The title of this post is what we remember most from our 10 day trip camping around France back in 2008. Second only to telling Shama how she had her first solid food (French baguette) while camping in France! She was 5 months and Shahaar was 3.
At that point in time we had been done two short trips in Europe -Switzerland(Shahaars first flight at 8 weeks) and Germany(Shama’s first flight at 5 months). We wanted to do a more leisurely trip travelling across France (we have been to several places in Europe since then, you can read here if interested) . I had never been to Paris and was eager to see this beautiful city that I have only experienced in movies. We took train from London and stayed in a basic and cheap hotel opposite Gare Du Nord . Very convenient, as we arrived by train with all our camping gear and two small children in tow!
We do love Paris and for the record, it is truly a beautiful city, but it definitely would not be my favourite destination with small children. I have been back twice since and loved all that Paris has to offer for adults! We did the usual – Eiffel Tour, Notre Dame, Louvre, Champse de elys, Petit and Grand Palais. The kids were great putting up with all the queues, sightseeing, and non child friendly restaurants. We enjoyed our breakfasts at the cafes (out of all the meals out), loved the fact that there were reclining seats at parks, and surprisingly had some of the best quatre fromage pizza ever (in Paris!).
Fast forward all this to train journey to Bordeaux where we got a rental car(which made things easier with all bags, stroller and kids) and set off for our first camping destination – Bassin d’archachon. This was a really unique place, there was so much to do around here! We did just two of the things – Dune de pilat which is the largest sand dune in Europe and enjoyed the best oysters ever, fresh and cheap straight from the oyster farms around the bay. We enjoyed our campsite as well with its pool and restaurant! We stayed in 4 star capsite (very glamorous for us) We had our own private forest area, protected on all sides by trees, the pool was great as was all other amenities. Birdwatching was amazing in this region as well. We went to Ornithological Park du Teic, Bassin D’Arcachon, saw storks nesting high up in the trees!
We continued driving down to the Pyrenees and this region is by far my most favourite place in all of France. Lush, green, mountains, beautiful scenery, people are super friendly, we stayed in campsite just by this gushing river with gorgeous mountain views. Unfortunately it rained heavily throughout the night and I was sure our tent was going to get flooded! The further south we travelled, the more we enjoyed France, people were very friendly and relaxed, the restaurants were exceptional, the scenery beautiful. We did this particular scenic drive (can’t remember name) and saw several vultures. I definitely want to come back to this region Languedoc-Roussellon now that kids are older and we can do some proper hiking and exploring around here. We moved on to Carcassonne, which is another UNESCO Heritage Site -it was like being in a magical fairytale castle. For shahaar who was into knights and horses then, it was a dream come true exploring the castle grounds, the little alleyways, seeing people in costumes.
And finally, our last destination was Camargue, and our first time seeing the Mediterranean Sea! The beaches were perfect, warm water, golden sands, and no one else but us there!
At the Camargue, everywhere you could see black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos, all around us! Shahaar wanted to ride a horse and we finally found one little farm where they had ponies instead of big horses. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I found French people much more relaxed down south. Firstly, they put up with our broken French without making faces, our lack of french also didn’t stop the pony owner from giving me detailed directions on where to go with the pony – all I got was tourner à gauche and tourner à droight. Then she just handed me the pony, smiled and we were off! Thankfully our pony Caramel(shahaar called him carrotmilk) understood French better than me, and just ambled along, followed directions, went over a bridge, meadow and and after a long 20 minutes, took us back to the farm. Shahaar enjoyed himself thoroughly but I must say I was relieved to be back!
We camped near this beautiful fishing village Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and it was very interesting seeing all the Spanish touches everywhere. As much as we enjoyed the 10 days of cheese, bread, wine and other local food in France, the Bangali side of us (that starts to crave rice after a few days) started to gnaw at us, and there was no one happier than me to find Paella on the menu in the region 🙂 All in all, a fabulous memorable trip and being that it was Shama’s first camping experience, she did well!
Can I just say how much I am enjoying reminiscing and writing about our past journeys? I am loving the flashes of memories, images and stories from each trip. I think for me one of the best parts of living such a travelled life is having a wealth of wonderful memories to remember and choose from when I am old (and still travelling I hope!)