Out of Africa meets Ibiza chic in this leviathan of taste and scale. It’s hard to imagine a more stylish campsite, but don’t be fooled by the über-cool bar complete with shiny chrome taps and de rigueur grey tables – Les Ormes is actually as rough and ready as you want it to be. Apart from the high-luxe tents, there are 100 great tent pitches for traditional camping in shady meadow areas. Of course, you can indulge in a bit of fantasy glamping if you wish, and the site’s 25 safari tents are just the ticket, each individually finished, hidden in mature groves, and perfectly set apart in order to nurture your film star fantasies. Each tent has its very own verandah, twinkling candelabra, and lavish interior that seems to jump right out of the pages of a Tatler shoot, with a chaise longue, scatter cushions, fresh flowers, retro furnishings and cool self-catering facilities, all finished off with a dash of élan. There’s even a raised outdoor platform with a tent atop should your kids want to escape but which is close enough should the bogeyman come calling.
By the restaurant, on a gentle elevation, there are hammocks strung between the trees so that you can maximise the splendid views of the sunsets, which incandesce in the low-slung hills. The crowd is mid-thirties to forties, the atmosphere decidedly laid-back – perhaps something to do with the chillsome tunes wafting by, or the smell of deliciously grilled food from the gastro bar. As to facilities, there’s a great deal to keep you busy and ensure you never need to leave the site. After a faux African sunrise and delicious cappuccino and breakfast in the whiter-than-heaven café, head off to the tennis court or to the pond for a spell of fishing; or maybe it’s volleyball, or a wander over to the petting zoo… Now they’re just showing off! And we didn’t even get to the black granite swimming pool with silver bus that doubles as a snack bar.
Coolness aside, kids are in their element here, perhaps because the site is so huge; but it’s secure too, so their parents are able to really relax, safe in the knowledge that if one of them tries to escape, the chances are a hundred per cent they’ll be spotted by one of the many staff who drive around in beat-up, ancient Renaults. Apart from the kids’ pool there are swings and climbing frames, and if they really want to go feral there’s the mature elm woods – from which the place takes its name – to run wild in. There’s even a kids’ restaurant, where they can eat with their new buddies, undisturbed by their embarrassing parents.
Yes, if Carlsberg did campsites it would probably look something like this. Run by an enthusiastic and dynamic pair, aspiring to create a camping environment where visitors can truly take a break, La Parenthèse – Camping Les Ormes is finished to perfection. But like everything that’s finished well, they make it all look so easy. Which, of course, is exactly the point.
The nearest town of any real interest is beautiful Bergerac, which takes its name from the celebrated wordsmith with the oversized proboscis. You can see a statue of him in the old town; that is if you’re not too busy stocking up on wine in one of a clutch of excellent wine-sellers. Red is the colour to go for here. The region is famous for its vino and there are great deals to be had. The old town undulates through a series of sun-dappled courtyards to the river and it makes for a lovely morning visit, wandering through the narrow alleys and getting lost. Closer to home there are a number of fortified medieval villages (bastides) including Villeréal, Monflanquin, and Monpazier, all with arcaded squares and vibrantly French with weekend markets selling everything from foie gras to local produce. Keep an eye out, too, for vide greniers (translates as ‘empty the attic’), France’s version of a car boot sale. You never know, you might just pick up something interesting. Come August, the towns recall their medieval past with the costumed festivals of the Vallée du Dropt. If you fancy a wine dégustation in a beautiful historic setting, head to Château de Monbazillac (0033 5 53 63 65 00) to try their sweet white wine. There’s also an 18-hole golf course right next to the campsite.
We are surrounded by great places, great restaurant managed by awesome people:
Etincelles (00 33 5 53 74 08 79) in nearby Ste-Sabine-Born village has a Michelin star and is celebrated for its authentic French cooking. Nord/sud or L'Hotel de l'Europe & Maggies Café in Villeréal. La Bassivière restaurant an authentic restaurant in an old bar. Le Prince Noir or L'effet Maison in Monflanquin. To be honest, though, La Parenthèse restaurant has a terrific menu and we have not talked about the food truck by the pool and the Paillotte next to the lake yet, so will you be going out for dinner?!