Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. 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.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Disneyland Paris!

We wrote a review on our visit to Disneyland Paris last year, but recently returned a couple of weeks ago, whilst visiting one of our favourite campsites La Croix du Vieux Pont. Riley was adamant that we had to meet Mickey Mouse this time and so as soon as we arrived I booked a slot using the Lineberty App, which I had read about prior to our visit.

The app was really easy to use and you simply entered the number of guests and it provided us with a number along with an estimated waiting time. This meant that we could go and enjoy the rest of the park, without having to stand in line, and instead we could just wait for the app to inform us when it was time to meet Mickey Mouse.


As our Meet & Greet approached, we were sent a notification to inform us that it was almost our turn in the queue, so we made our way over to Toon Studios. I thought the whole system was a great idea and when we arrived at the meeting point there were only two other families in the line in front of us.


When it came to our turn, I felt that Mickey Mouse spent a really nice amount of time with the children. The experience didn't feel rushed at all and the photographer was also happy for us to take our own photos too (although we did end up purchasing the professional ones as well). It was a lovely moment that created some beautiful family memories of our visit to Disneyland Paris.


*Disclaimer - This post is based on our own experience of a Disneyland Paris Meet & Greet using the Lineberty App. Thoughts and opinions are my own. We paid for entry to Disneyland Paris ourselves.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Looking Back at 2017 - Our Travel Favourites

Whilst we are looking forward to all our planned adventures for 2018, it is also great to look back and reflect on the travel opportunities we had last year. I therefore wanted to share with you, some of our travel favourites from 2017.

January - Our year began with a trip to the fabulous Bluestone National Park Resort, in South Wales. Although we live in North Wales, we had never actually ventured to the South before and after a very scenic four hour journey to Narberth, we enjoyed a lovely few days in a beautiful lodge and enjoyed the wonderful Blue Lagoon and some other local attractions. Bluestone is a stunning holiday resort, set within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It has 345 luxury lodges set amongst 500 acres of spectacular countryside. It is marketed as an all year round short break holiday destination, where fun can be enjoyed in all weather conditions and offering guests the chance to enjoy a relaxing break, or an adventure fun-packed holiday. As Bluestone offers so much, it is suitable for families, couples, or groups of adults and caters for all ages, with over 100 activities to enjoy. You can read all about our visit to Bluestone in our review here.


February - This month saw our first overseas trip of the year, where my family travelled to Silvaplana in Switzerland to attend the World Ski Championships being held in St Moritz. This trip actually came about as a result of a competition that my husband had entered on Twitter and we couldn't believe that he had won the family such an amazing opportunity. During the trip my family travelled on the Glacier Express taking in some wonderful sights, enjoyed the fabulous opening ceremony, watched some skilled skiers taking part in the championships and also had the opportunity for a skiing lesson and some sledging fun. You can read more about Silvaplana here.


March - In March my husband and I enjoyed a weekend break at the Shibden Mill Inn for my husband's birthday. This was our first and only time away without the kids throughout the year as I really don't like going away without them, but it was a relaxing time with delicious food. The suite we stayed in was stunning and had been tastefully decorated with a great combination of both modern and traditional furnishings. You can find out more about our stay here.


April - We travelled to a few places in the Easter holidays during April. The first was to Somerset where we visited some wonderful local attractions that included Puxton Park and the Wookey Hole Caves. On our return to the North, we enjoyed a stop at Drayton Manor where Riley had an amazing time in Thomas Land. We also travelled to Yorkshire for some cliff top camping in Filey, where we also spent the day at the fabulous Alpamare Waterpark in Scarborough and had an absolutely splashing time!


May - In the May half term we travelled to Salou in Spain, where we stayed at Sanguli Holiday Park with Al Fresco Holidays. This was an absolutely wonderful break and we spent our days between the onsite Africa themed resort pool and the sandy beach located a short walk away. This holiday resort certainly ticked all the boxes for us and you can read all about our stay here.


June - June saw us head to Shropshire where we enjoyed a weekend break with my parents in Ironbridge. Whilst there we travelled back in time to the Victorian era and visited Blists Hill Victorian Town. My children absolutely loved it here and we had a great experience. You can read more about our time at Blists Hill here.


July - The school summer holidays began in July and we started the six week break off, with a trip to the Lake District. This really is a stunning part of the world and we had a wonderful week exploring and visiting some fun attractions. Some of our favourites included a day out with Windermere Lake Cruises, spending some time at Old Hall Farm and finding out more about transport at the Lakeland Motor Museum.


August - In August we spent two days in Hamburg, Germany thanks to the Come to Hamburg scheme. We only spent a short amount of time here, but managed to fit so much into only two days. The Miniatur Wunderland was magnificent and Hagenbeck Tierpark provided the opportunity for my children to feed some elephants, which is definitely an experience they will never forget. Whilst in Hamburg we stayed at the Appartello Smarttime Living hotel, which offered fantastic apartments with plenty of room for the whole family.


September - In September we had the chance to visit France and stayed with Al Fresco holidays at the La Croix du Vieux Pont holiday park in France. The park offered so much for families that we didn't get the chance to see it all, so it is definitely on our list of places to return to in the future. Ideally situated only 90 minutes from Disneyland Paris, it also meant that we could enjoy a magical day out together before the return back to school!


October - The October half term saw us return to Somerset, where we stayed with John Fowler Holidays at their Sandy Meadows Lodge Park. There is so much to do both onsite and in the local area and we had a lovely day out at Bristol Zoo Gardens whilst here.


November - As the end of the year approached we spent the majority of November and December staying local as there was just so much on offer throughout the North Wales and North West areas. We are very lucky to live right on the North Wales/Cheshire border so this means that we have the lovely North Wales coast twenty minutes in one direction and the great cities of Manchester & Liverpool 40 minutes in the other. Some of our favourite events and days out during November were going to see The Snowman at the Manchester Opera House and meeting Santa at Bridgemere Garden Centre.


December - Well we definitely enjoyed a month of family fun throughout December, with my personal highlight being the Dick Whittington pantomime at the Manchester Opera House. I have never laughed so much at a panto and at one point I was actually crying it was so funny.

My youngest son Riley also had a lovely experience of a theatre production at Waterside where we saw the beautiful performance of The Bear.

Topped off with a family evening of fun at Winter Wonderland and a trip to Dunham Massey to see their stunning festive lights, December was certainly a month to remember.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

My Top Ten Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios Park

We recently visited Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios Park and had a truly magical time. I therefore wanted to share my tips for planning a visit.

1) Check Ticket Prices - Disneyland Paris day tickets come in four different price categories which are Mini, Magic, Super Magic and Super Magic Plus. The price for each category varies depending on the date you are wanting to visit. The mini tickets are the cheapest and are generally for off-peak weekdays. However we visited on Friday 1st September 2017 which was still our school holiday period and managed to purchase a mini ticket for this date, which was only £32 each. The Magic tickets are usually for weekends and school holiday periods, with Super Magic covering special event periods such as Halloween or Christmas.


2) Prepare for all weathers - The weather at Disneyland Paris is much like the UK, in that it can be very unpredictable. During our day visit we experienced glorious sunshine, chilly winds and heavy rain, which was topped off with a thunderstorm. We wore light trousers, short sleeved tops and waterproof coats which covered us for all the weather conditions we experienced. You don't want to be queuing outside in the pouring rain without a jacket.


3) Check the show times - The shows at Walt Disney Studios Park are quite frankly amazing! I would definitely say that they are a must-see for anyone considering a visit. There are quite a few different shows available which are all on at different times. In addition to this, some of the shows have both English and French versions, so it's a good idea to check the timings when you arrive to help you plan your day and make sure you don't miss out.


4) Arrive early - We arrived for opening time, which meant that we were able to walk straight on to our favourite ride the Hollywood Hotel - Tower of Terror. Queues obviously increase quite quickly as the park gets busier, so if you have a ride that you definitely want to try, my suggestion would be to arrive early and go to your chosen ride first, to make sure there is no disappointment.

5) Take advantage of Fastpass - Fastpass is a fantastic facility that provides you with a half hour time slot to return to a ride with a minimal queue. You simply scan your entry ticket at one of the turnstiles by the ride and it will print you a ticket with your allocated return time. In Walt Disney Studios Park, you can use this facility at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™, Les Tapis Volants - Flying Carpets over Agrabah® and The Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith.

6) Keep hydrated - All the walking, excitement, queuing and of course the weather can make you feel very thirsty. We took water bottles with us, but also made use of the water fountains that are located around the park. We came across a few of these, which also helped to save a few euros instead of needing to buy expensive refreshments.

7) Look for dining deals - Some of the restaurants are cheaper than others and we found the best dining deals to be in Disney Village. Most of the menus are available online, so you can view these beforehand and check the prices to find the restaurant which suits both your taste and budget best. If you would rather dine in the Walt Disney Studios Park, then there is also a great selection of choice available, with varying types of cuisine. If you are staying in one of the on-site hotels, then you may also be able to take advantage of the meal plans on offer which give good value for money.

8) Check ride restrictions - Check for any height or age restrictions on rides before you arrive. It can be very disappointing for a child to be so excited about a particular ride, to then find out that they are too short or too young. If you check this beforehand, then you can let your children know which rides they are big enough for, or simply know which areas to avoid so that certain rides don't get spotted by your little ones.


9) Practice your French language skills - Try and use simple words in the native language when visiting. Words such as Bonjour or Merci are very easy to learn and just as easy to use. My children love to have the opportunity to learn new words or phrases in different languages, so it is great to put them in to practice when we have the chance.

10) Set a realistic budget - Your visit to Disneyland Paris can be as low cost or expensive as you want it to be once in the park, so set a realistic budget for you and stick to it. The shops are full of beautiful merchandise and I could have easily spent a small fortune, but I gave each of the children 20 euros so that they had enough to buy one large thing each or two small things (their decision). I knew there would be temptation so we took only our cash budget to the park with us and left my card locked in the car, so that we didn't end up splashing out on any excessive purchases.