Saturday, August 19, 2006

Acorn Adventure Holidays Ardèche and Aosta Valley

We chose to go on an Acorn Adventure Holiday in August 2006. For us it is important on a family holiday that our children (8 and 13 years old) have other children to play with. So short of bringing their friends with us the best thing is to chose a holiday where they are likely to meet kids of a similar age and make friends.

We chose a two centre holiday at Labeaume in the Ardeche region of France and Villeneuve in the Aosta valley in Italy.

Having just got back I have not got time to write much so here, in no special order are good an bad things.

Good points:
  • Instructors generally good and safety paramount
  • The children made friends and were happy, generally people got on and were friendly.
  • The Aosta Valley and Ardeche are beautiful locations
  • You can leave the kids to go on the activities and do your own thing: hiking, swimming, or nothing.
  • The two day canoe descent on the Ardeche river was great fun
  • We saw wild boar while bivouacing, and lots of other wildlife
  • The coach drivers on the European part (from Eddie Brown) were highly experienced and knew the areas well. They took us on nonscheduled excursions shopping etc and were pleasant and helpful.
  • At Labaume the staff were very good at adapting to different dietary requirements. I am vegan and they even packed special food for me on the river descent.
Bad things
  • The coach trip in the UK was the worst thing by far. On both outward and return journey the M6 was closed near Stoke on Trent. On the outward journey resulting in a five hour delay. Of course some disruption was unavoidable bu the coach drivers did not listen to radio or other traffic reports, did not use sat-nav, and failed to anticipate the problem or find the best route to minimise delay. They also failed to tell Acorn how long the delay was likely to be, resulting in passengers waiting unnecessarily at the roadside at pick up locations when they could have gone somewhere more comfortable for three hours.
  • The coach trip from France to Italy took about 10 hours, whereas Acorn had given us the impression that it was very short when we had talked on the phone.
  • The food at Villeneuve was pretty bad, and the dinning area was not cleaned.
  • The camp site at Villeneuve included a large electricity pylon and was right next to a building site in what felt like an industrial area. Although it did have nice long range views. It was also crowded compared to Labeaume.
  • The instructors and Acorn staff encouraged the children to shout unnecessarily spoiling the tranquility of peaceful river and mountain areas. This often annoyed local French and Italian holiday makers whose complaints were unheard by the Acorn staff. Either because they did not speak French or Italian or simply because they were totally insensitive the Acorn staff did not even notice. This was the single most annoying feature of the holiday and plays to the stereotype of English yob culture abroad.
  • Perhaps by way of payback, a nearby French establishment played cheesy pop music so loud that it sounded like it was inside your head until 11 or 12 at night at Labeaume. Bring ear plugs!

On the whole the holiday was good value, and the children had a great time, and we had some fun most of all enjoyed seeing them have fun. If you were really unhappy with the food, it might have
still been good value if you went out for a few meals, and given the food varies between centres you might be luckier than we were. Don't expect much in the way of canoe, climbing etc instruction, just the basics for safety and fun. If you can't stand long coach journeys you can do the same holiday in your own car. I expect Acorn, if it stays in business, will respond to these criticisms as no doubt they will be getting a lot of feedback along the same lines.most annoying feature of the holiday and plays to the stereotype of English yob culture abroad.

If you do the river decent bring a sleeping mat (such as a Therm-a-Rest) to sleep on. Most adults find it hard to sleep on hard ground! If you have climbing or walking boots bring them too.

Links: Other reviews of Acorn Adventure Holidays on RealHolidayReports (Note that others we met on the coach back were very positive about Narbonne and said the food was great). My review posted also on

Google maps: Villneuve, Labeaume


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