Camping - the aftermath

Camping in France- The Aftermath

Three days after we got home from our camping holiday, it looked as though our roof box had exploded. This was the first opportunity to dry out the tent since we had returned off the ferry from France because, yippee! the sun is shining here in Ireland at last.

We had plenty of sunshine on holiday, tonnes and tonnes of blasting actual true to life sun-ness. It’s the type of heat which makes you totally believe astronomy books describing the surface of our nearest and dearest star as being 5 000 to 5 800°C (cool space website here).

And it’s a little different to the type we are used to here in Ireland, to be fair lads. However, the heat lasted up until the day we had to pack up to leave and then it rained, which annoyed the life out of us and left us packing up a soggy tent.

We spent two weeks in a campsite in Challans in the Vendée region of France which is approximately four hours’ drive South from Cherbourg, if you don’t stop. Or six if you have a family so stop for a picnic lunch and visit a supermarket for sight-seeing purposes and to ‘do your first grocery shop’.

 

Oh how I love French supermarkets! They can be absolutely enormous and are faintly mysterious in that you never leave them with what you went in for in the first place.

You may loose your children inside.

There are so many exciting possibilities for dinner experimentation, although I’m not allowed to buy rabbit, frogs legs or snails. Or cheval (horse). I did mistakenly make everyone eat chocolate icecream with galettes made out of farine de blé noir. Mon Dieu!! I have learnt since that, when in doubt, use Google translate.

Apart from food there are usually a host of amazing bargains to be had from jewellery to household gadgets to clothing. Actually not the clothing, the French take great pride in looking good. But we did come out with sale school bags one time, one was €1.50 and the other about €3.

Our kids absolutely loved our camp site. There were three pools, two water slides, hundreds of kids to befriend and evening activities in (to them) incomprehensible French. When you are young, making friends without being able to communicate seems to be easy. So they spoke Irish to sound cool.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
cool kids

My spoken French is very basic, enough to get us by but not enough to explain to a cashier (in our local airport terminal-sized supermarket) that she has charged me the wrong price on the knickers I picked. They were the cheapest, I think because they are peach coloured. As a result of this minor fracas I left this holiday resolved to improve my French so that I never need fight a French woman over underwear again.

Apart from spending way too much time and money at the supermarkets we did get out and about to see some beautiful places. This is the part of the holidays that I love the best. When I explore new places I’m often more delighted by the serendipitous finds than the places of interest pin-pointed on the map. We had a lovely mix of little known places and world renown historical sites.

I found out that our local town market was on a Tuesday morning so we drove to the centre and wandered about a little with no idea where we were going. Eventually we asked a passing family who directed us in the opposite direction to where we were headed, only to discover a market that was so huge we got tired of it before we got to the end of it. I think it covered the entire rest of the town.

They say it was it was 39°C that day, and you could tell. Although my husband was brought up in Kimberley, South Africa, and would have scoffed at those temperatures before, our fair and tender skins have become far more adapted to the Irish climate. So afterwards we escaped to our supermarket to worship the frozen food section and buy ice-creams.

I love the relaxed easy pace of camping but I don’t love swimming shoulder-to-shoulder with half clad strangers so I would probably look for a less popular campsite next time. Although, seeing that the children love it, I would probably consider camping for only one week and staying in a gite for another.

I had booked to stay our final two nights in a stunning stone house that had 1779 carved above a window. It was so gorgeous we felt we were gatecrashing, the contrast to the camping couldn’t have been greater. We had satin sheets, a fridge and an oven!! We were delighted to be off the beaten track in a beautifully quiet setting, this was the the perfect way to end the holiday. And the kids loved it too (a TV at last – after two weeks of deprivation!)

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Gite de Peche, Saint-Ellier-du-Maine.

So now we are back home, the tent has been dried and packed away, and life has returned to it’s relatively normal routine.

Coming back from a camping trip away can be a time of tricky adjustment, there seems to be so much to do, you almost feel like you need a holiday to recover.

After nine (9!) LARGE loads of laundry, I finally got to the top of my washing basket, only two more to go before I hit the elusive bottom. The kids are back in school  and I’m back to writing again. At the moment I’m cool but slightly blinded by the sun shine on my keyboard. I’m sitting by the window so that I can get a little bit hot.

I tried to spice up my trip to my own boring and suddenly very small looking supermarket today by being a rebel and buying a few things I don’t normally buy. No farine de blé noir (thankfully) but I did find some French flour to make bread with so, because I still have some smelly cheese in the fridge that survived the journey home, I’m looking forward to reliving my time away with my own little French themed lunch. Vive la France!

++For more articles on travelling with kids, here’s a post I wrote on tips for travelling with kids, another about a trip to South Africa our holiday on the Isle of Skye and Our USA road trip.++


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