CAMPING REPORT: NORMANDY, LA ROCHELLE (Atlantic Coast), DORDOGNE, and north of PARIS.
This web page is a report on a tent-camping trip conducted by an American couple in France, June-July 1998. They took their tent and other camping equipment with them on the air flight to Paris. While it cannot be guaranteed that all the circumstances can be repeated, the experiences were very similar to the couple's earlier tent camping trips in Western Europe over a 28-year period.

It is suggested that you visited the main page and read the General Remarks before reading this report. Go Main Page for Tent Camping in France.


PLANNING:
Much was done as for an earlier 1995 trip. Tent, camping equipment and clothes were placed in four canvas flight bags, checked as luggaged and flown to France. Travel in France was by rented car.
Before departing the States, car rental reservations were made and an International Driver's License was obtained. Also acquired was an International Camping Carnet (ICC). Another useful card was the VISA credit card. The advantages of these pre-departure actions are explained under General Remarks on the main page.
For this trip we took a chance on renting a diesel car. As a rule, we rent floor-shift economy cars in Europe. We find them easier to drive in Europe, and save greatly in fuel. We were aware of the better gas mileage of diesels, but were adverse to the sluggish performance that we had personally experience years back. Our doubts were immediately removed as we departed the airport car rental lot. The new Fiat diesel [we understand that the Peugeot and other makes are the same] has greatly improved traffic acceleration performance. The added satisfaction was to find that the price of diesel fuel in France was sometimes a third less that of regular gas. The price saving was almost half of our previous experience.
One thing we were not prepared for was that the French use the words 'gazole' and 'diesel' interchangably. This caused some needless time as we by-passed several gas stations which advertized 'gazole' but not 'diesel', until we finally caught on. Being more attentive on refueling, we noticed the French packing in at the gas stations associated with the many supermarket chain-stores. Following the example, we discovered the prices much cheaper than at the regular gas stations.
Food preparation was based mainly around picnic lunches and dinners, with occasional dinning out. Groceries and snack items are easily purchased in the many small stores at or near the campgrounds, but especially at the supermarkets. Do not be suprised by the supermarkets' low prices and wide selection of wines, cheeses, fruits and other fresh produce. Bread is everwhere, but store shelves of good baguettes get cleaned out by mid-afternoon. Do not forget pâtisseries if you make coffee in the morning at the campsite.
For heating food and water, we acquired the new model (few years' old now) of the blue international Gaz burner. This make is well supported in Europe for obtaining the fuel cans, which is necessary since fuel cans cannot be taken aboard the aircraft. What was new for us was the new model Gaz 470 series system. The 470 series stoves and lanterns can be removed at any time from the CV470 cartridges. The older Gaz 206 series appliances (which punctured the cartridge can and could not be removed until the butane- propane fuel was depleted) are being phased out. Some camping stores in the US have a Coleman Peak system that operate on regular unleaded automotive fuel, which is available in Europe. We did not try this perceiving the awkwardness in filling such containers from the automotive gas pumps.
Planning should always include the first night's stop. For this trip we wanted the first night's camp at a location near Giverny, which we estimated to be about a three-hour drive from the airport. However, locating a campground near Giverny was a little challenge. The books and maps that we had prior to this trip did not show a nearby campsite for Giverny. This was a surprise, as Monet's home is a well know tourists' stop. However, searching Normandy and Giverny on the Internet made contact with a webmaster for the town of Vernon, a town close to Giverny. The webmaster reported that "he had been told" of a campground on the heights adjecent to the town of Vernon. He gave the name and asked that we report back to him what we thought of it.


ITINERARY:


ARRIVED 12 JUNE at Charles de Gaulle, picked up rented car and drove west toward Giverny.

VERNON (Eure-27, in HAUTE-NORMANDY).
12 JUNE, FRIDAY. We arrived at Vernon as planned. It is the first town in Normandy, as one approaches from Paris along the Seine River. The name of the campground provided by the internet contact was our only clue. But it worked, after stopping in the town and picking up a local map that located the rather remote site campground.
Camping les Fosses Rouges on the hills above Saint-Marcel. St-Marcel is a northwestern suburb of Vernon. Vernon is indicated on most road maps; it is on the Seine River, just northwest of Giverny. Might note that the day tempertures were warm, but the evenings were cold at this time of year. We were about two to three weeks early for tent camping in Normandy. However, we knew that we would soon be heading south, where the weather was already plenty warm.

Camping les Fosses Rouges
chemin de Réanville
27950 SAINT-MARCEL
Tel: 02 32 51 59 86.
We discover that this campground was listed and rated by the Fédération Française de Camping et de Caravaning. A very simple grounds, but the closest to the famous home of the artist Claude Monet.

BAYEUX (Calvados-14, in BASSE-NORMANDY).
13 JUNE SATURDAY, visited Monet's home and a nearby museum for American Artisits. Then went to Bayeux. Found excellent, nicely maintained, municipal campground, about three blocks north of the center of town. Easy walk into town.

Bayeux Municipal Camp Site
Open from 15th March to 15th November
Tel: 31 92 08 43; Fax: 02 31 51 60 70

Calvados area has many campgrounds located along the beaches on the La Manche [the English Chanel]. The tourist office in Bayeux has brochures on camping in the region. There is also considerable information on visiting the D-Day Landing Sites.

BAGNOLES de l'ORNE (Orne-61, in BASSE-NORMANDY)
14 JUNE SUNDAY, went to Formigny (part of a study of the medieval battle of 1450) and drove up to the coast (casually scouting some of the campgrounds along the beach). As we had visited the World War II Normandy beaches before, we did not linger. However, the many campgrounds in this area appeat to be excellent for those who would want to visit these. The temperature was a little on the cool side at night, but the days were warm. Late June or July and August might be the better times for long camping along the Normandy coast.
By early afternoon, we headed south, in the direction of Le Mans, which was our next objective. Out strategy [as will be addressed later] for driving into the center of Le Mans, a relatively large city, dictated that we camp the night at distance that permitted a short dirve the next morning. We elected to camped at La Ferte Marce, near the resort town of Bagnoles, northwest of Alencon. The only clue we had of La Ferte Marce was the tent symbol on our map. However, we knew that Bagnoles de l'Orne was a well known, up-scale resort town and expected good campgrounds. La Ferte Marce was very close to the town, allowing for an easy evening stroll into the shopping area of Bagnoles de l'Orne. It is a very pleasent town for a longer visit, but our overall schedule made it necessary that we press on.

La Ferte Mace
Place de la République
Tel: 02 33 37 05 55; Fax: 02 33 38 59 64

LE MANS and ST-MALO DU BOIS (Vendée-85, in PAYS de LA LOIRE)
15 JUNE MONDAY. Departed mid morning, we drove south to Le Mans. We headed to the center of the city and parked in the large parking area in the center of town. Remembering the trick to do this during the noon hour in large towns. This is when much of the traffic departs as many stores and business close for two hours at mid day. This makes a window for a tourist to cruise around and find a good parking spot. We accomplished our goal to photograph the stain-glass window with image of Yolande in St. Julian's Cathedral. However, the cathedral is significant to visit in its own right. We were headed out of town as the heavy traffic was returning around 1400 hours (2 PM).
Our course continued southwest and with the intent to locate a campground that would serve as a base to visit two locations. We estimated that each visit (Tiffauges and Puy du Fou) would take at least a half day. We elected to camp at at Camping de Poupet- St. Malo du Bois in Vendée. Again, this was selected mainly because it was a symbol on the road map. However, there were several others nearby that served as backups if we did not like it. Camping de Poupet was a well maintained, large grounds, with an attractive family-run restaurant adjecent to the campground. The nearby town of St-Malo du Bois is a very small country village, which was about 3 miles from the campground.

Vallée de Poupet
85590 Saint-Malo-du-Bois
Tel: 02 51 92 31 45
Ten minutes from Puy du Fou. Roomy campsites with play areas, deep in the forest. Excellent for long-stay camping with kids.

16 JUNE, TUESDAY. Remained camped at St-Malo du Bois, and visited Tiffauges and Puy du Fou.
Château de Tiffauges, or sometimes called Château de Barbe-Bleue [Blubeard's Castle], is the reconditioned fortress home of Gilles de Rais. One pays to enter and tour the rooms and ramparts. The admission includes entertaining firing demonstrations of reconstructed medieval siege engines and a late fifteenth-century bombard. We were able to see all of Tiffauges in a morning, leaving Puy du Fou for the afternoon.
Puy du Fou is a theme park constructed around the remains of a real feudal enclosure. Its center attraction is the reconstructed medieval village with re-enactors performing their tasks as merchants, etc. There are scheduled jousting tournaments and demonstrations of falconary. Associated with the latter, is the probably the world's largest outdoor collection of live birds of prey. Visitors can stroll past the large cages. The park also commemorates the Vendée struggle that was one of the bloodiest parts of the French Revolution. There is a museum as well as a 1 hour 40 minutes evening extravaganza. Puy du Fou is a full day's casual entertainment for a family, and especially for children of all ages. Anyone familiar with the better American theme parks will find all the same conviences of food and facilities. However, the themes and the manner of presentation is very French. Puy du Fou was well worth the trip and the various activities could occupy a family a full day.

LA ROCHELLE (Charente-Maritime-17, in POITOU CHARENTES)
17 JUNE WEDNESDAY. Departed for La Rochelle. The maps indicate many camping grounds in this costal region. The travel brochures are full of campgrounds along the Atlantic beaches However, we wanted easy access to the historic city La Rochelle. Driving to the center of the town, near the famous, scenic harbor. We went to Information Office to inquire about the local camp grounds. We rejected the dowtown municipal camp as possibly too crowded with single young people. Instead, we drove on to the west part of town to Port-Neuf Muicipal Campground, near the city stadium [Stade Marcel Deflandre]. It was about a 40 minute walk, mostly in the park along the water, back to the center of town. One could drive it, but still have to park a few blocks from the harbor. La Rochelle is colorful town with an old section. But the focus is the ancient harbor, a view enjoyed from plenty of open air eating places as well as many park benches. We walked about the town and stayed the night.

Port-Neuf Municipal Campground
Boulevard Aristide Rondeau, Port Neuf
La Rochelle
Tel: 05 46 43 81 20
To get there in a car from the harbor, take rue Léonce Vieljeux heading west for a very short distance. Upon entering a wooded park area the road becomes avenue Jean Guiton. Continue to Boulevard Aristide Rondeau. Turn left (south) and the campground is immediatley to the right (west). There is an electronically controlled entry gate. One has to park your car and register. The grounds are well kept and have many shaded tree areas.

18 JUNE. Walked the town and visited several museums. Remained overnight (RON) at La Rochelle.

19 JUNE FRIDAY. Drove out to casually survey the adjacent (linked by bridges) resort island of Ile de Ré and explored the many small villages and campgrounds -- excellent for sunny, beachside vacations. The island had many bicyclists and bicycle rental shops. RON at La Rochelle.

BRANTÔME (Dordogne-24, in AQUITAINE)
20 JUNE SATURDAY. Went south, then southest toward Brantôme in Perigord. Camped at Camp Municpal at the edge of the quaint town of Brentôme. Very modern facilities, spacius camp sites and all have access to the river. Excellent picnic location. Ten-minute walk into the small town.

Camp Municpal
Located abpout a half mile south of Brentôme
Tel: 05 53 05 75 24
Easy walk into town.

21 JUNE SUNDAY. Had lunch with French friends at their nearby home. Casually toured the small town of Brantôme. RON.

22 JUNE MONDAY. Visited Castlenaud [about a three-hour drive] with French friends. This fortified châateau museum is one of the very best in France for medieval military weapons. Most are reconstructed with great care to detail. Very well displayed and quite comprehensive. If this were one's main objective, it would be best to camp at any of the many nice, nearby campgrounds. We had personal reasons for staying longer at Brantôme.
Returning to Brantôme in the late afternoon, we enjoyed dinner at the water-side café restaurant Au fil de l'Eau , on the terrace by the river which surrounds the small town. It is one of several fine eating places in the town, but the ambiance was particulalry special, and the service and food were outstanding at reasonable prices. RON.

STE-LIVRADE-sur-LOT (Lot-et-Garonne-47, in AQUITAINE)
23 JUNE TUESDAY. Drove to St-Emillon and Castillon-la-Bataille enroute to Castelmoron-sur-Lot. The Castelmoron-s-Lot campground was not yet open for the season. We drove east a little ways and camped at Ste-Livrade-sur-Lot. Objective to visit the ARMEDIEVAL atelier at nearby Castelmoron-s-Lot.

Camp Muicipal Fonfrede
Tel: 05 53 01 04 76
One km east of Ste-Livrade-sur-Lot, on route de Villeneuve, next to the stadium [stade]. Trees and nice facilities.

24 JUNE WEDNESDAY. Remained at Livrade for two-hour trip to, and tour of, the fortress château de Bonaguil. RON.

25 JUNE THRUSDAY. Visited local markets and other attractions in the area. RON.

AIXE-sur-VIENNE (Haute-Vienne-87, in LIMOUSIN)
26 JUNE FRIDAY. Departed St-Livrade, heading back north. Enroute, passed through the picturesque, highly photographed, mountain-side town of Rocamadour. It was so crowded with tourist busses lined along the entire main street, that we continued driving through until reaching the heights on a nearby mountain. There we stopped at a spot well clear of the congested village, and enjoyed the sight as depicted in the many photographs -- from a distance and in peace. Continuing north, we arrived at Aixe-sur-Vienne, just southwest of Limoges. We had visited this well maintained camground, located a few feet from the river in our 1995 trip.

Camp Municipal les Greves
87700 Aixe-sur-Vienne
Tel: 05 55 70 12 98
About 11 km southwest of the town of Limoges, on the river.

27 JUNE SATURDAY. Shoped in town of Limoge and at the Maison de la Porcelaine outlet store adjacent to the campground at Aixe-s-Vienne. RON.

GIEN (Loiret-45, in CENTRE)
28 JUNE SUNDAY, final shopping at Maison de la Porcelaine. Then departed north. Visited Nohant and the home-museum of Georges Sand. Arrived at Gien.

Camping Touristique de Gien
Rue des Iris
45500 Poilly-Lez-Gien
Tel: 02 38 67 12 50; Fax: 02 38 67 12 18
Campground is on the Loire's river bank. South of Gien, which is across the river to the north. Gien is southeast of château de Sully on the Loire River. Very nice campground for exploring the area.

AUMONT en HALATTE (Oise-60, in PICARDIE) 29 JUNE MONDAY. Objective was to reach a campground near Charles de Gaulle airport.
En-route to our ultimate destination, we visited Vaux le Vicomte, to the east of Paris. Very impressive, famous museum in an historic, Renaissance château.
Once north of Paris stopped at, but did not like the campground at Ermenpnville. We used the GuideOfficiel 98, Camping Caravaning published by Fédération Française de Camping et de Caravaning, and bought during this trip, to locate Camp A.T.C. d'Aumont. Aumont en Halatte is in the very small town which is a short 5-minute drive from the attractive and ancient town of Senlis. Senlis is immediately off the Autoroute to Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, about a 20 minute drive south of the airport. This proved to be an excellent location from which to visit many interesting historic and cultural sites north of Paris, as well as for making an easy drive to catch a morning departure from the airport.

Camp A.T.C. d'Aumont
Place de l'Eglise
Aumont en Halatte
Tel: 03 44 60 00 42
Very small campground, but well maintained facilities.

30 JUNE TUESDAY. Visited Chantilly and two of its famous attractions Vivant du Cheval and Château and Musée de Condé. Each take half a day's time. RON.

1 JULY WEDNESDAY. Visited Château de Pierrefonds and further north Blérancourt, a museum of French-American Friendship and Cooperation.. RON.

2 JULY THURSDAY. Visited Compiègne and its famous museum of military figurines. To the east of the large city we visited the representativeWorld War I Armistice Train Car memorial at Clairiere de l'Armistice. RON.

DEPARTURE.
3 JULY FRIDAY, departed to Charles de Gaulle. This tested the plan to be a short drive from breaking camp and getting to the airport early.


To review contents: Return to top. / Planning for trip. / Itinerary. / Camping at Vernon. / Camping at Bayeux. / Camping at Bagnoles / Camping at St-Malo du Bois. Camping at La Rochelle. / Camping at Brantôme. / Camping at St-Livrade-sur-Lot. / Camping at Aixe-sur-Vienne. / Camping at Gien. / Camping at Aumont en Halatte. /

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Page created 6 June 1999; revised 7 June 1999.