Our expert guide to the best family-friendly restaurants, cafes and markets near Eurocamp: Domaine de Massereau near Sommières. Expect pizza ovens, fish platters and the best rosé wine.
A bit like joining a not-so-secret club, when you mention to friends that you’re going on a Eurocamp holiday they will either nod knowingly (almost always the ones with children) or look blank. An affordable way to have a family holiday abroad, once you’ve tried Eurocamping it’s easy to understand why so many of the company’s clients are repeat customers.
The company books holidaymakers into designated pitches in over 180 independently-run parcs (as it calls its whistle-and-bells campsites) across Europe that offer pre-assembled tents, safari tents, lodges or mobile homes, with or without add-on ferry or Eurotunnel tickets (you can also book an empty pitch and take your own tent). Each site also has at least one Eurocamp ‘courier’ on hand to look after customers.
For our family Eurocamp experience this summer we chose Domaine de Massereau, a relatively small parc just outside the little town of Sommières, in the Gard, in the far south of France. This promised to fulfill everyone’s needs, being small enough (149 pitches) not to feel that we were staying in a holiday camp while large enough to have a swimming pool and decent play area for our two boys. And, as well as being far enough south to enjoy guaranteed sunshine, the location offered more than many sites in terms of foodie attractions – not least a ‘proper’ restaurant on site and its own vineyard. Yes, we would be camping in a vineyard. Santé.
Before you go
We booked a wooden lodge and found it equipped much as any basic self-catering cottage would be. All the essentials were covered – including cutlery, crockery and pans – but you either take your own linen or pay extra to hire it. If you want to be really lazy you can pre-book a kitchen pack, too, with dishcloths, bin bags, matches and washing up liquid. If you have babies or toddlers in tow you can also hire travel cots, high chairs, potties, bed rails and buggies at some sites.
Another useful service Eurocamp offers is the possibility to break a long journey by stopping off at its other sites for a night or two along the way. We made the most of this on our trip. It was a two-day drive from the ferry port at Caen to Domaine de Massereau (we wanted to take quite a lot of kit with us so we did an overnight sailing with Brittany Ferries then drove down through France) but we stopped in well-equipped safari tents on the way south and north in two other Eurocamp sites in the Dordogne. These felt like extra little holidays and we were really taken with the safari tents, which give the same sense of sleeping outdoors as standard tents do but have much more headroom – and space for proper beds.
The local area
Domaine de Massereau is in a great location for visiting Nimes, Montpelier, Uzes (Read our foodie guide to Uzes here) and the Pont du Gard. With two under-fives who had sat through a two-day car journey south (and would have another one north in a few days’ time), however, we skipped the sightseeing and spent most of our time in and around the parc, making the most of its facilities.
The local town, Sommières, is a beauty (writer Lawrence Durrell lived there for 30 years and is said to have described it as the prettiest town he’d ever seen), with beautiful shuttered buildings and little arched alleyways leading from the riverside to its market squares. There was a wide cycle path running past the campsite and on into the town so we hired bikes and it was a really pleasant way to get into town and back. Because it was so hot and the path was lined with herbs it also always smelt delicious.
Further afield, we did a few trips to the beach at La Grande Motte, half an hour’s drive away through the Camargue (cue beautiful white horses and estuarine landscapes – and more roadside melon stalls than you could shake a pip at). For a breezy beachside lunch we loved the look of Effet Mer, right on the sand, and its charcoal-grilled steaks, fish and skewers. It would also be the perfect spot at sundown with its stellar wine list (many of its bottles local varietals) and fresh raspberry mojitos.
Eating and drinking on site
There’s usually a small on-site shop at each Eurocamp parc and there was one at Domaine de Massereau, plus it was possible to pre-order fresh bread and croissants in the morning. We did a lot of self-catering and, in Sommières in summer, you can’t go far without tripping over a roadside stall selling melons, nectarines and courgettes (often grown right behind the stall).
The local markets were excellent, too. We shopped for fantastic fresh fruit and veg and stumbled across some great local producers – one woman sold only blueberries (tubs of them, as well as blueberry jam and blueberry tarts) and my favourite find was a little stall selling beautifully labelled homemade jams, liqueurs and flavoured caramels – the latter laced with things like lavender, rosemary and liquorice. The other big discovery at Sommierès market was a sweet fougasse, topped with crunchy sugar and flavoured with orange flower water. If, like me, you’ve only come across savoury fougasse before, it’s a sugary revelation.
However, we chose Domaine de Massereau because it was a particularly foodie parc. The on-site restaurant was surprisingly good (we had an impressive seafood platter there one evening, piled with langoustines, razor clams, crab and all sorts, and it also served pizzas fresh from an enormous wood-fired oven.
Then there was the wine. The estate is also home to a vineyard that produces 30,000 bottles each year, a mix of reds, whites and rosés. If you’re staying at the campsite you can join a free one-hour tour and tasting each evening – and buy the delicious wines produced there very reasonably. Its table wines are very drinkable but the vineyard also some really lovely AOP wines, including a white called La Capitelle, made with roussanne and vermentino grapes, that tastes of honeyed peaches, and a red, La Tourie, a deliciously smoky blend of syrah and Grenache with hints of chocolate and vanilla. Definitely stock up while you’re there on as these kinds of wines are produced in relatively small quantities, meaning they’re rarely exported.
If you’re a confident rider you can also sign up for three-hour horse-riding trips from the campsite, all based around tastings with local producers and bookable through the reception.
A confession: we didn’t try the town’s best restaurants (Sansavino, La Nulle Part Ailleurs, Chez Tibère and Villa Heloise were recommended to us). Our boys are still very little and need to eat before 6pm but most local restaurants don’t open until 7.30pm so we had a much smaller range to choose from, and food that wasn’t perhaps as locally influenced as we would have normally chosen.
What we did find was really good gambas in a tapas place called Alegria and decent wood-fired pizzas, under olive trees in a little courtyard restaurant called La Bistoure. Nearby was a Chocolat-style chocolate shop called Chocolaterie Courtin and, beside that Le Glacier des Arts, an ice cream stall selling frozen yoghurt whizzed up to order with figs, cherries or whichever fruit you fancy.
One thing I heard about locally that I didn’t manage to track down was marquisette, a drink served across southwest France at village fairs and family events. It’s made with lemons, Cremant, white wine and soda and sounds delicious. If anyone has a good recipe for this – or knows somewhere in the UK that serves it – please let us know at olive!
How to do it
Brittany Ferries operates routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to five destinations in Normandy and Brittany, from three-hour fast ferries to overnight cruise ferries.Return ferry crossings from Portsmouth to Caen for a family of four with a car cost from £310 (brittanyferries.com). One-week stays in a log cabin at Domaine de Massereau cost from £224 for up to six people (eurocamp.co.uk). More information: ot-sommieres.com, tourismegard.com and tourism-occitania.co.uk.