Day 12 – Nevers

We left Camping Saint Lambert around 10am and set off for Nevers, to try our first Cool Camping France site in the centre of town on the banks of the river Loire.  We arrived around 5pm and there were plenty of places for tent camping on the lower level but the upper level caravan/motorhome camping seemed to be nearly full.  We found a pitch (you basically pitch where you like) on the lower level and set up camp.  I can see why the guys at Cool Camping recommend this site as it is very easy going and laid back, it’s on the banks of the Loire and the impressive Nevers cathedral is on the opposite bank of the river. This site was the cheapest yet – 27 euro with EHU.  The caravan/motorhome camping on the upper level seemed a bit more formal and this is where the clean toilets and showers are situated – a bit of a trek in the middle of the night but not too bad.

After a gnocchi dinner we took a walk across the bridge and into town in search of tobacco for Bruce.  Other than the bars and restaurants, particularly around the cathedral square, the town was closed and seemed deserted with some shops boarded up.  This seemed strange coming from the forever open south but, although Nevers is a pretty town it seems off the tourist trail, except for night halts to and from the south.  Needless to say we didn’t find a Tabac open and we returned to camp empty handed.

The next morning we returned to town on a Tabac and croissant hunt.  We found a small patisserie slightly to the left when you cross the bridge and I had my first pain au raisin of the holiday ( a favourite of mine but nowhere to be found, except supermarket ones, on the Med).  All the shops were closed and when we stopped for a coffee at a small bar we found out why – the shops are closed every Wednesday!!  We decided to search no more, the clouds were coming over and it was time to move on – our intention being to stop just north of Paris for our last night.

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Day 11 Millau – Gorges Du Tarn – Camping Saint Lambert

I woke up early this morning due to the air bed deflating and Bruce and I went in search of croissants.  We found a bar  tabac, boulengerie and Lydl on the outskirts of town and then returned to see if our pitch by the toilets was free as we were due to move today.  Sure enough the pitch was free and we returned to camp to find the kids and start Operation Up Sticks.  First the kids cycled round to the new pitch with all of the bikes while Bruce and I bungled all sleeping bags and pillows inside the car.  Next we bungeed the airbed and camp beds on top of the trailer and slowly drove round to our new pitch.  I may have mentioned that there are a lot of Dutch campers at this site and some seemed very tidy, organised and pedantic and not the least bit impressed with our moving mayhem, especially the weird chap camped opposite our new pitch.  I say weird because he and his family hardly spoke to each other, never smiled and spent the day sitting outside their caravan staring at us.  We gave them something to stare at when we went back to collect our tent and carried it round, fully erected, a person on each pole and plonked it on our pitch.  Pegs in, airbeds unbungeed, sleeping bags in et voila, job done – decamped and recamped in under an hour.

We then had the rest of the day to enjoy canoeing  (without oars as we had left them in the car park at Salles) and swimming in the river.  The campsite has a riverside beach and plenty of shallows to play in.  It’s also fun to watch those in hired canoes navigate the mini rapids caused by kids daming the river in various places.  After a day resting, swimming and being stared at we lit the barbie and enjoyed a lovely family meal.  Afterward we listened to a few tunes on the car stereo (not loudly), George played guitar and Bruce and I even had a dance around the pitch.  Being stared at.  At 10pm the music went off and we tidied around ready to strike camp the following day.  We were right next to the

This is NOT miserable, staring man but he looked very similar!

toilet block which was noisy with washer uppers and kids larking about with the water but it didn’t bother us, our neighbours were playing a film, kids were playing around and we all sat and played a game of “How many cars can you name beginning with the letter R”  – that is until Weird Staring man got up from his chair in the dark, left his very quiet family around the table and came over and asked us to keep our voices down! He didn’t ask our neighbours to turn off their film (complete with loud dramatic music) or his Dutch neighbours to stop playing cards and arguing, nor did he ask the screaming kids to quieten down or the washer uppers to stop clanking their pots.  Just the English (who are not all English anyway) family sitting down altogether and playing a game, I have never experienced prejudice before but I can tell you it isn’t nice. So we just put on our best shell suits and in true football hooligan style told him to F*** OFF!  Only joking, we actually wished him a lovely evening and completely ignored his request.  I can’t stand insular, intolerant bigots and it really hacked me off.  Luckily his Dutch neighbours were fantastic, chilled and laid back with a really cool bell tent and they completely restored my faith in the Dutch camper.

Despite Weird Staring man I would return to this campsite as it’s location by the river is fab and it is comparatively cheap – 62 euro for 2 nights for 6 with electricity in high season.  We were paying nearly that per night at La Barque and that was cheap for the Med coast.  The toilets are clean but not quite 4 star luxury, the owners are friendly and the bar is fairly priced.  It is generally quite laid back and friendly with the odd exception!  If I were to book I would ask for a riverside pitch, although the river might be a bit noisy for some!

 

Day 10 – Moving On to Millau

We left Saint Aygulf around mid day to head for Millau, apparently it has a big viaduct there (whoopee) and it has appeared on top gear (fantastic).  I like bridges but not enough to head to one for 2 nights camping, it must be a man thing and I happen to be surrounded by young men so on the hottest day so far I found myself on the autoroute, in the traffic, heading for a bridge – I was not impressed!  As we came off the autorroute and on the road to Millau we came to a viewing point and it was there I got my first view of the viaduct and the gorge running below and what a bridge!  It is magnificent and the contrast between the man-made magnificence of the bridge and the luscious green of the river gorge below blew me away.

We made our way down into the town and then followed a river for about a mile to Camping Saint Lambert.  We hadn’t booked but luckily they had a free pitch by the river for 1 night only and the next day they had another pitch free by the toilet block.  After a hard days drive Bruce and I made our way to the bar for a drink and left the kids to put up the tent, which they did brilliantly.  We then all had pizza and chips from the bar along with a litre of wine all for 27 euro – that’s 1 euro less than a round of drinks in St Tropez.  With the last of our money almost gone we turned in for the night and were lulled to sleep by the gurgle of the river.

Kylas Coolest Camping Part 3 – The Med

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:

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!

 

 

 

 

Agay:

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 .

http://www.campeole.com/camping-campeole-le-dramont-var-10.html

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.

ukcampsite.co.uk

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.