Wednesday 7 September 2022
One of the great benefits of vanlife is the ability to travel around, following your nose, changing plans or direction if you want. This is easy in Continental Europe, where there are thousands of places to stay, often for free, usually in a lovely place. It brings a level of spontaneity that you just can't enjoy in the UK, where often the only option is to pre-book campsites, sometimes weeks in advance for the popular ones. But this lifestyle has its limits and sometimes we need to break the cycle of moving on every day. The effort of researching and finding somewhere to stay each night, then the daily driving can take its toll after a while. We're just over two weeks into our six week trip, and the time was ripe for some downtime.
We therefore decided to make camp for a few days, to relax, to take a break, to have a mini-holiday. Nido's been parked up for the last few nights on the Municipal Campsite in St Denis d'Oléron, which is at the northern tip of the island. Ile d'Oléron is the second biggest French island after Corsica, but still small enough to cycle around in a day. It's a large campsite, set amongst trees and right next to a long, sandy beach. It's about a five minute walk from the marina with plenty of bars and restaurants to suit all budgets and about ten minutes to the town centre, with shops and more places to eat and drink. We've stayed here before, back in 2015 on our first trip to France in Nido. Then it was earlier in the year but even now, with most back at work and school, it's pretty full.
The Municipal Campsites are found all around France, usually run by the local council. They're pretty basic and some are better than others. But they're good value for money, have all the facilities you need (this one has on on site shop and a snack bar/restaurant) and they're very relaxed about the usual campsite rules and regulations. No parking between white pegs, with the wardens forcing you to move if you're more than one millimetre out, hanging up washing to dry is allowed and very few people build the windbreak walls that you see on so many UK campsites. We love 'em!
We set an early alarm for Monday morning and drove the half hour to an Intermarché Hypermarket in Rochefort. After two weeks on the road we had a good pile of clothes, bedding and towels to launder. Many of the supermarkets in the France have laundrettes on site, usually somewhere in the car park and often available 24/7. We managed to park right next to this one and two large loads were soon turning in the machines as we sat and watched them, eating our breakfast; vanlife isn't all sunsets and rainbows! I went off to do the food shopping whilst Cathy stayed to sort the laundry. Intermarché is one of the more expensive supermarkets in France, so wouldn't be my first choice, but it was right next to us, so convenience came before budget on this occasion. Unfortunately the laundry dryer died after three 'runs' and of course it happened when the heavy stuff (towels, bedding etc) was in there! So when I returned with our victuals, everything was hanging in the van like Widow Twanky's laundry! I also took the opportunity to fill the LPG tanks on the way out. Two weeks' use (most of the time off-grid) equated to about £8 worth of LPG - not bad.
The run to St Denis was about an hour and a half and by the time we'd arrived, checked in and found a pitch, the washing was hanging on an airer and the awning and was dry within an hour. The rest of the day was spent making camp, taking Salty for a walk and a bit of paddle (he doesn't like big waves that bite back!) and a lovely swim ourselves whilst Salty chilled out in the van. I managed to get online for my Môn SAR Training Group meeting in the evening, so once that was done and the dog walked, we were ready for bed.
The next couple of days were spent wandering about, swimming, reading, snoozing - just like being on holiday. Today (Wednesday) it has been raining heavily on and off, so plans for a bike ride and eating out will need to wait for another, dryer day.
Relaxed, refreshed, clean and tidy, we're ready for the next part of our trip. The rough plan is to start heading south-east, inland towards the Dordogne area. I'm keeping a close eye on the weather forecast and warnings. South east France have had some major storms and floods and we clearly want to avoid being near them. As the warm weather continues though, there's a risk that these will extend further west, so selecting park-ups will need to take into consideration it's location and surface.
|These are excellent and all over France
|Nice shady pitch...and no white pitch pegs to reverse up to!!
|A sofa with a view