Published: 00:01, 12 February 2019
| Updated: 09:10, 12 February 2019
“I can’t do it. I just don’t know how I’m going to camp for a week.”
These were the utterly ridiculous words I cried to my boyfriend before our trip to the South of France. It was 11pm. I was exhausted, and I had been trying to condense a week’s worth of clothes into hand luggage for the last three hours, not to mention cool bags, ice packs and snacks. He will never let me forget it.
Turns out though that we never actually camped in the traditional sense at all – and ‘glamping’ was definitely a more appropriate term.
My first foray with the activity had only been the year before at Glastonbury – and I was secretly hoping that this new experience would be absolutely nothing like it. Fortunately, my wish came true, and I had very little to worry about thanks the glamour of Les Castels and their five star camping resorts.
Les Castels are renowned for their top quality accommodation offerings across the wine and cheese loving nation, with a wide range of choice. You can keep it simple, or stay in something a little more quirky – such as a treehouse, tipi or manor house. Ours, Domaine de la Bergerie, set in the Cote d’Azur was like a home away from home.
Sunshine-on-tap and a pool with the perfect temperature are usually all I need to be happy – but this campsite ticked these boxes, and then some.
Just an hour away by car from Nice airport, it was a holiday of firsts for my boyfriend and I. We hired a left-hand drive for the first time, and as loyal members of the ‘city breaks’ and ‘all inclusive food and drinks’ club, we weren’t sure how we would fare fending for ourselves with self-catering. So much so, we fully braced ourselves to live off of Lidl pasta and Tuc biscuits for the week... hence the cool bags, ice packs and snacks.
But the facilities in our ‘cottage’ – aka small mansion – were second to none. With more plates and cutlery than Buckingham Palace, and a fridge-freezer bigger than my own at home - there was plenty of space for the both of us. The cottages comfortably hold up to four people, with a master bedroom as well as a den for kids. It was easy to forget that you were actually staying in a mobile home, with a fully equipped living room, air con and permanent hot water in the bathroom.
If campsite chic isn’t your style, there are plenty of other accommodation options on site including traditional pitch camping or the opportunity to bring your own campervan... if you’re hardcore like that. It showcased how each holiday could be tailored to different needs and preferences.
One thing that struck us above everything else was the much appreciated peace and quiet throughout the site. Set in 60 hectares of natural woodland, we felt at one with nature... So much so the donkeys and geckos also seemed to gravitate to our hideaway. I have never been anywhere like it.
Tucked away neatly in the mountains, but only a few miles from the nearest beaches, it really was perfection. It became tradition to wake up every day to a French breakfast on our rooftop sun terrace overlooking the treetops, with orange juice, tea, coffee and pastries – it was bliss. My boyfriend would pop down to the on-site supermarket daily to grab our morning supplies, which was well stocked with all the essentials and proved ideal if you ran out of anything.
The site itself isn’t short of resources, with a café, burger bar and crêpe and waffle house in the summer months. We even came across a scoop ice cream station next door to the pool – the site’s pièce de résistance.
With built in jets, a lazy river and a beautiful cascading waterfall, it was hands down the go-to spot on site.
The pool also boasts a 400sqm waterpark attached directly to it. We tried to resist, but found ourselves joining in and racing each other down the slides. Be sure to pack your speedos... quite literally, as it is French etiquette to wear them in the water.
Despite my childlike excitement for all the different swimming facilities, I have never felt more chilled by the poolside on holiday, with polite staff and relaxing holiday tunes.
In peak season, the resort also offers an extensive activities programme, including yoga and water aerobics. Despite our visit taking place outside of this period, I was shocked by just how many people still turned out to take part in the events, then retreated back to their camp for the rest of the day to spend quality time with their families and friends. It was amazing to see so many people engaged, and I couldn’t resist getting involved!
The indoor pool was also a big hit. Attached to a fully equipped gym, it was nice to head inside and use the extra facilities to escape the heat from time to time. Additionally, the jacuzzi, sauna and stream room left us feeling completely Zen.
To mix things up, we were sure to try out some of the resort’s other leisure facilities. Mini golf, situated behind the main pool, proved to be great fun. Even if things did quickly turn competitive as the course became increasingly more difficult…
Younger children - and ‘big kids’ too – would enjoy the animal petting farm on site, as well as a ‘splashzone’, paintballing and archery. But our favourite activity had to be tennis. With a whole court to ourselves, we spent hours attempting to become Wimbledon material. It was a great way to finish off a day by the water.
With so much to do, some may find it a bit of a hike getting from a-to-b. Off-peak travellers should be prepared to drive about a little, but fortunately, a golf buggy shuttle is provided in the summer months for convenience.
During our time at Domaine de la Bergerie, we made the trip outside the resort on a couple of mornings, a few miles in either direction to the beach. Frejus and Les Issambres, while different in their offerings, felt both clean and safe with crystal clear water to swim in. Both coastal resorts had scores of cafes, bars and restaurants, which were clearly popular with the locals. The campsite is also situated just down the road from the theme park Luna Park which is open in the summer months, making it the perfect family destination.
On the final night, we treated ourselves to gorgeous, meaty French mussels at the campsite’s restaurant La Bergerie, built within a former stone sheep pen. With mood lighting and the clear mountain air, date nights back home in England will never live up to the romance of that night. The restaurant also has a takeaway kiosk - perfect for a cosy night in watching TV.
Seeing as we were staying in the heart of the Cote d’Azur, we considered making day trips to Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez. But with such a short amount of time on our hands, we just simply didn’t want to leave our campsite. The trips are entirely possible though from the site if you find yourselves with more free days. Staff at reception can’t do enough to help and point you in the right direction.
Post holiday blues kicked in big time, and after we left, I did not stop buzzing about Domaine de la Bergerie to my friends. I found I did not have a single negative thing to say. If all other Les Castels resorts offer the same high quality and relaxation, then I will certainly look to book another in the future.
So it turns out glamping life does suit me after all. It was just what the doctor ordered, and I would head back in a heartbeat.
The rates for Les Castels Domaine de la Bergerie are as follows:
Between 20/04/19 and 31/05/19:
Camping pitches: Comfort Pitch (+80 sqm, electricity 6A): 182 € the week for two persons (£159).
Pitches approx. 80m² or more. On flat ground and separated by hedges. Drinkable water spots at the end of every alley. Price includes two people, one car, tent or caravan and electricity 6 Amp.
Standard Pitch (-80 sqm, electricity 6A): 182 € the week for two persons (£159).
Pitches under 80m². On flat ground and separated by hedges. Drinkable water spots at the end of every alley. Price includes two people, one car, tent or caravan and electricity 6 Amp.
Between 11/05/19 and 14/06/19 and between 07/09/19 and 03/10/19
Accommodation: Cottage B - two bedrooms (air-conditioning, 22-28m²) - 497 € the week for four persons (£434)
Modern designed mobile home, with air con, between 22m² and 28m² (category B for maximum four people). Bedrooms (one double bed and twin beds). Central or panoramic lounge.
Bathroom and separate toilet. Equipped kitchen with stove, microwave and coffee machine. A covered terrace (wooded or paved) with garden furniture and two sunbeds. Hire supplied with pots and pans, cutlery, quilts and pillows. Sheets and towels not supplied.
The prices do not include the booking fees (25 €or £22) and the options.
For further information, visit www.camping-castels.co.uk
More by this authorMolly Mileham-Chappell