Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Center Parcs Europe - De Vossemeren in Belgium - A Gluten Free Review

We spent the October half term at De Vossemeren Center Parcs in Belgium. We love Center Parcs breaks, but two years ago we decided that we weren't prepared to pay the high prices charged in the UK, for instance  a 5 day break at Elvedon (our closest village) in Suffolk would have cost around £1100 over October half term - crazy money! The exact same dates in Belgium cost us £450, or just under £550 if you include the ferry crossing.

That's not all though, we got 5 free 'toppings' with our booking. Toppings include free bike hire, free mini golf, free 'wannabe' (kids club) sessions, free villa location selection and free pony ride (1 topping = 3 free pony rides, what a bargain!). So £550 bought us 5 days in the villa (in a central location of our choosing), our ferry crossing *and* a free 1.5hr session in the kids club for all 4 children. We pre-booked another 2 sessions in the kids club for all of the children online when we went for the bargain price of 4 Euros each!

Not only are the villages and activities significantly cheaper (10 Euros for archery, zip wire or rock climbing and only 2.50 Euros for a pony ride!) we much prefer the villages themselves, they seem better looked after and cleaner and the staff are so much more friendly and helpful (and all speak perfect English). We have previously stayed at De Kempervennen in the Netherlands which has an amazing indoor snow centre and a (free) childrens' petting farm. Vossemeren in Belgium also has a farm and whilst it doesn't have a snow centre it does have an amazing (free) indoor play area centred around a shipwreck (see picture below). Both sites are less than a 3 hour drive from Dunkirk ferry port.

The only thing we were concerned about was gluten free food, so we packed lots of essentials before we left. We needn't have worried though. The shop had a comprehensive selection of gluten free items including rolls, cakes (brownies and coconut macaroons by Damhert, which I think is the European trading name of Mrs Crimbles as the cakes were identical) and pancake mix! The restaurants too were well trained in all things gluten free, even the snack bar were amazing and couldn't go out of their way enough to help, whilst we couldn't eat anything from there they telephone the main restaurant to bring us some fries cooked in a dedicated fryer. The pancake house also serves gluten free pancakes.

All in all we would strongly recommend European Center Parcs, we'll never return to a UK one again!

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