While I was at work today my lovely younger brother dropped off his 2 man inflatable canoe for us to borrow and take to France. My 3 boys were all at home, as it’s now the school holidays, and Bruce and I were at work………cue Operation Test Drive Canoe without parental permission. They didn’t let a lack of foot pump stop them, oh no, Olli (14) just blew it up with his breath, I would have expired, but 15 minutes later it was fully inflated. They then carried it across 2 fields and on to the Grand Union Canal where they proceeded to row 4 miles towards Wistow, Wigston& Leicester. The first I heard of this endeavour was a phone call from Olli asking if I was back from work because they were thirsty, I was in the hairdressers so no chance of me delivering drinks and every chance of me delivering a lecture on Waterway Safety and general anti-accidental drowning measures. The canoe is now drying out ready to be packed for France, I will leave you with these pictures.
A recent newspaper reported that the average Brit exceeds their holiday budget by an average of around £300 – is that all? We apparently underestimate the costs before we even go on holiday with women more often than not blowing their cash on clothes and beauty products (you don’t say!). So out of interest I thought I’d add up the costs of our holiday so far:-
Ferry: Car plus trailer (P & O Ferries) = £145.00
Campsite Deposit: Camping La Barque = £100.00
Gas bottle re-fill: (Kibworth garden centre) = £ 21.00
New number plate, defectors, GB stickers etc : (K Tee Motors) = £ 38.00
Annual UK &European Car Break Down Recovery: (JS Insurance) = £ 85.00
These costs don’t include the food I will buy on Thursday (£100 approx) or filling up with fuel (a staggering £85 to fill up our car at the moment). I make savings wherever I can, for example I will be shopping at Lidl and will mainly buy lots of drinks for the journey, this will save up to 70p per drink compared to buying at a roadside services or cafe, so each round of soft drinks for 6 of us will save around £6.20 x 4 per day travelling = £24.80 per day!! I will fill up with fuel using Tescos current offer of 5p off per litre when you buy tuna and multipacks of coca-cola , I will then combine these to give 10p off per litre and head to Tesco South Wigston where diesel is currently £135.9 per litre.
I made savings on clothes by shopping at the cheaper stores, for example I bought my eldest son an excellent Tee-shirt with a camper van motif from Primark for £3.00, he loves it. I treated myself to a fabulous Maxi dress from Tesco for £20.00 but I have to confess to buying more than just a maxi dress for my holiday.
Other savings I have made include the Ferry booking with P & O Ferries; the trick is to keep searching on their website until you find the cheapest crossing. You do this by entering your details including when you would prefer to sail, then on the next screen it will list the outward crossing you have selected but not any others. If you keep hitting the ‘earlier’ or ‘later’ buttons it will list the times and prices for each crossing. For example the outward crossing is on the busiest day of the year and most of the morning crossings were between £200 – £300, I kept hitting the buttons until I came to the 12.40 crossing at £75.00 – a saving of at least £125.00. I think £145 return crossing for a car and trailer in peak season is a great price but it takes just a little bit of time and searching to find these prices.
European Car Breakdown is another great saving – mine is an annual insurance covering homestart in the UK and I simply used comparethemarket.com to find the best deal. At £85.00 with JS Insurance for the year it compares favourably with the RAC who want £134.00 just for single trip European breakdown.
With only 5 days to go I have loads to do, mostly things I forgot to put on the to-do list like collecting prescriptions, de-fleaing the cat and dog, washing the dogs bed ready to go for his Spa break at my parents etc. The most important thing I have to do is to find the camera and charger and prepare it so that I can post our photos on this blog. Ciao for now.
With only 1 week to go my thoughts are turning to things I look forward to most when going to France and Salad De Chevre Chaud is in my top 10 list of favourites. Salad De Chevre Chaud translates to hot goats cheese salad and on the face of it a bit of hot cheese on lettuce does not sound very exciting but this is France and their culinary skills are anything but dull.
This dish can be found on many restaurant menus either as a first course or as the main event, recipes vary from region to region and indeed from restaurant to restaurant, some add walnuts, cooked meats or lardons but 4 main ingredients remain the same: goats cheese, lettuce,toast and a dressing. The dressing is usually a mustard or peppery dressing that cuts into the saltness of the cheese with the lettuce adding a final cooling balance. Greg Wallace and John Torode (Masterchef presenters) would decribe it so much better than I can – all I can come up with is it’s to die for, I could live my life on a diet of Salad De Chevre Chaud every day and for me, as a vegetarian in France (many French people find vegetarianism incomprehensible and this is reflected in their restaurant menus) it is a godsend.
Even if you have an aversion to all things lettucey, I would highly recommend you try this salad whilst in France at least once. Roll on 23rd July……
There are people in this world who are so organised they do next years Christmas shopping in the January sales, they are the sort of people who thrive on lists and who can work 12 hour days, cook dinner, shop, socialize and still have time for their family! I’m not one of them. Instead I leave things to the very last-minute before I swing into action, Christmas shopping is a dash around Fosse Park 2 days before Christmas. Every time I leave things to the last-minute I swear I’ll do better next time, so with that in mind and only 1 week to go, I am being organised and making a list that I can’t lose or throw away – here goes:
- Find Fugly log book and obtain new number plate for trailer.
- Stick trailer back together again – that’s got to be a mans job, I choose which bits of feminism I support and I don’t support the bit about women having anything to do with the fixing of cars or trailers.
- Fix lights on trailer – man job.
- Obtain new bulbs for Fuglies headlight and tail light – I think I can manage that.
- Put new bulbs in – man job.
- Screw Fuglies undercarriage back together – 2 man job.
- Re-gas Air Con – take to a man who can.
- Clean and wash Fugly – womans work – only joking, I’ll bribe the kids to do that one.
- Print Breakdown Recovery Policy and Ferry booking.
- Swear at printer ink running out.
- Finish all work paperwork and file.
- Order Euros.
- Hide Euros.
- Remember to find Euros upon departure.
- Remind boys to bring their passports back from their Dads house.
- Remind them again.
- Remind their Dad.
- Steal passports.
- Get all of the clothes washing done – oh how I’m laughing to myself.
- Write a shopping list.
- Go shopping.
- Buy lots of things we don’t need and nothing we do need because the list is lost.
- Fill car up with Diesel after buying copious amounts of Tuna from Tesco in order to get 5p off per litre.
- Clean the house.
- Pack whatever clothes are clean.
- Trim, shave and wax all unsuspecting hairs, wherever they be.
- Pack car.
- Go back for the customary forgotten child.
One thing that my 43 years life experience has taught me is that it all gets done in the end so I’m not going to stress too much, besides I’ve got a whole week to do it all in.
This isn’t the best photo of the Med, but I am in it (the dot in the middle) and as soon as I saw it today I remembered being there this time last year, bobbing about in the warm sparkling waters of the Med with the sun beating down. If the photo was a bit clearer you might see St Tropez in the far left of the picture, you’d also see that the blurry yachts and boats quite obviously belong to the rich and famous and finally you would see that I am in the sea with my beloved green foam banana which has followed me around France for the last 10 years. The Cote D’Azur has long been a playground of the rich and famous but what is perhaps less well-known, it’s also a campers paradise with campsites that cater for all tastes and some situated right on the beach cuddled up with the millionaires yachts and villas.
Port Grimaud fulfilled the architect Francois Spoerys’ dream to build a Mediterranean village, inspired by the architecture of the area, on a former boggy wasteland. Construction began in the mid 1960’s and the result is what we see today – Bougainvillea covered pastel coloured villas alongside canals interspersed with leafy squares and the brightly coloured sun shades of restaurants and shops. It’s a great place to sit people watching as you sip a coffee by the canal or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, hire a little electric boat to explore the canals in. Be warned though, the steering on the boats takes some getting used to and we’ve often passed the time, standing on a bridge, watching the electric boats weave from side to side narrowly avoiding some expensive looking yachts!
Further information can be found on this site: http://www.grimaud-provence.com/english.php
Along the beach towards Ste Maxime are 3 campsites, each with beach front pitches, where you can walk 20 paces from your pitch and be swimming in the sea. These are great sites for a beach holiday but expensive and extremely busy in the height of summer, so I’m not going to tell you about them, instead I’m going to tell you about Camping A La Ferme which we happened upon last year when just the 2 of us got 1 week child free and headed off for France in a banger of a Renault Clio and a 3 man dome tent from Tescos’.
The site is situated just a 10 minute walk from the main coast road in Port Grimaud and the biggest campsite Praire De La Mer. Despite this you could be a million miles away from the general chaos that is the coast road in summer; the campsite is set among the vine yards slightly inland from the coast and it is owned by a very proud and meticulous owner who keeps all facilities spotless. The pitches aren’t massive but they all have shade and other than the ample shower/toilet facilities and a very small office, there is very little else on this small site. It is cheaper than the big sites, especially for couples and a perfect oasis of calm at the end of an action packed day at the beach.
The owner’s name is Claude Ferrero, he doesn’t speak English so polish up your French if you want to book ahead.
Address; Saint-Pons-Les-Mures, 83360 Grimaud.
Tel: 04 94 56 03 30
Port Grimaud is not to be confused with the town of Grimaud, the old town situated on a hillside inland. This is well worth a visit, the photo (right) shows a lovely restaurant situated in the typical Provencal town with narrow meandering streets and alleyways and old stone houses with brightly painted shutters. I took this photo just before the wine started having an effect, subsequent photos’ mainly showed peoples feet on the cobblestones.
Bruce (left) on the front of a friends speed boat, dodging the millionaires yachts in the Bay of St. Tropez. Happy Days!
Further eastwards along the Med coast, through Ste Maxime, St Aygulf and St Raphael you come to Agay on the Estoril coast. This is where my last nomination for cooler than cool campsite is situated. It is called Le Dramont – Campeole .
It is a big site, right on the coast, but it has a really laid back feel about it. I chose this because of the beach; 1 sandy beach and, my favourite, one rocky beach. The rocky beach is excellent for rock pooling and snorkelling, or just clambering along the rocks to a small marina. The showers and toilets are plentiful and cleaned regularly and the site is situated near a train station where you can catch a train for Nice or Cannes or just nip into St Raphael. The red rocks of the Estoril coast are magnificent (best viewed from the sea in a boat) and if you want an adventurous drive you can follow the coast road to Cannes, which bends, twists and undulates all the way there. I have camped in Cannes before now and disliked it with a passion – a huge road to cross to a shingle beach and all very commercialised. Le Dramont is a million miles away from this but still within driving distance of the major towns in this part of the Med.
These 2 sites conclude my Coolest Camping list for now – I will try to add a few more at a later date however it’s now only 2 weeks to go until we leave for France and to say I’m getting excited is an understatement. We’ve plenty to do in the next few weeks but I will try to keep the blog updated as I go.
Since January 2003 I have been a member of ukcampsite.co.uk, a website and forum about everything and anything to do with camping. I’m not by nature a forum type person but through the years I have grown attached to this website, it has been there through thick and thin and my changing circumstances and fortunes are logged under the heading ‘outfit’ in my membership profile – Motorhome- Newer Motorhome (divorce) – Tent. I have followed threads, contributed to some and got to know some of the characters who appear regularly to share their wisdom and expertise. All of this web activity is monitored by Webby and Ratty who do a sterling job generally and have only removed my posts on a few occasions, for no explicable reason other than to remind everybody whose the daddy!
This site has so much useful information from campsite reviews to free ads and of course the message forums, where you can ask anything and everything camping related (or not in some instances) and you will almost certainly get the help, information or just support you need. Webby and Ratty they keep things ticking along nicely and, when the arguments start getting too personal, they put a stop to it. I imagine it’s what it would be like in a family with 2 dads.
Some of the arguments make regular appearances on the site and I know there are some members similar to me who drop in on these arguments for entertainment value and to maybe throw something contentious into the mix. Here are some of my favourite contenders for the Everlasting Argument:
- Gassing on French Aires – apparently, whilst sleeping, thieves pump just the right amount of gas into your unit to knock you and your children out – without overdosing or killing any of you – and then these highly qualified anaesthetists nick your passports and euros et voila. Urban myth and factual event? Can you guess which side I’m on?
- Reverse Polarity – You would not believe how hot under the collar some members get whenever this subject comes up, classic. I can not comment as to which side I’m on as I still don’t have a clue what they are talking about, I imagine it’s something to do with the earth spinning the other way due to plugging an electric hook up in the wrong hole on a campsite in the Dordogne. But I could be wrong.
- How to behave on a campsite – One of my favourite threads, I love to put the odd maverick remark in amongst the Caravan Club members rules and regulation brigade comments, something like “I like to party into the night ” or “dogs should be able to poo wherever they please” usually hits the spot.
The campsite reviews are a godsend, they are mostly current and offer impartial and invaluable information on every type of campsite in the UK and France. I’m especially impressed with the map search facility where you can just click on an area you’re interested in and it will show you campsites within a 20 mile radius – even in France! Alongside campsite reviews are the tent reviews which have proved equally invaluable just recently, they are all written by real punters and not by marketing companies promoting their product.
If you have a question to ask, need some advice or want to discuss anything camping or caravanning this is the site to go to. There are some members who have a wealth of knowledge and many years experience and are more than happy to share this with anyone who asks.
In my first post I stated that we are hoping to stick to a budget of 100 Euro per day (not including fuel and tolls). This may seem a lot but for 6 of us it would be easy to get through double that amount; French campsites tend to charge for a pitch and 2 people with each extra person being charged between 3 and 10 euros each plus all 6 of us, including 11-year-old step daughter, eat adult portions so no getting away with an odd child meal here and there. The whole holiday should cost no more than £2000 inclusive, to be totally honest its money we don’t have but Tescos’ Credit Card at 0% for 15 months with no commission and no cash advance fee for ordering currency will be our flexible friend for the duration. I’ll worry about it when I get back, as well as the prospect of losing my job, Bruces business not working out and the general day-to-day domestic dramas that seem to blight our lives – which is why we all need a holiday!
Here’s my top ten tips for making those Euro’s stretch a bit further whilst camping in France:
- Switch off the data thingy and voice mail on your mobile phone. These can run up excessive charges although my service provider caps it at £50. Additionally, if you are likely to make and receive calls check with your service provider for bundles.
- If eating out find out where the locals eat and avoid the tourist traps. Even in St Tropez you can shave a few Euro’s off your bill if you head away from the Harbour and into the back streets.
- Another one for those who eat out – Plat Du Jour, the dish of the day often represents excellent value for money and might tempt you to try the local cuisine.
- Shop where the locals shop or find Lidl’s or similar.
- Try to avoid toll roads and use the N roads that often run parallel with the motorway. It will take you longer but you get to see a bit more of France and they cost nowt.
- Ice-creams and drinks – we buy in bulk – 6 ice-creams can cost less than 2 Euro in a supermarket but more than 2 Euro’s each at a beachside kiosk. The same with drinks. Drinks out are a real treat for our family.
- Wine – it’s cheap – buy from the supermarket and drink lots.
- Fill up with fuel at the supermarket and avoid motorway services.
- Use Municipal Campsites where possible. These are campsites provided by the town to encourage tourists and are therefore often very much cheaper than privately owned sites, Camping A La Ferme is almost always another cheaper alternative.
- Look up free things to do and create adventures such as camping by a lake with your inflatable dingy, days on the beach, museums, exhibitions and art galleries, going to towns during their festivals, water gun fights, walking, cycling, making kebabs for the campfire or barbie or just chilling out with a good book and bottle of cheap wine (my favourite adventure!!)