Centreparcs – Les Trois Forêts (France) : An Accessible Review

A version of this post can also be seen on TripAdvisor.
We visited Les Trois Forêts as a group of 7, with two children under 12 and five adults. Four of our party had varying physical impairments (using a variety of mobility aids from sticks to an actuve user wheelchair), and two who are Autistic. As such, we pre-booked well in advance choosing a VIP cabin highlighted as accessible for those with mobility needs to sleep 8 mid distance from the main centre (cabin 709).

Communication

With Les Trois Forêts being less than an hour away from the borders of Germany & Luxembourg, it is not a surprise to find that all signs are primarily in French with German translation. Most staff speak either. We made a concerted effort to speak in French & when we failed, the staff were happy to translate more complex requirements to English (at one point making great use of the translation app on my phone!). Like most places, a valiant attempt that ends in them just telling you to speak English is much better received than not trying.

Useful lines:

  • Je suis désolé – I’m sorry
  • Je parlé petite Français – I speak a little French
  • Je ne comprend pas – I don’t understand
  • Vous parlés Anglais? – Do you speak English?
  • Pourrais-je double vérification s’il vous plaît que la salle est accessible pour mon fauteuil roulant? – can I please double check that the room is accessible for my wheelchair?

Whilst I thoroughly recommend the Michel Thomas method for learning some basics, Google Translate is also your friend!

Contact with the outside world is limited as the phone signal in many areas is absent & WiFi is at a premium. There is public WiFi in the main centre & in the play barn, but it us rather slow. We sent a few texts home just to confirm we were ok, but the disconnection from technology was rather welcome after the initial withdrawal! (Even these blogs were written in the late evenings & stored away until connection to the world was restored).

Noise, Comfort, & Bugs

The main centre was only 1 bus stop away (busses run every hourish around the main circuit with 8 stops on the circuit), and yet there was very little noise near our cabin aside from birds and local church bells. Peace is not at a premium here, and despite housing over 1000 chalets, it didn’t feel crowded until you got to the centre. 

The cabin has an enormous living space with an open plan kitchen, plenty of soft seating and two large dining tables (one inside & one outside) – these were used extensively in the evening for playing cards. The soft seated area has a large TV with news channels in a number of languages and several local French & German channels. This also has a DVD player. There are also TVs in both double rooms.

Although we stayed at the end of July /August, the heat was not oppressive & many of the days were overcast. When the sun came out & temperatures were around 27° there is plenty of respite from this in the forest walk. There is no air conditioning in the cabins, so we arrived with some desk fans – these serve several purposes: they kept us all cool at night & deter mosquitos as the breeze moves the carbon dioxide breathed out around and makes it harder for them to find you.

Having read many of the reviews on TripAdvisor, we packed a plug-in insect trap for each bedroom, expecting a deluge of flying beasties. In fact, with the same sticky strip plugged in for the whole 7 nights, only a small number were caught and we were bitten once, if that (and can’t be sure if that was at night).

Our cabin was however, not one that looks directly onto the lake, so that may have an impact on the volume of insects.

We were visited by a fair few insects, a surprising number of baby frogs, several cats, and a multitude of moths ranging for tiny pale ones to literal behemoths! 

Food, Drink, & Entertainment 

We ate out a number of times during our stay. We were rather confused by the reviews bemoaning how expensive the food was – the prices are quite typical of the area and the quality was really quite good considering the volume of people served. The pizza resturant was a pleasant surprise with freshly made pasta & even allowed me to order a children’s portion. The all you can eat buffet had a good selection and was restocked continually until end of service (the kids & adults were very taken with the ice cream & chocolate fountain!). 

The on-site Carrefour was mildly.more expensive than the one 15 minutes down the road, but on a par for things like fresh baguettes, milk, & butter.

One thing we discovered was the delivery service where for €25 they will deliver a whole rotisserie chicken with garlic & rosemary roasted potatoes to your cabin (or you can take them away). They cited that this feeds 4-6 people. We ordered 2 to be sure and eaten with baguettes and some salad, this lasted 2 meals for 7 of us!

There are tonnes of activities on site and whilst many of them are extra, which is expected in Centreparcs & no different to any other site, there are a number of included activities: the train around the park, swimming & waterslides, the petting farm, play areas, & woodland walks. These kept us entertained for most of our time and we topped this up with a few extra activities and a day out. The parc heavily advertises the local animal park & rightly so as it’s very nice. (If you book your entrance through reception, there is an offer of reduced prices).

The Bike Shack offers a range of transport hire from toddler balance bikes, to adult mountain bikes. There are some more unusual machines such as the adult + child tandems. One useful hire for those with reduced mobility is the electric bike which allows you to experience cycling without failing on the hills (of which there are quite a number). In addition to just cycles, there are electric golf carts for either 4 or 6 people. Unfortunately, by the time we had arrived, both the option of electric bike and golf buggy had gone as they had all been hired. We were told that these are bookable in advance online, although are still unable to find how on earth you book them online! Prices are also rather steep for the carts with a 6 seater being €280 for the week with an additional €500 deposit returnable required.

Thankfully, 3 of us brought our own bikes and I had my electric wheelchair trike attachment & off road tyres, so we were able to run errands whilst the others in our party used the little train. Overall, the expense of a bike rack & effort of transporting the bikes was definitely preferable.
Accessibility 

Getting to the cabin was a little tricky as whilst there is step free access, the slope to the cabin is quite steep with a hairpin bend. Navigating up by wheelchair was made easier by using my electric trike attachment, although the walking stick users were unable to get assistance aside from taking it slowly.

Once in, the cottage is very similar to the standard VIP cottage layout. The “accessible end” is the end with a twin & double room attached via a bathroom with Turkish bath (steam room / shower). In here, the bathroom is larger with a toilet rail – this is a single bar on the right, which appears to be standard across all disabled toilets. There is also a shower seat in the Turkish bath. For those with heat intolerance who sigh at the inclusion of a steam room & sauna in the luxury cottages, these both come with adjustable temperature settings, so we were able to enjoy the experience at much lower temperatures!

The layout of the cottage is open plan which makes navigating between areas easy and there is step free access out onto the decking. There is even a ramp down onto the grass. The kitchen is also open plan with the option of storing food in lower cupboards. The surfaces are at standard height, which suited us with only 1 wheelchair user, but meant that I couldn’t use the microwave  (which was above head height) or hob. These were small niggles negated by help from family and the easy to use dishwasher & large handle taps throughout. The addition of a Dulce Gusto machine was actually very useful as I could make my own hot drinks without the need to lift a kettle; buying the coffee & hot chocolate pods for this is highly recommended!

The double rooms aren’t particularly accessible in terms of wheelchair access, although we coped with this by shoving the bed over towards the wall a bit & me not using the dressing table (with 5 bathrooms, there was plenty of alternatives!). The twin room was much more suited to wheelchair access, however this isn’t suited to married couple use! 

Both ends of the cottage have whirlpool baths. With this in mind we packed my inflatable bath lift. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were not big enough to accommodate my wheelchair and close the door so I was unable to get in or out of the tub with any privacy. Neither baths had additional handrails which made this difficult for all people with mobility issues to use them. This was a shame & rather an oversight for a cottage specifically cited as accessible.
The real winner was the accessibility within the swimming pools. There are two disabled changing rooms with full changing beds & accessible showers to compliment the accessible showers alongside the main showers. To access these, you need to take your chalet key card to reception as a deposit & you are handed the key to open the changing room (“avet vous une clé pour le handicapés vestiaire si vous plait?“). In the pool area, not only was a hoist available, but as the main pool was stepless, a set of two water wheelchairs were provided for use by anybody who needed them. The lifeguards were happy to show us where the chairs were & had a supply of adult floatation jackets if needed (I have my own floatation belt & they radioed to other lifeguards that I was in the water in case I was uneasy about being in the water when the wave machine started). I was able to leave my own chair by the lifeguards station & be wheeled directly into the water, or use my own chair to go around the main areas to watch the children hurl themselves down slides, or the rapids, or along the water climbing wall!

Overall 

This visit has made me a centreparcs convert. The insular nature of the place perhaps stopped us from exploring & experiencing the area in the way that we usually do, and I was utterly content to remain within the parc grounds. However, we never once felt penned in, nor compelled to do anything other than relax and enjoy our time.

I can definitely see us visiting again.

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