these include a GB sticker, warning triangle, reflective jacket (enough for all passengers in the vehicle), headlamp adjustment stickers and a breathalyser.

The site of Domaine Des Ormes looks absolutely incredible. They have recently released a new app called Les Ormes which provides so much information on all the activities available, along with a handy map, restaurant menus and entertainment times. I love handy tools like this as it really helps with the planning, especially when it comes to budgeting for activities.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
My children have already had a good look through the choices available and each of them have made a small list which details which activities they would like to try. Emma is really keen to have a go at wakeboarding, as well as a try on the zipline, whilst Riley is looking forward to having a pony ride and enjoying the kids disco. Ben has said that he would like to try the Escape game and archery, in addition to having some fun on the slip and slide. It certainly seems like there is going to be plenty to keep them occupied and it is great that they have already began to get excited about trying new things.

We also joined a facebook group which is packed full of handy tips and advice from previous guests. There have been numerous recommendations for the late evening sound and light show, which takes place on the Chateau of the Domaine. There is also a family fireworks show on selected dates, so we are hoping that one will be taking place during our visit.

One thing that the facebook group has been particularly useful for, is finding out more about places to visit in the area and family friendly attractions. It has been great to read about other people's experiences and learn more about the must-see sights in the area. We have been told that St Malo itself is a beautiful place, along with Mont St Michael which looks stunning in some of the photographs we have seen.

One of our favourite activities to do whilst on holiday is enjoy some swimming, so we were delighted to follow the progress of a new Dome which has been built over the existing swimming complex. We have watched this develop on the Domaine Des Ormes facebook page over the past few months and I will be honest when I say it looks absolutely incredible! As well as swimming pools, there is a wave pool, lazy river ride and water slides, so we are guaranteed to have an action-packed week of fun.

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
In terms of accommodation, we will be staying in one of the Al Fresco Holidays Vivaldi Lounge Mobile Homes. These are three bedroomed mobile homes, which means that there will be plenty of space for all of us. They also have a nice decking area and outdoor seating, so we will be able to make the most of the Al Fresco experience. We have always found the Al Fresco mobile homes very clean, tidy and well equipped with everything we need for our stay, which is just what you need after a long journey.

Overall we are now beginning to get really excited for our upcoming holiday and we cannot wait to share our review of our Al Fresco Holiday to Domaine Des Ormes in a few weeks. Please be sure to follow us on our social media pages, as we will be posting plenty of images during our stay (wifi permitting). Our social media can be found on the following channels:

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/itsafamilyadventure/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/itsafamilyblog

You can also learn more about Al Fresco Holidays by visiting their website or social media pages which can be found on the following channels:

Website - https://www.alfresco-holidays.com/ where you can find some superb deals on family holidays.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/AlFrescoHols
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/alfrescoholidays
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/alfresco_hols/

Image kindly provided by Al Fresco Holidays
*Disclaimer - We will be visiting Domaine Des Ormes on a press trip, for the purpose of writing an honest review of the park and our experience. This means that our accommodation and transport has been arranged for us, however all food, attractions and activities will be paid for by ourselves.

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Day Trip to Venice from Portofelice Camping Village

If you are a regular visitor to the blog, you will have seen that we recently visited the Portofelice Camping Village with Al Fresco Holidays. The holiday park was situated in Eraclea Mare on the Venetian Riviera and was ideally situated for a day trip to Venice.

On arrival we asked at reception for the best way to visit Venice for a day trip. They kindly provided us with a bus timetable and explained that during our stay the buses would only run on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I had a quick look at the weather forecast for the week and we decided on choosing Wednesday for our family day out.

We opted for the Quickly bus and boat service which involves a bus journey to Punta Sabbioni and then a boat across the water to Venice. Tickets needed to be purchased from reception and so I visited the desk on Tuesday evening. However, I was informed on arrival that they were no longer selling tickets that evening as the weather forecast had changed and due to the tickets being non refundable, they asked me to come back the following morning to purchase them before we boarded the bus. Whilst I totally appreciate their reasoning for this and the fact that they are only thinking of their guests, my inner organised self did not like having to purchase the tickets last minute and I was worried that when we returned to buy them in the morning that they would be sold out. Luckily there was no problem and I simply set our alarm ten minutes earlier than planned and joined the short queue at reception on the Wednesday morning.

Our tickets cost a total of 107 euros for 2 adults and 3 children which I thought was reasonable considering that it also included a boat trip. Once we safely had our tickets, we made our way outside of the park, crossed the road and waited at the bus stop on the opposite side. Shortly after our scheduled pick up time, two buses arrived together and we began to board.

The buses were very busy, but we were lucky enough to get five seats together towards the back of the bus. Some guests who got on after us though did have to stand which isn't ideal given that it is an hour long journey to Punta Sabbioni, so I would advise getting to the bus stop early if you want to be one of the first to board. The bus journey itself was very straightforward and it was nice being able to relax and just observe our surroundings as we travelled.

We arrived in Punta Sabbioni just after 10am and it was extremely busy, I would imagine that this is probably peak time for crossings as there were lengthy queues in both the tourist and local entrances. We had to wait around half an hour before a boat arrived, but once on board it was a very pleasant and enjoyable journey across the water. My children enjoyed being able to spot things from a distance and waved at the other boats. Much to my youngest sons delight, a lifelike pirate galleon complete with pirates passed us and Riley could not believe his eyes!

The boat journey took approximately half an hour and we disembarked a short walk away from St Mark's Square. Just like Punta Sabbioni it was extremely busy and we noticed that there were also a large amount of tour groups walking around and taking in the sights. I had done some research beforehand and had planned to visit St Mark's Basilica and The Bell Tower so we began to head in their direction. I had also read about the Bridge of Sighs which connects Doge's Palace to the Jail. It is constructed of white limestone and looks really beautiful and unique.

I wasn't too sure as to whereabouts in Venice this was actually located, though fortunately for us, we passed it as we were walking to St Mark's Square. It would have been hard to miss as there was a large crowd of people all excitedly taking photos.


As we continued to St Mark's Square we took a moment to stop and take everything in. Venice is just so picturesque, but due to it being so busy, it would be easy to focus on making your way through the crowds as opposed to taking in the stunning views.

There were gondolas galore all neatly lined up waiting for passengers and my youngest son Riley found them a bit of a novelty as he had never seen one before. We were very tempted to go for a little journey on one of these, however Riley felt that the seats were too close to the water and so refused to even entertain the idea, which was a little disappointing.


Everywhere we turned there were little narrow streets or waterways and everything looked so beautiful and idyllic. Buildings looked grand and historic and the inquisitive side of me was intrigued as to how much property would even cost to buy in such a magnificent place. A quick look on google gave me the answer I was expecting - Very Expensive! I found a 2 bedroomed apartment a short distance away from St Marks Square that was really small and in need of decoration for an incredible 1.3 million euros!


We continued our journey past Doge's Palace which seemed to be a hive of activity for tour groups. Underneath the arches of the palace also seemed to be a popular place for people to have five minutes rest and get some shade from the sun. We noticed that there was very minimal seating for such a built up area and we thought that there would have been a lot more benches. Visitors were therefore finding any spot they could to have a sit down, which is a shame as there is plenty of space for public seating along the waterfront.


Once we had made our way past Doge's Palace we immediately noticed the absolutely stunning St Mark's Basilica and what an incredible building it is. I had read beforehand about the excessive queues so I had pre-booked Skip the Line tickets and I am so glad we did as the queue was enormous. Usually this attraction is free entry, but Skip the Line tickets cost 3 euros each and are well worth the money to be able to just walk straight in. I was also able to show our tickets on my phone, so this meant that we didn't need to print anything off to take with us, which is always handy when you are travelling and have no access to a printer.


There are several rules when visiting St Mark's Basilica which are no bags allowed, no filming or photography and also that shoulders and knees must be covered at all times. The boys in my family all wore over the knee shorts and my daughter and I wore lightweight trousers, though my daughter brought some shorts along with her to change into afterwards.

Due to the no photography rule, I don't have any pictures of the inside but I can honestly tell you that it is amazing inside and a must see place to visit when in Venice. You can also pay extra once inside to enter other areas of St Mark's Basilica including the balcony which overlooks the square, however we opted not to do this. At the exit there was a lovely little shop that sold numerous items at really reasonable prices. My children all attend a catholic primary school and so they purchased some presents for their teachers here, as well as a gift for their head of religious studies which I thought was very thoughtful of them.


The weather was extremely hot and so all the children were eager to cool down with some delicious Italian ice cream. We visited a nearby restaurant that also had an ice cream parlour at the entrance and purchased some lovely flavours. We noticed that a lot of the ice cream parlours operate a two scoop minimum policy, so Riley and I shared two scoops in a tub as it would have been too much for him on his own. We then found some steps to sit on in the square whilst we ate and took in the view of the Basilica and the Bell Tower. It had originally been our intention to climb to the top of the Bell Tower, however when you are stood at the bottom of it, it is definitely much taller than how it appears in photographs. As both Ben and I are scared of heights we decided to observe it from the ground instead and set about exploring the narrow streets surrounding the square.


Some of the shops sold such beautiful items and it was enjoyable just window shopping and viewing the products on sale. However, everything seemed very expensive including the use of the nearby public toilets! When the kids wanted to make a quick loo break it cost us 1.50 euros each. I even had to pay just to accompany Riley as I didn't want him to go on his own regardless of whether I was using them or not. Luckily I had brought plenty of change with us, so although costly it wasn't really a problem.

Before we knew it several hours had already passed and we were conscious that we only had a couple more hours until our return boat trip back to Punta Sabbioni. We therefore decided to stop exploring the narrow streets in case we became lost and make our way back to the waterfront. On the way we found a lovely little cafe that sold freshly made ciabatta sandwiches so we purchased some of these to eat along the way. We had originally planned to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, but due to how busy everywhere was, we wouldn't have made it in time, so we had to settle with a light lunch instead.


We took a slow stroll along the waterfront, which gave us the opportunity to appreciate everything that was around us. We managed to find some steps to sit on whilst we ate our sandwiches and this gave us a lovely view of the passing gondolas. It was strange to be aware of how busy it was behind us, yet so peaceful in front. Certainly one of my most favourite lunch spots yet!


As we continued along the waterfront, the children enjoyed looking at some of the street stalls. A lot of these generally sold the same souvenirs, but the kids enjoyed browsing whilst also trying to bargain with the sellers for a good price. Emma managed to purchase a t-shirt and hat for 15 euros which should have been 20 euros originally and Riley bought a hat for 5 euros instead of 8. Ben was tempted by the football shirts, but ultimately decided to save his money to buy something he had seen in the shop at the campsite.


After taking in more of the views, we returned back to our boat station where we caught a slightly earlier boat back to Punta Sabbioni to wait for our return bus. As it had been so busy earlier in the morning, I didn't want to risk missing the boat back due to queues, so we felt that by leaving a bit sooner, this would be a safer option. This actually worked out extremely well as on arrival in Punta Sabbioni we found it to be extremely quiet and quite the contrast to our morning experience. This meant that we had plenty of time to sit outside one of the cafes and enjoy a refreshing cold drink and some snacks.

Once the bus arrived, it was an hour journey back to the campsite. Again it was full, but we all managed to get seats, although we were separated this time and Riley had to sit on my knee. A couple of families did decide to take a taxi back to the campsite as opposed to waiting for the bus and there is a large taxi office just opposite the boarding area. If you wanted to use a taxi instead, this would cost you in the region of 80 euros one way. Having already paid 107 euros for the bus & boat, we were quite happy to stick with this option.


Overall we had an absolutely wonderful day in Venice, it was very busy and did feel very crowded at times, but it is definitely a city worth experiencing. I would suggest taking advantage of the skip the line entry tickets for the most popular attractions as although it will cost you slightly more, it definitely beats lengthy queues, which in the heat of the summer can be very uncomfortable. I would also recommend sensible shoes such as trainers or pumps. I opted for sandals that matched my flowery trousers as I had completely underestimated the amount of walking we would do and subsequently my feet were really hurting by the time we caught the boat back. Lastly if you get the chance to visit, make sure you take the time to just simply stop and take everything in around you. It is truly a beautiful city and there is so much to see, so don't just follow the crowd, find a quiet spot and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

*Disclaimer: This review is based on our own experience and any prices quoted or details provided are subject to change. Opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains an affiliate link.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Our Family Holiday to Portofelice in Italy with Al Fresco Holidays

We have travelled with Al Fresco Holidays now on several occasions and they have quickly become a holiday brand that we know and trust. From the booking process to the return journey home, I can always be sure that we are in safe hands and that we are going to have a fantastic holiday.

Previously, we have visited two of their large and lively parks which were Sanguli and La Croix du Vieux Pont. This time however, we were staying on a medium sized park on the Venetian Riviera in Italy.

We chose this destination for our Al Fresco holiday due to its close proximity to Venice, which is somewhere that both my husband and I have always wanted to visit. It has also been quite some time since we last ventured to Italy, with our previous trips to both Rome and Genoa being over ten years ago. In all honesty, whilst I had often thought of returning to Italy, we hadn't actually considered it as a family holiday destination and it was only due to the fact that the Union Lido holiday park was mentioned to us during our trip to France, that we became aware of the possibility.

Once we began to look into a family holiday along the Venetian Riveria, we were actually surprised to find that Al Fresco Holidays have five parks based here. Whilst they all looked fantastic, it was Portofelice Camping Village that really stood out to us. This was due to its prime location, easy access to a beach and plenty of activities for the children. It also had some fantastic reviews and I often rely a lot on other peoples experiences of somewhere, when choosing where to stay.

About Al Fresco Holidays

Al Fresco Holidays specialise in mobile home holidays throughout Europe, with some fantastic family friendly parks on offer. Whether you are looking for a beach break, a peaceful countryside setting, or an action packed activity filled holiday, then Al Fresco Holidays is sure to have a site that will suit your needs.

Featuring 74 parks across Europe, Al Fresco Holidays can be enjoyed in France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Holland and Austria and they have all been hand picked to ensure that they have everything you need to enjoy a memorable holiday.

They offer a variety of mobile home options, which are all well equipped, comfortable and modern. The mobile homes offer a fantastic solution for larger families as some of the accommodations can sleep up to 8 people, which makes them extremely cost effective. They offer more space than just an individual hotel room and some of the holiday homes also offer decking, outdoor seating and a barbecue, which all help you to make the most of the sunshine too.

This year has also seen the introduction of two new styles of mobile homes which are the Toscanini Lounge and the Da Vinci Lounge, with both featuring an extended decking area and canopy. They can sleep up to 6 people comfortably in their 3 bedroomed models and a 2 bedroom version of the Da Vinci can also be found at the Union Lido Holiday Park on the Venetian Riviera.

It is also worth noting that the Toscanini Lounge is available as a wheelchair adapted model at the Le Clarys Plage Holiday Park in France, which has easy access, lowered surfaces and an adapted shower room.

Their website is extremely easy to use and the added function of an online chat ensures that any enquiries can be dealt with promptly. If it is out of hours, or an online adviser is unavailable then you can simply leave a message and someone quickly gets back to you with a response. They can also be contacted by telephone, which makes dealing with any queries either before, during or after your booking really simple.

The Al Fresco Holidays website makes searching for your ideal holiday an enjoyable process and by using the search function you can refine your results to suit your particular needs and requirements. You can also make selections based on budget, location or facilities so using this can help you find your perfect destination.

There is also plenty of information available on travel options with choices such as flights, self-drive, the ferry or Eurotunnel all being something to consider. The detailed information on each park tells you where your nearest airport or port is, so if you are after somewhere with a short transfer, or would like to limit your driving time, then this information can come in very useful. If you are unable to decide which option would suit you best, then Al Fresco representatives are always happy to help and can provide recommendations.

Our Arrival at Portofelice Camping Village

We flew with Jet2 from Manchester to Venice Marco Polo Airport. We had no problems with the airline at all and everything ran to schedule. The flight time was only two hours which passed really quickly and we were transferred from the plane to the arrivals area by bus.

The airport was well organised and it only took five minutes to get through border control and to the luggage area. The children were amazed with how the airport looked, as all over the baggage collection area there was incredible art work everywhere, including the flooring and even on the grooves of the baggage carousel.

We had a transfer arranged with Sun Transfers and it was only a very short walk from meeting our driver in the arrivals hall to get to the actual vehicle. As we began to travel along the roads, we all enjoyed taking in our new surroundings and it took approximately 45 minutes in total to reach the site.

As we began to get closer to the holiday park, my son Ben noticed a sign for Portofelice at the side of the road. We were so excited to almost be there and it wasn't long before we could all see the entrance in the distance. It was time to let our holiday begin!


We arrived just before 1pm and the taxi driver parked up outside reception and helped us to unload our luggage. There were a couple of other guests in the queue, so we patiently waited for our turn to check in. The reception area has three service desks so we didn't have long to wait at all to be welcomed.

I had initially been a little concerned about the language barrier as all of my family can manage conversational Welsh, French or Spanish, certainly not at a fluent level, but enough to ask for directions, order items, general greetings or make a simple enquiry, However, we had no knowledge of the Italian language at all, so even simple words such as please or thank you were completely new to us. Fortunately the reception staff spoke extremely good English and we were able to check in without any issues. I did feel a little awkward not even being able to say thank you in the native language and wish I had learnt the basics prior to our trip, but we all made the effort throughout our stay to learn words from others and use them when we could.


The whole check in process took approximately five minutes and the receptionist provided us with a large envelope, booklet and sun lounger reservation board. She informed me that one of her colleagues would take us to our accommodation on a buggy, where we would be met by our Al Fresco representatives. I was already very impressed with the service and it was nice to be taken to our accommodation as opposed to us having to search for it whilst hauling our suitcases.

The buggy picked us up straight away and it was a short drive to the accommodation. During the journey we drove past the main entertainment area, stage and pool zone, so it was nice to instantly get a good idea as to where everything was situated.

As the buggy pulled up outside the accommodation, our Al Fresco representatives were there waiting for us and ready to show us around. As we had arrived a few hours before the official Al Fresco check in time, we hadn't expected our accommodation to be ready straight away. This was therefore a lovely surprise, as after a morning of travelling we just wanted to get changed, sit down and enjoy a drink outside.

Our representatives Michael and Kathryn were really welcoming and the accommodation was spotless. They showed us around each room and also how to work any items of equipment that we may need during our stay. As with all Al Fresco holidays, you are required to leave a housekeeping deposit on arrival of 60 euros, so I filled in a brief form confirming that the accommodation was clean and tidy on check in and handed over my deposit. I personally think that this is a really good system as it encourages all holiday makers to look after their accommodation which makes it beneficial not only for you whilst staying, but also future guests.

Accommodation

For the duration of our holiday, we were to be staying in a Da Vinci Mobile Home which is new to the Al Fresco Holidays accommodation range. Although visually it appeared quite compact on first glance, we soon found that it had more than enough space for our needs and suited us perfectly. It had been cleverly designed and made use of every square metre it had, with plenty of storage in every room.

Each mobile home on our road was nicely separated from the next and I liked how they had all been sited. On some sites we have stayed at, the mobile homes have been situated behind one another, so when sitting out on your decking you are simply staring at a wall, where as the layout of these meant that you were facing outwards and could see what was going on around you. This also meant that the children could play out with their friends and that we were able to supervise them from the comfort of our decking. There was plenty of space between each one which meant that there were no noise issues and we didn't feel too cramped in. The decking area created a lovely outdoor living space and our first impressions were great.


Although located by a road, this is used as more of a walkway and we very rarely saw vehicles on here, unless they had just arrived and were unloading their car. Once unpacked, cars would be moved to their designated parking space which was situated at the end of the road, so it was very safe for our children to play outside during our stay.

Inside our accommodation we were really pleased with both the space and the modern interior that ran throughout. The kitchen was well equipped with everything we could possibly need and due to our mobile home being a new Da Vinci model, we were actually only the second family to have stayed in it. This meant that all the items were practically brand new and some utensils hadn't been used at all. I did find that the kitchen was somewhat limited on storage areas for food as every drawer and cupboard was filled with equipment, however all the items can easily fit in one cupboard, so we simply moved some items which then gave us an empty cupboard for food.

The fridge freezer is the ideal size for a weeks stay and there was more than enough room for all our chilled items. We did a large food shop once we had settled in and despite purchasing a fair few things, there was still ample space for more and everything was kept nicely chilled during our stay.

Although equipment is plentiful, we found that there were two items that we would have also liked to have been available in the kitchen. These were a pizza cutter and oven gloves. Neither of these are provided as part of the standard inventory, however we mentioned this to our Al Fresco representatives and they came back to our accommodation within an hour to borrow us some. I felt that this was really great service, as they could have easily just told us to purchase them from the shop, so it was nice that they took the initiative to resolve this for us.


Our mobile home had three bedrooms which consisted of a double room and two twins. Our double room had a very comfy bed, overhead storage, full length mirror, wardrobe, shelves and bedside tables. It felt very spacious and there was plenty of room for us to unpack our belongings.

Emma and Riley shared one of the twin rooms and again there was overhead storage, shelving and a wardrobe. Ben had the second twin room, however one of the beds had been collapsed and stored under his bed. This gave him a lot of space and also gave us somewhere to place our suitcases once we had unpacked.

The indoor living area is relatively small, however we only ate in here for breakfast, as we utilised the outdoor space instead for the remainder of our time. The sofa was comfortable though and all five of us could sit around the table with ease. The decking area was our preferred place to relax though, as it was nice to be outdoors enjoying the weather and observing everything that was going on around us.

The outdoor dining table was a really good quality rattan and glass design, which is far better than some of the plastic tables we have experienced previously. It adds a bit of luxury to the accommodation and we enjoyed sitting out here to enjoy our lunch together. There are only four chairs, however there are also two fold away chairs stored in the double bedroom wardrobe for additional guests. As well as the dining table seating, there is also two comfortable loungers which the children in particular enjoyed relaxing on.

A large outdoor clothes airer was also provided which we found to be extremely useful for drying our swimwear and towels. We were very fortunate to have extremely good weather throughout the whole week, so we would place any wet items on there in the evening and they would be warm and dry by the morning.

A gas barbecue was also available for us to use and there were some bbq meat sets available to purchase in the shop, such as kebabs, burgers and chicken. We had planned to have a barbecue one evening, but had enjoyed our meals in the restaurant so much that we decided to continue dining there for the majority of our stay.


The Swimming Pool

The swimming pool area was absolutely fantastic and it was also where we spent the majority of our holiday. There are three pools in total which consist of a large shallow area for infants and toddlers, a medium depth pool for general fun, swimming and activities and then a larger pool that is suitable for full length swimming. The third pool is deep and from memory it is a consistent 1.4 metres throughout, with steps on either side for entry.


Riley absolutely loved the children's pool as this was a really large area and at its deepest point it only ever went up to his waist. The pool's aren't heated and do feel a little cool on entry, but it only takes a few minutes to get used to it before it feels fine. Located within this pool was also a small slide and a large mushroom shaped fountain.

Inflatables are not allowed in the pools, but you are welcome to play with small swimming toys and so we purchased some weighted sharks which I would throw into the pool and Riley would have to find them. There was a really lovely moment during one day of our holiday when Riley made friends with a young boy from Germany. Neither of them could understand what the other was saying, yet they played together beautifully for ages, taking it in turns to find the sharks. I loved the fact that they kept talking to each other and smiling and laughing, which just goes to show that language should not be a barrier to making friends.


As I research all my holiday destinations thoroughly before travelling, I knew that we needed to book our sun loungers for the pool on Portofelice's own website if we wanted to be sure of a lounger during our stay. I know that some people may not like the idea of having to pay for a lounger, but personally I absolutely loved it and think that the idea works really well.

Firstly we were able to choose from a map online where we would like our loungers to be, so we were able to get a fantastic location right by the toddler pool. This meant that when I wanted to have a rest away from the water, then I could sit down and relax whilst still being able to supervise Riley. The biggest plus point for me though was no early morning battles to reserve a lounger with your towel. This is one of my biggest annoyances on holiday, as in some places you have to get up really early just to go and join a queue to place a towel down.

Reserving your sun lounger by payment completely eradicates that problem and once you have booked, you know that those loungers are yours for the duration you have them reserved. In total we paid 42 euros for the week which gave us two sun loungers, a parasol and a table. On arrival we were provided with a reservation board which you then simply hang on your parasol to make other guests aware that the lounger is not available. It is also strictly enforced by the pool, so you don't need to worry about turning up and finding someone else on your loungers as the pool staff consistently monitor this extremely well. You can also reserve sun loungers on arrival, however this is subject to availability.

If you don't fancy parting with your cash though and you aren't too bothered about sun loungers, then there is also plenty of open space where you are welcome to lay your towel and sunbathe. The first of these areas is located adjacent to the main pool (pictured below) and consists of a large wooden decking area. Alternatively there is another area behind the water slides where towels may also be placed.


In addition to the pools, there is also a separate waterslide area that consists of two slides, one blue and one yellow. Depending on your age you can only use one of these slides which then takes you into a small separate pool away from the main swimming areas. They are only small slides, but they do still provide lots of fun. My children went on these a few times, but tended to spend most of their time in the medium pool, taking part in the organised activities.

The entertainment staff all work extremely hard, but a special mention has to be given to the gentleman who runs the Aquagym at 11:40 each day. Unfortunately I did not catch his name, but he is an incredibly enthusiastic individual, who made keeping fit and exercising so much fun! We all enjoyed taking part in his morning activity, even Riley, who could not help but join in and do the moves to the fabulous zumba sound track.

As well as Aquagym, there was also Pilates, Games and a Water Dance session that took place each day, which we all really enjoyed. The game changed each day and both Emma and Ben were lucky enough to win the final round in two of the challenges and both won a Portofelice cap for their efforts. We later found out that these were on sale for 11 euros in the shop, so the children were absolutely delighted to have won them.


The Beach

We visited the beach on six out of seven days during our stay and found it to be a lovely place to relax and enjoy a swim. The water is really shallow and very gentle for quite some distance out, so the children enjoyed being able to swim in the sea and play games, without being too scared of going deep or being caught in currents. There is a buoy system in place and plenty of lifeguards to help ensure guest safety. We also noticed that during the busier days, there was always a lifeguard in the water as well as on the beach.


The water was much clearer than I had expected and this meant that you could safely see where you were standing and also watch the small fish swim around your legs. My son Ben also enjoyed searching for crabs and found quite a few on the sea bed. Riley really enjoyed looking for shells and finding unusual colours or designs and he would walk around every day collecting them in his little bucket.

Another popular activity was digging holes and building sandcastles. There was a slight confusion over whether this was permitted, as in the booklet on arrival it states that digging holes on the beach is prohibited, but then states that they recognise it is a popular activity so they can be dug, but must be filled in afterwards, which obviously contradicts itself. Either way the majority of children seemed to enjoy this, so we allowed our children to do the same and just filled them in as requested before we left. It only takes a minute to push the sand back in, so this really wasn't a problem.

Al Fresco Holidays also have a great idea where you can borrow outdoor items from their hut and there is plenty of fun equipment to choose from including buckets, spades, toys and boogie boards. Both Emma and Ben decided to borrow a board each and they enjoyed paddling out to sea and allowing the gentle waves to carry them back to shore.


The beach was really busy each day that we visited, but it never felt too crowded. Just like at the pool, you could reserve and pay for sun loungers if you wished, but we chose to just use our towels on the sand here, just like we do at any other beach, so didn't feel that hiring a lounger was necessary.

There was an ice cream and drinks cart that would travel up and down the beach at regular intervals and the prices were very reasonable. With it being so hot during our stay, it was nice to be able to purchase a cold refreshing drink and ice creams for the kids without having to venture too far.


By the entrance to the beach there is also a bar and cafe, which again served a wide range of drinks and snacks at reasonable prices. An extensive menu was also available here with plenty of choice for hot or cold meals and there were numerous table and chairs under a shaded area for customers. It had been our intention to eat here one evening whilst overlooking the beach, however we were unaware that it closed at 7pm so missed the opportunity. When we return we will definitely dine here, though will most likely visit for lunch instead of evening meal.

The toilets and showers that are available are all really clean and despite the beach being extremely busy, the staff obviously work hard to ensure that the facilities are well maintained. We had seen a few pictures before our holiday that showed pedaloes being available for hire which also had slides on the front. We had been looking forward to using these, but unfortunately we couldn't find anyone renting these out during our stay. It is possible that these may only be available in the peak summer season, but with the water being so clear and calm, they would be a great activity to enjoy in the water along with some kayaks or paddleboards.


On the beach we were approached by a couple of local sellers. They sold a whole range of items from coconuts to kites and we found them all to be very polite with no hard sell. A simple no thank you would see them leave you alone immediately, but I must admit that we were all extremely tempted by the kites. They looked so fantastic against the blue sky background.

Activities

Activities at Portofelice are plentiful and there really is something for everyone. My children enjoyed the arcade most evenings before the mini disco and collected tickets throughout the week on the games, to exchange them for a prize. The arcade uses a token system, which makes it easy to manage a budget. Tokens are 50 cents each, but there is a deal where you can get 22 tokens for 10 euros, so we took advantage of this and shared the tokens between us. The arcade offered a great range of games that were suitable for all ages and the fishing game, air hockey and Sega Rally game were all popular choices with my children (and husband)!


Outside the main shopping area, there was a host of activities to enjoy, which all offered really good value for money. There were bungee trampolines, rickshaw hire, bike hire, go karts, coin operated rides and Happy Land. The bungee trampolines were only 3 euros a go and a large rickshaw only cost us 9 euros for half an hour. This was really enjoyable and we rode around the whole site together to have a look at all the areas we hadn't seen previously. It was funny trying to pedal over the speed bumps and manouvere the rickshaw around the roads and we saw lots of families and groups of children having a great time with them.

Happy Land is a young child's paradise and features a range of bouncy castles, outdoor toys, pedal cars, push along bikes, ball ponds, play equipment and a fun obstacle course. Riley absolutely loved it in here and was even brave enough to try the large inflatable drop slide by the end of the week. (Personally I think I was more scared watching him, than he was attempting it)! Entry to Happy Land cost 5 euros and paying guests receive a hand stamp. I couldn't see it advertised anywhere as to how long you were meant to have access for, so we just stayed for an hour each time we visited. The large inflatable obstacle course was Riley's favourite and he loved making his way through the challenges and sliding down at the end. Benches were also available for supervising adults, so it was also nice to be able to sit down and relax whilst watching Riley play.


Portofelice provides an excellent Mini Club for younger guests as well as organised sports games. The Mini Club programme was full of fun activities that included a Sandcastle building competition, Chocolate Party and Arts & Crafts. It is designed for children between the ages of 4 to 10 and during our stay there was a morning and afternoon session on each day, with each activity lasting two hours. We didn't use the services of the Mini Club as my children enjoyed the activities by the pool so much, but it was useful knowing that it was available for us, if the kids did want to participate.


Next to the Mini Club, there is a really nice park area for children, with plenty of equipment for them to play on. This is located adjacent to the beach walk entrance, so we stopped here on a couple of occasions on our way to or from the beach. All of my children really enjoyed it here and with beautiful woodland surroundings, it made it a really nice place to enjoy some play time.

A new addition to the Portofelice site for this season is a Mini Golf Course which is situated close to the reception area. Unfortunately we completely forgot that this existed as it is located in an area that we didn't need to pass during our stay, so didn't realise until the day of our departure that we had missed this out.

The coin operated rides were very popular with Riley and the costs varied between 50 cents and 1 euro. Located next to these rides was a large open space with astro turf grass that gave children somewhere nice to run around and play. We spotted a few geckos running by the trees and rocks here, so this also became a regular activity for the kids who found it quite a novelty to have little lizards running around near them.



Food & Restaurants

Our initial plan had been to cook meals in our accommodation most nights and enjoy a couple of evenings out. In reality we actually only ended up cooking on two occasions as the on site restaurant Burlina's offered really good value for money along with great service and food, so ultimately we ended up eating out during the majority of our stay.


We purchased some fresh buns, salad, cheese and some meats from the supermarket, so that we could enjoy some sandwiches at lunch time, then made the most of the on site dining in the evening. The food was absolutely fantastic and we were really surprised with how good the prices were. For our family of five with drinks, we paid between 30-50 euros each visit and felt that this was extremely good value for money, especially given the large portion sizes that were provided.


They also offer a range of deals such as early dining discounts, family meal deals and specials. In the welcome brochure we received on arrival, there was a voucher for a free round of aperitifs when dining in the restaurant, so on one evening we combined this with their 20% off early dining offer and received all the following for only 37 euros:

1 x Diavola Pizza (Pepperoni)  - 7.10 euros
1 x Proschiutto E Funghi Pizza (Ham & Mushroom pictured below) -  6.95 euros
1 x Patate Frite (Fries) - 3.90 euros
1 x Kung Fu Panda Pizza (Cheese, Tomato, Hotdog & Fries) -  5.90 euros
1 x Pikachu Pizza (Cheese, Tomato & Ham) - 5.90 euros
1 x Hamburger & Fries -  6.50 euros
2 x Spritzers - Free with voucher
3 x Fruit juice - Free with voucher
2 x Small Sprites - 5 euros
5 x 1 euro service charge - 5 euros

In total this came to 46.25 with a 20% discount for dining at 6pm which meant the total bill was only 37 euros. This was an absolutely delicious family meal at a bargain of a price and the pizzas were fantastic.

The meals are also available as a take out option and so on the day we returned from Venice, we purchased some pizzas to eat back at our accommodation. Again this was really good value and we purchased 3 Kung Fu Panda pizzas to share for only 17.70 euros.


Evening Entertainment

Another thing that Portofelice get absolutely perfect is the evening entertainment. They have a large outdoor stage with plenty of seating for guests. There is also ample space behind the seats so if you arrive a little too late to grab a chair, then you can easily stand behind the main seating area, or relax on one of the nearby benches.

Every night the entertainment would commence with a children's mini disco at 8:30pm where children (and adults too) could learn dance moves to some popular disco songs and also have the opportunity to go up on stage as well.

This would then be followed at 21:30 with "Show Time" and each night during our stay there was a different form of entertainment suitable for families of all ages. We really enjoyed the Variety Show on the first night of our stay, but our personal favourite was The Foam Party, which was absolutely fantastic. It was so much fun dancing along, whilst huge bursts of foam were sprayed into the air and onto the children and adults partying below. At one point there was so much foam it was up to our knees and we had the best time together enjoying all the fun.

Another highlight of our week was on the Saturday night before our departure, a professional Brazilian Circus team performed a wonderful show that was really spectacular and also a perfect way to end our holiday.


In the Local Area

We had initially planned to have several days out as there is plenty to do in the local area. On arrival I had mentioned to our Al Fresco representatives where we had planned to visit and they said that a lot of guests come with the same intentions, but end up staying on site for the majority of the holiday. Initially I didn't think that this would be the case with us, as we usually like to split our time on holiday both relaxing and enjoying the local attractions and so we will often alternate days on site with a day off exploring. However, the reps ended up being absolutely right and despite intending to visit numerous places, we ultimately only ended up having one day off the park, due to the fact that we loved it so much.

If you do want to enjoy some of the local attractions though, then there is an information office that provides lots of details and leaflets on where to visit. There is also a touch screen computer available that can tell you more about the local area and the upcoming weather to help you make an informed decision. Nearby attractions includes Aqualandia, the Sea Life Centre and Go Karting.


Of course we could not travel to the Venetian Riviera without visiting Venice and so we had one day out to explore this fascinating city. I purchased a Quickly Bus and Boat ticket for us all which cost a total of 107 euros for our family of five. Refunds cannot be given on these if you later decide not to go, so it is worth checking the weather before purchasing to make sure that you will be able to make the most of your visit.

The bus picks you up from outside the park on the opposite side of the road and then transports you to Punta Sabbioni where you then board a boat. The bus journey lasted approximately an hour and then it was a further half an hour on a boat to reach Venice.

We really enjoyed the boat trip and it was lovely to be able to take in all the scenery whilst gliding along the water and the seats were very comfortable. There was enough room for everyone and my children enjoyed waving out of the windows to the other boats as they passed.


I will be writing a separate blog post about our day in Venice, but in brief it was an incredible city packed full of interesting architecture and narrow streets. There was something quite soothing about watching the gondolas travel down the waterways, which made me forget all about the busy crowds around us. The first tourist hotspot we came across was the Bridge of Sighs which connects Doge's Palace to the Jail. It is constructed of white limestone and looks really beautiful and unique.


A short walk from the Bridge of Sighs led us to the bustling St Mark's Square, where we made our way to St Marks Basilica. This is an absolutely stunning and magnificent Cathedral and it can be entered free of charge. However there are very lengthy queues, so we took advantage of the Skip the Line system and purchased entry for 3 euros each, which meant we could enter straight away without the need to wait. There are a few rules that need to be observed when visiting St Mark's Basilica and they request that shoulders and knees remain covered at all times. You are also not permitted to film or take photographs inside, which is a shame as the interior is incredible. Bags are also not allowed to be taken in to the cathedral, but they do offer a free left luggage room just across the road.

The Bell Tower also looked fantastic, but since both Ben and I are scared of heights, we decided not to venture up and instead we began to explore the narrow streets. Some of the shops sold such beautiful items and I could have literally spent the whole day just window shopping. We found a lovely little bakery that sold tasty Ciabatta sandwiches for only 3.50 euros each, so we purchased some of these for lunch and went and sat on a bench near the waterfront to watch the boats go by.

Our time here literally flew and after having lots of fun exploring we caught our boat back to Punta Sabbioni. As it was so busy we decided to return slightly earlier, as I was worried that if the boat was full, then we would miss our bus. This actually ended up working out really well as Punta Sabbioni was extremely quiet when we returned and we enjoyed some food and drinks in one of the cafes whilst waiting for the bus.

I am so glad that we were able to visit one of my bucket list destinations and it was even more beautiful than I had expected. It was very hot and extremely busy, but what an amazing place it is. I would definitely recommend a day trip here if staying at Portofelice.

Hints and Tips

Whilst my review should give you a really good idea of what to expect at Portofelice Camping Village, I wanted to summarise some of my top tips for you, to help with planning your stay.
  • Book your pool sun lounger in advance - If you enjoy soaking up the rays by the pool or simply love to relax and read a good book, then make sure you visit the Portofelice website prior to your visit to reserve a sun lounger. There are only a limited amount and these have to be paid for if you wish to make use of them. Whilst this may seem strange, we absolutely loved it and felt that it worked really well. It prevented that really annoying early morning rush for sunbeds that you have in most places and each set of sunbeds was nicely spaced out ensuring that you weren't too crammed in. We paid 42 euros for two sunbeds, a parasol and table for our 7 day stay.
  • Plan your day visits - During the week that we stayed the buses only ran on certain days, this may increase as the summer season progresses, but is certainly worth checking if there is a particular place you are wanting to visit. For example the buses to Aqualandia ran on Tuesdays & Thursdays, whilst the Quickly Bus and Boat service ran on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Read the booklet you are given on arrival - There is a voucher inside for a free round of aperitifs when ordering a main meal from the restaurant. Adults receive a spritzer and children receive a fruit juice. Alternatively, if you request a paper copy of the takeaway menu, there is a paper voucher attached to the bottom of this too.
  • Visiting Venice - If planning a day trip to Venice, then consider booking skip the line tickets for the most popular attractions. St Marks Basilica is free entry, but the queues are really long which is not ideal when travelling with children. We therefore booked skip the line entry which cost us 3 euros each and was definitely worth the money. Skip the Line can also be booked for The Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace.
  • Quiet Time - The site observes a quiet time in the afternoon between 1pm-3pm each day. During this time the pool, shops and activities are all closed. We chose to return to our accommodation for lunch and played some table games to keep the children entertained. However, the gate for the beach does remain open, so you are still able to access the beach front if you wish.
  • Take out some store cupboard essentials with you - Whilst the on-site shop is reasonably priced, the cost of cleaning products, condiments and snacks etc, can quickly add to your grocery bill. We therefore took tea towels, flash cleaning wipes, washing up sponges, pasta, savoury rice, crisps and biscuits out with us, which helped us save quite a few euros.
  • Inflatables cannot be used in the pool, but are extremely popular on the beach. The on-site shop sells a great range of both inflatables and beach toys at really reasonable prices. The Al Fresco representatives also have a great range of toys and boogie boards that you can borrow for the duration of your stay, which really helps if you are on a budget or worried about luggage allowance on the way home.
  • If you do purchase inflatables then don't struggle trying to blow these up. As you arrive at the beach, turn left and walk along the wooden walkway, pass the toilets and to the showers. On the wall of the end building right by the showers, there is a small air hose that can be used for inflating items free of charge.
  • The restaurant offers an early dining deal for guests that visit at 6pm. This gives you a reduction of 20% off your bill. In addition to this you can also save 10% in the takeaway restaurant between 12-2:30pm each day. These times and offers were available during our stay but are of course subject to change throughout the season, so would recommend checking that these deals are still available when you arrive.
  • Make a reservation for dinner if you wish to dine at a particular time - Whilst we had no difficulty in getting a table during our stay, we noticed that the restaurant became extremely busy at times. They do accept reservations, so if there is a particular time you are wanting to eat, or are dining as part of a large group, then I would definitely recommend arranging this with the restaurant in advance.

Our Overall Opinion

Our holiday to Portofelice Camping Village is definitely up there as one of the best we have ever had. The whole site is spotlessly clean, the staff are really helpful and the entertainment is first class. Although it is a relatively small park, this actually worked out really well for us, as everything was in easy reach of our accommodation. The site seemed very secure with the use of security barriers and wristbands for all guests, so this also allowed us to give my older children (Ben & Emma) a little bit of independence and we allowed them to go over to the main entertainment square with their new friends in the evening on a couple of occasions. We loved our holiday to Portofelice so much that we are going to book a return stay there in a couple of months as we literally cannot wait to go back. Overall the site truly offered us everything that we look for in a family holiday and much much more!

Al Fresco Holidays currently have some fantastic deals on 2018 holidays and bookings are now also being accepted for 2019. If you would like further information then please visit Al Fresco Holidays on the following channels:

Website: Al Fresco Holidays
Facebook: /AlFrescoHolidays
Twitter: @AlFrescoHols
Instagram: @AlFresco_Hols


Disclaimer: We stayed at Portofelice Camping Village as guests of Al Fresco Holidays for the purpose of providing an honest and informative review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. This post contains affiliate links.