‘I keep forgetting we’re in France,” says Evie, my 14-year-old, sitting outdoors our condominium having fun with the view. I don’t blame her: all the pieces round us is distinctly un-Gallic. From our terrace we are able to see a wood pagoda in the course of a lake fringed with maples. There are palm timber, rockeries and unique foliage to our left, glass lakeside flats and rural woodland forward of us. If we’d been kidnapped and dropped right here, I’d battle to guess between a resort in east Asia or a campus college in Surrey.
The look is all the way down to Joe Rohde, lead designer and ‘imagineer’ behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida
Welcome to the surprisingly disconcerting world of Villages Nature, 20 miles east of Paris and fewer than three hours on Eurostar direct from London St Pancras. All of this was as soon as disused farmland till Disney and its associate, Pierre et Vacances (which owns Center Parcs Europe), remodeled it right into a 300-acre eco-resort; a “haven where guests can disconnect and feel at one with nature”. In different phrases, the polar reverse of the providing up the street – Disneyland Paris. Their hope is that households might be curious to strive each these totally different worlds. It’s straightforward to see the attraction: when the youngsters are performed with Hyperspace Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll be able to escape again right here to the serenity of your Scandi-chic condominium, a gloriously Disney princess-free zone.
Although it relies upon the way you outline escape. The Disney imaginative and prescient nonetheless lurks within the DNA of Villages Nature, partly as a result of all of it nonetheless feels so model new and never fairly actual, but additionally as a result of the look of it’s largely all the way down to Joe Rohde, lead designer and “imagineer” behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. He has helped to create 5 “immersive” worlds, together with the Extraordinary Gardens behind our condominium – a sprawling expanse of wood walkways, trailing crops and grasses that, as soon as they’ve matured, may simply give Kew Gardens a run for its cash.
Nearby is faux-rustic Bellvie Farm, suspiciously gleaming and mud-free, but it surely does provide loads of ingenious methods to maintain the youngsters occupied, from a children’ membership and crèche to stroking donkeys and driving ponies, beekeeping and breadmaking courses. Just like Center Parcs, the thought is scheduled enjoyable with a dizzying variety of courses and actions.
We begin with a guided group run via the woodland that frames Villages Nature, all historical French oaks and winding mossy paths. After that it’s Aqualagon, the star attraction overlooking the lake, with indoor-outdoor swimming pools, waterfalls, slides and a spa. Even although it’s a cold autumn afternoon, the water outdoors is sublimely sizzling (30C all yr spherical due to geothermal vitality that heats the entire website), and we swoosh and glide via tubes of frothy azure water. As befits an eco-resort, greater than a 3rd of the water in Aqualagon is purified naturally, then used to water the crops and fill the lake. Rainwater can also be collected from the holiday cottages’ inverted roofs.
You can’t fault the design, particularly with regards to the state-of-the-art altering rooms – gleaming and cavernous, and never a soggy plaster or stray hair in sight. You can entry all areas with one digital wristband, out of your condominium to the eating places and cafés, and even your locker – so no fumbling for spare cash.
Our first potential catastrophe is discovering that Evie has forgotten to pack a swimsuit, however we needn’t have fearful. There is a merchandising machine in reception promoting 50 differing types in dinky plastic pouches. Yours for £20. Nothing is left to likelihood right here, particularly when you pays for it. We stroll again alongside Lakeside Promenade, lined with eating places and outlets and even a neighborhood property agent – company spend money on a profit-sharing property scheme; locations right here begin at round €250,000. Ours, I think, may cost just a little extra: we’re within the Cocoon VIP condominium – a comfortable and insulated capsule with two double bedrooms, an ensuite toilet and Jacuzzi tub, an open-plan kitchen and sitting room.
The swimming pools are 30C due to geothermal vitality, and we swoosh and glide via the frothy azure water
Afterwards we stroll alongside the waterfront till we discover Vapiano, an Italian-style restaurant the place our dish is cooked in entrance of us in a big wok; shallots, garlic, cream and mushrooms bubble away and take an age to prepare dinner – that’s risotto for you. There is an extended queue of individuals behind us, however nobody appears to thoughts and it tastes scrumptious. Our meal the next night is much less profitable; a takeaway pizza with chewy dough coated with chunks of sweaty pepperoni as pink as kitten’s tongues, as Nigella would possibly say.
However, the following day we’re in luck. In search of one thing extra genuine, we enterprise out of our “cocoon” and discover a close by café. There we sit within the autumn solar sharing a plate of basic charcuterie, oozing cheese and cornichon, fig jam and jambon, and we really feel we’ve arrived. Close our eyes and we may nearly be in France.
Way to go
A cottage for 4 begins at £62pp pn. The Cocoon VIP condominium prices £139pp pn primarily based on two sharing. For extra particulars, go to villagesnatureparis.co.uk.
Eurostar.com from London St Pancras to Disneyland Paris begins from £38 one-way (£27 for kids)