There is no doubt that travel broadens the mind. Meeting people from other countries and coming into contact with other cultures is always an enriching experience. Camping and caravanning in France definitely broadens your horizons. On many of France’s enormous variety of campsites you will meet fellow campers from many different European countries and come into contact with people from all walks of life. Camping is not just a hobby for families counting the pennies. It is lifestyle choice because of the freedom this style of holiday offers. Few other holidays have such a wide appeal – your next door neighbours could be doctors, professors, factory workers or engineers. They could be a retired couple or a young family. The variety is part of the attraction.
Living in relatively close contact to other campers is a great way to teach your children respect for others. They learn that the Dutch tend to eat their evening meal very early, that the Spanish eat late, that the French allow their dogs to sit under the table in a restaurant, that the Germans get up early and that nearly everybody is keen to practise their English.
Having spent countless holidays throughout Europe since the mid 1960’s we have many fond memories of the people we have met or observed. There were always willing hands to help us manoeuvre our caravan if we were stuck. There was the famous occasion when the champion boules team on a campsite in the Dordogne got more than a bit agitated when our sons – 40 years their junior – threatened to take their crown. We remember fondly the family we camped next to in Portugal who couldn’t speak any more English than we could Portuguese and yet our 3 year old son spent hours playing with their 3 year old daughter and somehow managed to communicate very well. Part of the fun of any camping holiday is its unpredictability as you never know who you will be camped next to you.
It is the freedom that staying on a campsite gives to children that made our holidays so successful and freedom is why we keep on returning, even in our sixties. You can get up when you want to, eat when it suits you and you don’t have to get dressed up each evening. You can sit and eat your evening meal in your swimming costume and nobody cares.
Choosing the right campsite for your family is important and a bad choice can mean you don’t get the best out of your holiday. Our own tastes have inevitably changed over the years. When the children were very small access to a sandy beach took high priority. As they got older camping on or a near a river or lake was essential. For many families a good swimming pool with water slides is important. Couples often prefer a quieter site, although many still enjoy a swim and appreciate being able to eat in the site restaurant rather than going out.
Many guide books are little more than a directory of the campsites with a list of services and facilities. The star ratings, in particular those set by the French authorities, are purely quantitative and quality is not rated.
Andrew and Bernadette Erskine run Frenchcampsites.co that gives a detailed description of each site, the facilities on offer, the quality of the services and the suitability for families with young children, teenage children and for couples. They have visited them all and stayed on the majority, so it is guide based on over 50 years experience camping in France.