DOMAINE DE LA DOMBES
by Sarah Scaddan
Fancy sleeping amongst the treetops? A treehouse break less than 2 hours drive from Geneva could be just the bonding experience you and your loved ones needs this summer.
A group of friends and I stumbled across Domaine de la Dombes a few years back when looking for an interesting night away for both our families. There are many treehouse experiences to be had across Europe (a quick search on www.canopyandstars.co.uk brought up 62 different venues – who knew?), but the beauty of this site is the fact that it is a mere 1 hr 20 mins drive from Geneva.
The site is tucked away down a winding track, surrounded by nothing but countryside. In the centre is a lake surrounded by woodland, with treehouses and ‘love nests’ scattered amongst the branches. Each cabin is unique in design and there is ample space between each one. On the lake itself are small, romantic floaing cabins only accessible by rowboat, and larger ones with their own bridge. There is also a tipi, a wooden caravan and if your other half is really annoying you, individual troll huts.We are a family of five so we were limited to the few large cabins. On our first visit we booked La Cabane des Ecureuils, a treehouse at the waters edge, with an uninterrupted viw of the lake. Access is by a steep winding staircase and inside is surprisingly spacious with two floors of living and sleeping areas. This particular cabin has no electricity or water, but there is a dry toilet and a gas heater for chilly nights. The cabins are spotlessly clean, as are the shared shower facilities.
Alas, my children were NOT impressed by the lack of electricity. To avoid further tantrums on our return visit we booked Cabane Lutins, a very comfortable treehouse halfway around the lake which you exit by slide (wahey!). The electricity and slide combination worked for the children but to me it felt like cheating. Even getting chilled wine out of the treehouse refrigerator didn’t appease my unease about glamping rather than camping.
Expect to wake up to the sound of birdcall and not to be able to see or hear another human being, not even the mystery caller who delivered your breakfast. Oh this really is a treat. When you surface, there is a basket of fresh pastries, breads, preserves and hot and cold drinks at the base of your treehouse, which you then winch up to your terrace to enjoy in private.
Linen is not provided, but at check in you are given a map and a trolley so you can transport everything you need for your stay to your cabin. For the more secluded cabins at the far end of the lake, the path stops and you follow a small track that winds through the woods, far away from civilisation.
On the Domaine de la Dombes site there is a accrobranch course, paintballing, mini golf and during the summer season, a very inviting pool with its own beach, a beach bar and plenty of lounging areas. There is also an animal park with deer and wild boar.
The Dombe region of Ain, is a lovely area with numerous medieval villages, including Pérouges which is classified among the ‘most beautiful villages of France’. It is a predominantly flat region with hundreds of (man-made) lakes, one that is a very popular destination for bird-watchers. Now I am certainly not a twitcher, so when it was suggested that we visit nearby Parc des Oiseaux, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Then I watched the Birds in Flight show, where vast flocks of colourful, tropical birds swoop over the audience coming at you at varying height and speed, just like watching an aerobatic display. It really was incredible. I am converted.
Domaine de la Dombes is situated between Lyon and Bourg-en-Bresse. To find out more about Domaine de la Dombes and Parc des Oiseaux, visit www.parcdesoiseaux.com and www.domainedeladombes.com.
Other treehouse experiences not too far from Geneva:-
Sarah Scaddan is a travel planner at www.inspiremytravel.com.