Paris International is not your usual Keycamp site. Having spent a long (long, long, long) time faffing back and forth and deciding where to take our Keycamp break, I didn’t pass much thought over the Paris part – it was only for two nights, after all, and simply to facilitate the Disneyland visit. I did read the details of the Parc, but it was the only one viable for what we needed, so I no doubt skipped the full detail – I read that it was on the banks of the Seine, set in an unusually quiet area this close to Paris; Maisons Lafitte being a quiet town surrounded by woodland. And I presumed, because it was Keycamp, that there would be a pool, and the usual park/play facilities for the children. I should know better – never ever presume.
So when we arrived – having left home at 5.30 in the morning, driven for 3 hours to the ferry, 2hrs on the ferry, and then another 3 to Paris, the four children (and us) had been stuck in the car for 6 hours, with just a two hour (dull) ferry break, the midday temperature was approaching 38º. We were admittedly not in the best of moods when we arrived…
To say we were disappointed would be rather an understatement. Expecting the fresh, bright clean lines of the Keycamp website, we were met more with a hot, tired and shabby version of Hi-De-Hi. More than that, it was unwelcoming and slightly grim. Oh, and no pool.
Having finally found the courier (we had failed to let them know what time to expect us), he cheerfully informed us there was a Jazz festival at the bar tonight which is where we’d find him (Oh. Joy filled us, as you can imagine). We headed to our caravan in the hopes of finding the shade of the promised trees and some refuge from the relentless heat.
No such luck.
Many of the trees were pollarded to provide very little shade, and the caravan was stifling. Really blindingly stifling. Clearly the weather can in no way be blamed on anyone, but I would have expected the couriers to at least have placed the water bottles from the ‘welcome pack’ in the fridge. Very warm water was not what we needed, and not actually terribly welcoming at all.
After the couriers swift instructions on where the fire extinguisher was (…oh, no, he wasn’t sure, couldn’t remember, it should be there… but it wasn’t… but he was sure it was here someplace…) he tried to let us know how to turn on the oven but gave up baffled and I suggested you might need to turn the plug on. Then he gave us the directions for walking to the train station the following morning – we asked a few more questions, thinking he could have told us how long it would take, what stations we needed, and how much the tickets would be. Trips to Disney must, after all, be a very common reason for staying at Paris International. But he merely suggested vaguely that he thought last year some families had got a family rail ticket which might be worth asking about at the station. (Maybe… He wasn’t really sure…). Then he left us to it, not to be seen again.
We quickly ‘explored’ the tiny space (we had a Villanova van – two bedrooms, one bathroom for six of us, and the ‘living space’ pictured in that link could in no way have been taken in the van we stayed in); one double room just about big enough for the bed, and the tiniest bedroom I’ve seen with bunks AND a single bed – I couldn’t actually walk between the beds. Not being bad at maths I pretty quickly realised that we had five beds… for six of us. Six sets of linens, but just the five beds. The bench sofas in the lounge were wide, so we supposed that’s what was expected, and the 11yr old volunteered to sleep on there.
We weren’t bothering to unpack, only being there for two short nights, so within half an hour we were sorted and so desperately in need of shade we set out for the river. Having walked in the baking sun from one end of the site to the other, we came to the conclusion that actually, the only way to be near the water was to scramble down a steep bramble-filled bank just behind the bar (the only way of actually seeing the water when on the site was across any vacant tent pitches). We did just that, and let the children paddle for an hour at the rivers edge, watching the river barges from the welcome shade of a large willow, as the trains rattled over the bridge beside us.
Until we noticed bits of broken glass – obviously remnants from previous descenders of the bank behind the bar in a more intoxicated state.
So we headed back up the bank to find the childrens play area to kill a little more time – we hadn’t brought any provisions for the evening meal, knowing that there were facilities on site, and we were glad as we were both far too tired to coerce hot exhausted children back into town to find a restaurant. We all shuddered at the very thought of either getting back in the car or walking in the heat!
The young children’s play area proved to be a tiny patch with two bouncy seat type things and a roundabout. The whole site is ‘fenced’ with old telegraph poles – effective but sadly they ooze tar in the heat. These are all round the play area too, at exactly the right height for a 7 yr old to plop his (thankfully camouflage) cap, and a tired 3yr old to sit on in her favourite pale blue skirt… which is now tar-streaked. Lovely.
The older children’s play area is a small square court outside the bar with a basketball hoop and a couple of stone table tennis tables. I know now the bat and balls were probably in the Keycamp van, but at the time we didn’t have a clue. So we gave it up as a bad job and headed for the takeaway pizzas.
The ‘restaurant’ (come takeaway/bar/entertainments) choice was limited, the staff unwelcoming (not one smile despite there being four of them behind the counter), and the prices steep. €8 for a plain margerita pizza, €9 for an overcooked chicken leg and chips. €50 for a quick takeaway tea!
We ate them on the patch of hot grass in the shade of the van, and tiredness began to take over. The 3 year old wandered off, clearly not hungry in the heat. Heading into the van to get some cold water (we’d placed our own bottles in the freezer ourselves) I noticed the electrics weren’t on. At the same time the 3 year old appeared, brightly telling me she’d pushed ‘the buttons’. Following her to the front of the van, I found the junction box hanging open, the four main leads from surrounding vans connected and all the trip switches flipped. I flipped them back, closed up the box – and watched it swing open again, as there was no way of locking it shut. I didn’t even want to know what the fifth power cable lying unconnected in the grass was, I simply removed her and didn’t let her out of my site again – having her turning four vans power off (and therefore their fridges) in this heat was unthinkable.
Later we saw two different couriers walk past the box a number of times, and not once did anyone stop and notice the electrics open right beside the path.
By 6 the oldest and youngest had both flaked on the sofa, so we put the two middle boys to bed – just as the promised Jazz festival started up.
The van was as hot as ever, but by moving the provided fan into the boys sardine tin we managed to finally get them both to sleep.
By 10.30 we were sitting on our rather shabby, weed-choked deck, listening to the Jazz going strong, alongside the next door van’s music playing loudly, children running and shouting past, the trains rattling through every 2-3 minutes, the occasional barge hooting, the planes still flying over (the site is apparently under one of the main flight paths to Paris, too), the stray cats trying to force their way into our bin to get the chicken bones… and suddenly the local geese joined in. Honestly – we just started to laugh.
An hour later, trying to sleep (having now been up for 19 hours and travelled nearly 400 miles), listening to the shriekings of those who had been to the bar pass within feet of our bedroom window, shouting and laughing and singing – the noise wasn’t even remotely funny any more.
The following morning we were up and out early, catching the 9.05 train from Maisons-Lafitte (the train station was easy to find, and the staff were very helpful). We didn’t return to the van until gone 11 that night, and there was a note on the door from the couriers, saying they’d dropped in. Despite knowing we were in Disney.
Clearing the van the next day we realised that the sofa in the lounge actually folded out into a double bed which would have made sleeping for two of the children far more comfortable.
We were gone by 8.30, muttering silently that if the Parc de Fierbois was the same, we were heading straight home.
Happily, it couldn’t have been more different :)
In its defense, I know that Paris International is only intended to be used as a convenient place to stay for getting into Paris (20 minutes by train, an hour to Disney). It doesn’t have the usual facilities that you would expect from a Keycamp, and it doesn’t claim to have them on the website. However, images of the site are also rare from Keycamp (the one of the Seine is rather misleading) – looking at pictures of the local town doesn’t tell you anything about the site itself. For what it was, somewhere to sleep to facilitate a Disney visit, it did the job. Just. Things like neat site maintenance, children’s play facilities and basic courier training could all be looked at however.
Had we had to stay for any longer than we did we would have found alternatives elsewhere, I have to be honest. It would actually be a good practical base for adults visiting Paris and the local area who just need somewhere to sleep – but it is simply not a viable place to stay with young children. When you travel as a family you need a base with good standard facilities for small children – you simply can’t spend your every waking hour out and about. Paris International failed on that score, I’m afraid, and a basic Chambre D’Hote would have been cheaper and more comfortable.
**The response from Keycamp when they saw the review**
Thank you for the feedback on your recent trip. We’re really disappointed and saddened by your experience, which didn’t meet our usual standards and your expectations of a Keycamp holiday. Thankfully you had a great time at your other Keycamp destination of Parc de Fierbois.
We’ve obviously taken your comments about Parc International very seriously, and have spoken to our area manager in Paris and our parc couriers to ensure that no future customers share these unacceptable experiences.
Many of your issues were the result of poor customer service on the part of our on parc team, which comes as a great disappointment as we place great emphasis on our staff training and development. As a result, we’ve also shared your comments with those involved in recruitment and training.
The parc owners have also been made aware of your review and we will be working with them to ensure the necessary improvements are made in terms of keeping the deck areas tidy, ensuring that doors on electric hook up boxes shut properly. They are also aware of your disappointment with the play facilities.
Once again thanks for your feedback Laura and I look forward to reading about your holiday at Parc de Fierbois in the Loire.
Caroline O’Connor, Keycamp Marketing