Campsite-in-France-The-FT-Times-Blog

CAMPING IN FRANCE. OUI OR NON?

January blues? Not here. Don’t believe me, then click here for a post I wrote last year about how I learnt to love January! Plus, my annoying Jan’ perkiness might also have something to do with it being the month that usually sees us book our Big Family Holiday! HURRA!

While summer may admittedly seem yonks away, there’s something really rewarding about booking your B.F.H. before the end of the month, especially as our camping holidays have become such the highlight of our year.

Yup, I said the ‘c’ word.

I know it’s not for everyone – I mean, I hated the idea of it until four years ago when Mr Husband decided to buy a camper van (mainly ’cause we were supposed to get a kitchen extension!)

Anyways, this summer, our usual National Lampoon style vacation will be slightly different.

Dora the Explorer. Mr Husband’s VW T5 camper van which sleeps four

It’ll still involve touring around France and Spain (we’re fair weather campers) plus this time, it’ll also involve a convoy of friends and their kids, plus a stay in a French chateau before heading off to explore the Basque region of Spain, camping in places like Bilbao and San Sebastian.

Come on! Aren’t you even slightly intrigued or interested?

I know the ‘c’ word for many simply means no endless breakfast buffets, no room service and no air con but over the years we’ve discovered that there is something very unique that our hippy holidays offer…

Camping means working so closely with nature and the immediate environment around you; eliminating excess and managing with just what you need; surrendering to the adventure and the possibility.

It’s raw, it’s real and it’s beautifully basic.

I mean, how many times do we hear ourselves say that day-t0-day life is often way too complicated, a plate-spinning-mess, it’s always full-on, right?

As parents, while we may like to emulate the patience and skills of Mary Poppins, I don’t know about you, but a gin-swilling Ms Hannigan becomes the more likely reality, innit?!

We’re all attached to our smart phones, slime and stress. We’re hustling hard, living fast and future-proofing.

That’s just life and we wholly accept that we can’t escape the modern world and the challenges it presents daily but we have discovered that as a family, our camping holidays give us just the right dose of balance; an opportunity to recalibrate and relax and without sounding too saccharine, it does bring us all closer together by spending quality time as a fam.

Of course, we do hit those Defcon level rows as every family does.

But there’s something super comforting about the way a warm dusk envelops you, as you tag team it to use the showers before pitching in (sorry!) to help make dinner (and wash-up, too!) and all in the great outdoors; from winding down the day with card games or all watching the same thing (usually Modern Family or a Pixar film) huddled over one device…

For me, this kind of family holiday is totally aligned with how I want to parent and be.

So? Fancy farting around like us with commune life on the continent? (Note: If you’ve watched The Sinner S2 on Netflix, when I refer to ‘commune’ life, I definitely don’t mean THAT! Ha!)

Okay, here’s the lowdown on where we’ve camped in France so far and as always, feel free to comment below and ask any questions. Anything more vehicle related or to do with driving routes, I’ll get Mr Husband to jump on.

Mange tous, Rodney!

1. Camping Les Ondines

Located in the South West of France in picturesque Souillac, Les Ondines is a very family friendly campsite, situated right on the edge of the Dordoyne, so expect breathtaking views!

Facilities on site at Les Ondines Camping include a large playground, bouncy castle, swimming pool and a shop on site to buy all your essentials. Opposite the campsite is Quercyland water park.
Bath time made so basic with a dip in the Dordogne and it’s fresh, clear waters. 
We hired a canoe and all four of us paddled 18km along the Dordogne finding wild beaches to picnic on and thankfully it was nothing like Bird Box!
During the summer months, the Dordogne reveals wild, secret beaches to be discovered by canoe. Peaceful, scenic and shallow, they make a great natural alternative to busy beach bars.

2. Huttopia Versailles 

We stayed at Huttopia in Versaille (Huttopia is a camping chain) on our way back to Calais and the Eurotunnel. We found it a great pit stop that came recommended by Cool Camping. It combines the rustic appeal of woodlands with little glamping luxuries.

The location of Huttopia Versaille is ideal. You’re about 30 mins from the Eiffel Tower and the palace of Versaille is a picturesque 3km walk past cafes and shutter front apartments down the Avenue De Paris.
We took a walk from the campsite to the palace of Versaille.
Huttopia Versaille. For a rustic camping experience on the outskirts of Paris.

3: Domaine de la Paille Basse

Admittedly, this was a quick one night stop at the height of peak camping season and the rookie realisation that during this time it’s better to book popular sites  in advance. There were no pitches with hook up available when we arrived looking to pitch, ad hoc for the night, however, the owners were very accomodating and allowed us to park up on one of the many picnic areas surrounded by woodlands and use the facilities etc which include a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. 

4. Camping La Nautique

The great thing about touring in the camper van is that you do feel a sense of adventure; the open road is yours whether you’re crossing over the stunning Millau viaduct (above) or just popping into Lidl or Decathlon to pick up supplies!

However, during peak season (July & August) I’d definitely advise booking campsites in advance, otherwise you’ll end up driving from site to site trying to find an available pitch and some places we wouldn’t visit back in a hurry.

Not to say Camping La Nautique wasn’t a pleasant enough place to stay (it had a nice restaurant, pool, kids activities etc) but in comparison to campsites we’ve stayed in, this was probably our least  favourite pitch. Plus there were a lot of flies and dust due to the heat.

5. Camping La Grande Solonge

A really lovely open site with fabulous owners and a lot of space for kids to run around and peddle go-kart. There’s a huge lake set in the centre and lots of wildlife and lush green areas to explore. Visit Le Raboliot restaurant – a short walk – for a family owned, home-cooked, typical French meal. Brush up on your French, this is a very local place where you can really immerse yourself in French life and culture.

Beautiful setting at Camping La Grande Sologne

6. Camping Commaderie

Probably one of my favourite more natural places to camp in France – this site was just so peaceful and pretty – plus the family that run the site were so lovely and welcoming. I imagine going here again when the kids have grown up to write a book or paint (I can’t actually do the latter but it’s that kind of tranquil, scenic place). It has a very restful energy about it and the setting, amongst huge pine forests, very close to the historical town of Carcassonne means that you’re surrounded by story telling and nature.

A beautiful sunset and a glass of rose after the most delicious meal and swim.
The swimming pool at Camping Commaderie overlooks breathtaking mountainous views

7. Camping D’Olivet

Another great campsite we stayed in whilst making our way back to Calais and the Eurotunnel. The toilets and showers are quite basic but it’s a very picturesque site set in the Loiret region. Mr Husband liked the pitches and its peaceful ambience.

Au revoir for now mes amis.

See you next Sunday for the Spanish camping guide special – olé!

FT

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