“ Address: Kerbader / 29170 Fouesant / Finistère Sud - Brittany - France / Tel: 0033 2 98 56 14 44 „
The summer holidays were almost half way through and I still had not managed to find us a bargain last minute all inclusive holiday like I always have in previous years. This year prices seemed to be going up by the day and there was simply not a bargain to be had so after much discussion (and reluctance mainly on my part) it was decided that we would dig out the camping gear that had been stored in the deep depths of the garage, dust it off and head over to France like we used to do several years ago when our children were little. The thought of swapping my super king size pillow top bed for air sent a cold shiver down my spine but the decision was made and the ferry was booked.
Eleven years ago we discovered the "Camping Cheque" and I am thoroughly glad that we came across it. You purchase a "cheque" for each night that you wish to stay and that will cover the cost of your pitch, two people and electricity- they are currently (2011) £13.50/15euros each which is a significant saving on the drive in price of all of the campsites available. Camping Cheque currently have 316 sites across Europe, all of the sites are four and five star so you are virtually guaranteed that they are going to be of good quality; one drawback is that they can only be used in low season, but each site has different dates and this can easily be checked on the Camping Cheque website or in their directory. We knew our dates of travel and after much research we decided that L'Atlantique, would be our destination.
Bienvenue en France
L'Atlantique is located 2km outside of Fouesnant in Brittany. We had arrived in Roscoff and our journey down to the site took 1h 45mins and that was including going around several roundabouts a couple of times thanks to my poor navigation skills and an even poorer map! It was an easy journey down though in retrospect and once we were in Fousenant, the campsite was signposted clearly taking us right up to the entrance. Tired and weary were we, but the check-in process could not have been easier - after my much practised and therefore flawless (!) sentence was delivered stating our requirements the reception staff replied in perfect English and gave us a map of the site with available pitches highlighted, we left the car in the large reception car park and headed out in search of the perfect pitch. Once we were happy with our selection we returned to reception and told them our desired number so that we could be booked in, we were given a key code for the entrance barrier and each of us had a wristband attached - bright green which I don't usually mind at an all inclusive resort, but these bands were only necessary when in the pool area so I did not really appreciate wearing it full time and when we were sightseeing in other towns we stuck out like sore thumbs as tourists.
Les emplacements (the pitches)
Alongside touring pitches, L'Atlantique also has many static caravans and pre-erected tents for hire which come with their own services and rep. As we had our own tent, I cannot comment on these but I would say that if you are planning on doing this, checkout the pitches carefully as some are much better located than others.
Location, location, location. We chose our pitch because it was close to the pool and sanitary block but with hindsight, we might have chosen to be a little further away as the noise from the bar in the evenings went on until midnight which was a bit much for us on occasion and if you have young children you would want to be a lot further away. There did not seem to be the etiquette on this site that we have experienced before in France and I think that a lot of our neighbours forgot that they were shielded only by canvas and every loud word that was said could be heard and even the "SSHHHHs" from around us fell on deaf ears, this continued for our whole stay even though people came and went.
Each pitch is separated by a high hedge that goes halfway down the sides and across the back, it was nice to have the privacy, but it did give the impression of an unkempt feel as they all needed a major strim. Several high trees on the boundary of each pitch constantly dropped leaves and seeds and not a minute went by when a bird didn't drop its dinner on our tent (I gave up cleaning it in the end and got the power washer out when I got home.) Many of the trees were fruit trees and as we were there in late August, they were dropping fruit which was left to rot on the ground, not ideal if you are walking about barefoot, also the tree roots were a problem as they reared above ground periodically over the entire pitch so if you are in a tent they could be easily felt below the groundsheet (and airbed). Maybe I'm just not a back to nature kind of girl but I would have preferred a grassy flat space any day!
We chose a pitch right next to the electricity supply which was lucky as our cable was not that long, but it would be realistic to expect to have your hook-up 25m away depending upon your pitch so it is best to be prepared with a long extension. A tap (obviously not drinkable water) was located at the end of each "row" so not too far for anyone. If you are at the end of the row, be prepared and bring a torch - only the central area it lit and so it gets very dark around the edges, thank goodness for luminous green guy ropes is all that I can say!
Le bloc sanitaire (the sanitary block)
I know that it is not very British to discuss it but the sanitary block is an integral part of a campers holiday. First and foremost I have to say that I was surprised that there was only one main block on the whole site considering its size; there were several subsidary blocks dotted around the pre-occupied pitches but they were barely more than small festival type porta-kabins and not really intended for perpetual use I can only assume.
When we first arrived it took me a while to figure out what was masculine and femine, but after a day or so I figured out the there were facilities for women, men, mixed and children - not the easiest of systems to figure out from the pictures alone but I can only guess that it worked for the French ! My only personal experience of the mens was the embarrasing moment when I glanced through the toilet door to be met by a mans eye who should have been looking down if you see what I mean ! This was a problem according to my husband and sons equalled by the female cleaner who was ever present it seemed without such embarrasment! Also there were many french women who did not have an issue with wandering into the mens showers to wash. In the womens there were no such issues and remained man free for the duration of our stay. There were five toilets dedicated to females including a disabled cubicle which is not a lot if the campsite is full to capacity. The same with the shower and sink cubicles, the six or seven will easily be occupied at peak times and it was not unusual to see a queue form. Not a pleasant experience if you are standing there in your pj's with morning breath! The toilet block is simply not big enough and considering that it was only renovated in 2009 I would have thought that they should have increased cubicle numbers two fold at least.
One major problem : Although the block was very well lit with all good intentions, at night time this presented a major problem. The roof was sloped throughout and skylights were utilised which meant that in certain cubicles - about half of them - you were clearly visible by an upward glance from the next cubicle via reflection. The architects must be still laughing about it now but for a user of the facilities this presents a massive obstacle (or not depending upon how you look at it I suppose !). On the plus side, the individual cubicles were always clean and were fitted with sensor taps so water use is at a minimal, however I would have appreciated the toilet roll dispenser being less stingy and dispensing more than one sheet at a time! There are no hand dryers present or even paper towels but this seems to be in keeping with the rest of France. Hairdryers were available in both sexes shower rooms but they were not very hot or powerful and it would have been quicker to blow on my hair after a hot curry!
The washing up area is situated within the block, we never had a problem finding a free sink and it was always clean with plenty of hot water. Also this is where the laundry room is located, you can use a washing machine for 6 euros and a dryer for 5 euros if you need to but I personally prefer to take all of my washing home and consequently spend the following week doing nothing but washing!
La piscine (the swimming pool)
The overhead pictures of the campsite were one of the main reasons why we chose this site but on seeing them first hand, I must admit that they were a slight letdown. It is stated on the website and catalogue that there are seven pools but three of these are merely tiny baby pools. The actual swimming area is not actually very big at all, however this did not prevent my sons (12 & 9) from dissappearing for hours at a time (they are strong swimmers and I knew that they were safe). There is a small indoor heated pool with a jacuzzi area and this area is mainly occcupied with pre-school aged children, I had a slight dip into it but got the impression that it was heated by more than the usual pipes (lack of nappies? shudder). There was a curly slide (operated by a 'go' lights system) which landed into a separate pool and two other slides which landed into another pool that were suitable for unsupervised use. Several smaller slides for toddlers and smaller pools made up the complex in general making it a usable space for children - the depth of the pools ranges from 20cm to 1.3m. Adults would probably be less amused but there were comfortable sunbeds all around for all to use. Another negative I'm afraid - In high season I can not believe that there are enough sunbeds for everyone. By 12 even in low season most of the sunbeds were reserved (less than half actually occupied though) and I would imagine that it could become over crowded and cramped. Only a couple of parasols were dotted around and I can imagine that these are like gold dust at the height of a hot and busy season.
The pool area itself was generally clean and tidy, however the odd loose slab was disconterning and dangerous in my opinion. The toilets within the pool area had a very unsavoury aroma about them, but as the pool is next to the toilet block, the pool toilets are easily avoided. There is a small shack like bar at the centre of the area selling drinks (both soft and alcoholic), snacks and ice cream.
Pour les enfants (For the wee ones)
There is a large play area is situated near the entrance to the site which features all sorts of sturdy and interesting play equipment that goes one step further than the bog standard swings and slide. The park is suitable for children of all ages - toddlers through to early teens, and the sand covered floor makes it safe for all. The area was always clean and tidy even though it does get fairly busy in the early evening. Next to the park there are five table tennis tables complete with concrete net so if you want to play, come prepared with your own bats and balls. There is a tennis court available for hire, even if you have your own raquets you have to pay to hire the court which I thought was a bit stingy and put us off playing unfortunately, however right next to that there is a basketball court for free.
At the other end of the site and somewhat out of the way, there is a large football field - impromptu matches seemed to take place every evening, usually GB v France and emotions ran high on occcasion! As you would expect in France, there are several boules pitches (is that what they call them?) available for use if you have your own boules. Also in this area there is a mini farm which houses three small horses - available for escorted rides - and a couple of goats who all look well cared for. The childrens clubs are also based here, there are several gazebo type tents with various bits of small play equipment to keep the younger ones occupied and the children could often be seen going out on nature walks and various adventures. I have never and would never use such a facility so I can't comment on how well entertained they keep the children but the ones that were there all looked happy.
Most evenings there is either a childrens disco, karaoke, magician or such like to keep the younger ones entertained until 10pm, this really was for the u10's age range and after poking their heads into the small circus tent my boys quickly decided that it was not for them but the younger children seemed to be having a whale of a time. A variety of go-karts and bikes can be hired, the go-karts were about 6 euros for an hour, or 25 euros for 24 hours, we hired them for an hour which was plenty for the boys to thoroughly investigate the site. The site is not vehicle free so caution has to be taken at every turn because children on go-karts had a habit of appearing suddenly at junctions!
Nourriture et des boissons (Food and Drink)
There is a very well stocked shop on site which is not at all overpriced and has a decent selection of goods. As well as a broad range of canned goods, fresh groceries, basic staples and alcohol, it also freshly bakes bread and croissants everyday which taste delicious and the aroma emitted is divine! The shop also stocks a few toys like balls and swimming hoops, again not overpriced compared to the supermarkets. The shop is open from 8-8 but closes from 1pm until 4.30pm so don't be caught out by not having lunch thought about.
A small shed (open from 3-10pm) is well attended by two young girls selling ice creams, fresh waffles and crepes. These make a lovely evening snack, and this is probably where I put on the extra 4lb's that came home with me! If you want a bigger meal, there is a take away and also a sit in restaurant (which serves the same food as the take away). I found these to be quite expensive so whilst we initially intended to, we never bothered eating here. The menu was not particularly inspiring - pizzas, omelettes, chips etc) and for what you were getting the prices were inflated (6.50 euros for a very small portion of chicken nuggets and chips is unrealistic in my opinion). A large bar with plenty of seating is located right in the centre of the complex, there is a large screen TV in there which showed some of the bigger sports matches and in the evening there was occasionally a small disco but again, it was only ever toddlers dancing. The bar is open from 6pm-1pm. We expected some of the services to be closed during our stay as we were right at the end of the season, but they remained open - if you are visiting outside of the main season it might be worth enquiring exactly what will still be open if you think that you might utilise it during your stay.
Other bits of useful info
If you get bored in the evenings during your stay, there is a large number and choice of books and board games available for hire for free from reception (both in French and English). I really like this idea and only wish that more campsites/hotels would offer it! Also in reception you can use the fax machine and go online for a small charge and utilise their postal service either to send or receive letters, and a safety box can be hired for 3 euros per day. There are also a lot of tourist information leaflets in reception to enhance you stay and to help you to discover the local area which we found really useful, as did we the daily weather updates.
If you are feeling fit and springy there is a gym on site, you can get in for 2 euros a day or 10 euros for the week which I think is really reasonable, however not tempting enough for me unfortunately so I can not comment on the facilities, likewise the beauty centre with tanning machines and masseurs and the sauna - it just isn't my cup of tea but it is there if you want it.
It would be difficult to complete this review without mentioning the beach. A ten minute walk through the forest from the campsite leads you to a fabulous clean white sandy beach. The short walk isn't particularly buggy or wheelchair friendly as it can be a bit boggy after rain and there are a few steps and bridges, but there is a long way around so you can still get there. It appears that only residents of the campsite use this beach so there is plenty of space for all and it is simply lovely despite the freezing cold sea - I don't usually get the whole beach thing as I have an indescribable fear of all sea life, but even I had a lovely swim which was the highlight of my holiday (I had to swim because I had to get my feet off the sea floor incase I stood on a crustacean!).
Well, I am going to have to say yes. Despite a few niggles we all had a really good holiday and I would recommend going to L'atlantique despite its issues, if you are aware of them you can be more prepared! I do not think that I would go back though as we thoroughly covered the surrounding area and there are so many fabulous campsites in France that I would like to discover more. The weak pound against the euro definitely put a dampner on our holiday and I was consistantly surprised at how expensive even the basics appeared to be, but again, if you are prepared for this it might not be such an issue.
So has my love for camping being reiginted ? The jury is still out but I have to say that I am looking forward to the all-inclusive that we have booked for next March!
Sunelia L'Atlantique, Kerbader BP 11, 29170 Fouesnant, France. www.lAtlantique.fr
Also posted on Ciao! under my username chilcott1