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Unread 23 Feb 19, 04:10 PM  
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#1
Lostbrain
Dancing with Tink'
 
Join Date: Apr 16
Center Parcs Belgium - a brief report on De Vossemeren

I have very fond memories of Center Parcs from childhood. I went to Sherwood Forest a few times when I was a child, possibly soon after it opened? I have wanted to take my family for a while, but as a teacher, restricted to school holidays, I just couldn't bare to part with that much money! I'd heard that you could get good deals on the European sites and so having seen some positive reviews on Mumsnet I looked into De Vossemeren - which is in Belgium, very near the Dutch border.

We booked for this Feb half term several months ago. I played about with the website and found that booking through different country sites brought up different prices (UK site obviously being the most expensive). So we finally booked a 4 night break through the Dutch site, we got an early booking discount, a family discount (you get a reduction if you are travelling with under 12s or over 65s) we could pick our cottage (except I couldn't easily work out how and wasn't really bothered) and we got three activity vouchers (which again weren't used). The downside was that all my receipts were in Dutch, but that wasn't a big issue.

Travel day
We travelled by Le Shuttle on Monday - taking the car. Eurostar do a Mon-Fri return that is quite reasonable and meant that the train was about the same cost as the ferry, but 35mins which made the long journey slightly more bearable. We live in North Hampshire, not far from Basingstoke, so we set off about 8am to get to Folkstone for an 11am sailing. Travelling east meant we lost an hour to time zone change and got to Calais at about 1pm. We headed to Cite Europe and Flunch - no pics I'm afraid - and had a half decent lunch. Afterwards we went to Carrefour to stock up on wine, beer, squash, biscuits.. all the essentials. Then it was onwards to Belgium. Google maps has this as a 3 hour journey - we were stuck for about 40minutes in Antwerp traffic jams, poorly planning the journey meant we got to Antwerp just as the afternoon rush hour hit it's peak. We finally arrived at De Vossemeren at 8pm. We were tired, the on site market closed at 8, we were all too tired to go out for dinner. Tea consisted of the munchies we'd picked up at Calais.

The chalet was nice, but pretty basic, we'd booked the mid-priced 'premium' option. I suspect that other than having a coffee pod machine and made-up beds this is no different from the basic 'comfort' chalet.

If doing the journey again I'd go for an earlier train, spend less time in Calais and actually buy dinner for the first night at Carrfour! We had considered booking a night in France and travelling on the Sunday, but this seemed expensive.

A trip to Amsterdam and bike hire was planned for the next day.

Edited at 10:17 AM.
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Unread 24 Feb 19, 10:39 AM  
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#2
Lostbrain
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Dancing with Tink'
 
Join Date: Apr 16
Mobile Tuesday - Amsterdam

Busy day today, we needed to get bikes and wed planned a trip to Amsterdam.

We had pastries wed bought at Carrfour for breakfast and instant coffee from home and headed out. Wed left the car outside the chalet, as wed arrived late and our chalet was the opposite side of the park from the car park. There was a polite note on our car requesting we move it. Picking up bikes was straight forward, wed pre-booked them but I dont think this saved any time or money. We popped into the central dome to grab snacks for the journey and supplies for the evening in case we were late back and see the flamingos, then dropped off shopping and rode back to the car. We were on our way by 10am which is impressive for us!

Amsterdam was about 1h 45m drive, so not too close but not knowing if wed return to these parts we thought it worth the trip. Mr Lost has been before but it was new to the rest of us. We parked at the AJAX stadium which is a park and ride car park. The system here wasnt too clear, you can park all day for 1 if you use the public transport system. We bought tickets, which I think were also discounted. We didnt realise they were only valid for an hour. You have to buy metro tickets within an hour of parking and I think within an hour of setting off again to qualify for discounts. We found the metro station and headed to Central Station.

After a wander we got noodles for lunch then headed on the metro again to go to the Stedelijk Museum. Three of four of us really enjoyed this, its got some great 20th century art and guides you round the development of various movements. It does have some explicit film (we discovered) and a fair few phallic references, which delighted my 8 year old! My 11 year old was more into the shop at the end!

Another wander, some churros and pop to keep us going and we headed back to the car.

Bread cheese and meats for tea. A roaring fire and a game of bananagrams before bed.
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Unread 24 Feb 19, 11:26 PM  
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#3
Lostbrain
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Dancing with Tink'
 
Join Date: Apr 16
Wednesday.

Wednesday

We got up a bit later and had scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning. We let the children go off on their own for an hour. With no cars the site was safe for them to cycle around. They went to the central dome and bought sweets. Came back feeling very grown up.

We had read quite poor reviews of the food on site and so decided to cycle to Lommel, the nearest town for lunch. There was a cycle path all the way and it was about 3km. Our youngest managed to fall off his bike a couple of times, he kept cycling into the gutter despite the huge cycle path, at one point drove into a sign! We all made it though and there was an afternoon market on a Wednesday. We went to a nice enough restaurant - I had croque monsieur et frites, Mr L had pulled pork nachos, the kids had pizza. It was decent value and we enjoyed it.

We had a look round the market, bought some fruit for later and cycled back. The infrastructure in this part of the world makes cycling super safe, it was so lovely to ride with the kids. Even though our youngest is not at all experienced or confident on his bike it was very comfortable.

We got back around 4 and hit the 'Aqua Mundo' swimming pool. Kids had a great time. I found it a bit crowded. There is a cute submerged aquarium we enjoyed, you put on a scuba mask and dive down to look in the tanks. There was also a couple of slides, a lazy river and tables and chairs and a snack bar. It was so busy we struggled to find a cubicle to change in, I can't imagine what it's like in the summer.

After a couple of hours we called it a day, went back home, lit a fire, ate cheese and drank wine. Everyone slept well after all the cycling and swimming.
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Unread 24 Feb 19, 11:38 PM  
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#4
caj
VIP Dibber

 
Join Date: Sep 09

caj's Reviews
Hotel Reviews: 1
Mobile

Nothing beats a centre Parcs fire at the end of a day!
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Unread 24 Feb 19, 11:40 PM  
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#5
Lostbrain
Thread Starter
Dancing with Tink'
 
Join Date: Apr 16
Thursday

We promised the kids we'd stay on site today. We had a pony ride booked for 11, so we had a lazy morning and then headed out to the stables. They have some small ponies and offer quick rides and also you can book an experience where the kids groom the ponies and put pretty clips in their hair. You queue up until a suitable pony becomes available - very small children end up queuing for slightly less time because there are a couple of very tiny ponies only suitable for preschoolers really. Parents then lead the pony round a short signed trail. My 11 year old was made up on this - grinning from ear to ear. 'Mummy can you buy me a pony when we get home' May prove to cost me more than the anticipated 4 euros.

We then got our stuff together and went to the pool which was much quieter at this time. After an hour or so we got a beer and some snacks at the Grand Cafe - we ordered a platter and it was pretty uninspiring. After that we hit the 'Action Factory' where the kids played on some electric cars, had a game of skittles and a bounce on a trampoline. All these things are powered by tokens retailing at 1.20 each. We grabbed some ice cream and another couple of beers - the kids played a couple of board games - they have a selection of cute games in the bar. Finally we grabbed some pizza to take away and cycled back to the chalet.
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Unread 24 Feb 19, 11:57 PM  
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#6
Lostbrain
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Dancing with Tink'
 
Join Date: Apr 16
Friday

Final day! Check out is at 10. We amazingly managed to get packed up, eat some breakfast, return the bikes and get on the road by 10. It had been a nice break, but it was a long way to go. We made good time and got back to Cite Europe with just under 3 hours to kill - we had a better lunch and a cheeky glass of wine in an English themed pub - I know - but we ate steak and toasted cheese and ham sandwiches and had French wine so it was fine!

We hit Carrfour, obviously half way round the kids both needed the loo, which was obviously the other end of the shopping mall and somehow we managed to leave about 20 minutes before the train was due rather than the prescribed 45. Conveniently the train was delayed anyway - not sure what happens if you miss it. We were the last car loaded and we were on our way.

We've never made it back from Calais without getting stuck in a huge jam on the M25, it took 3 hours to go from Folkstone to home - which could have been worse - we got through our door at 7pm.

I'd definitely go again - the kids are just the right age and the cost is so much more affordable than the UK. I would consider the VIP chalet if I returned to this park, although one of the Dutch parks has just been refurbished so actually a comfort level chalet there might be a better bet. There seems to be a few parks that are around 3 hours from Calais, most in Belgium and one in south Holland. The French parks are only a little cheaper than the UK and not really much saving when you factor in transport costs.

The whole park was very clean. While staff weren't terribly warm all the time, they were polite and efficient. There was lots to do. As it was off season lots of extra activities were only on once and it wasn't terribly easy to work out what was on when. I'd spend a little more time planning if I went again I think. I'd want to do some more cycling too.
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Unread 25 Feb 19, 09:03 AM  
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#7
darbs
Imagineer
 
Join Date: Mar 12
Mobile

Sounds like you've had a good break!
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Unread 25 Feb 19, 09:26 AM  
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#8
WhereIBelong
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Join Date: Aug 15
Sounds like a busy break! I agree the accommodation is quite basic at some of the continental sites, but they are cheaper I guess.

Thank you for the trippie, nice to read about other places!
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