European Escapades

Camping? France is closed till April.




As we stated previously, from our first look at the ACSI Guide, which we had so eagerly awaited the delivery of, it seems that the 1st April is a magic day in France, when everything suddenly opens up and life for the camping fraternity begins in earnest for another year. This meant that the agreement to only travel 50 miles from one location to another, was going to be tricky (or 80kms as it will be referred to from this point on, after all we are in Europe now). Checking our ACSI guide, it seems the only other campsite that was open along the coast to the West, was at least 97kms away. This was 17kms over our agreed destination limit. This campsite was called ”Veules-les-Roses” situated between Dieppe and Fécamp. The ACSI book advised that it was open from the 1st of March, RESULT!

Les Mouettes Seems The ACSI book is wrong, look at the ACSI website and it shows the opening is yes you guessed it the 1st Apri. Well done ACSI

We arrived around lunchtime to a shut reception, and joined the other four motorhomes in the temporary parking area just outside the site. Maybe they are at lunch? After all it is a French preoccupation. I remember when travelling the Canal-du-Midi a few years back, that the locks would close for a few hours from noon till two for just this reason. The only thing you can do, is resign yourself to the wait and have lunch. After all there is nothing else to do. I still have to look twice when I pass a large supermarket in the middle of the day, locked up as if it had never been opened and then realise its only lunchtime in France. Still no water available in the van as the last campsite had a tap, but it was too far from the motorhome to be of any use to us, except to fill a few plastic bottles up for an emergency cup of tea when needed. So with a bacon sandwich and an emergency cup of tea for lunch, we wait and wait and wait…..

During this time three other motorhomes come and go and it’s now 3 o’clock and there is still no sign of life at reception. Our newest arrival is another British couple, who are looking lost as they tinker around a motorhome service point that is next to our van. Seems there are a number of these across France for motorhome users, with facilities for toilet disposal, grey water disposal, water tank fill up and electric point all in one handy machine. Only you need a token to make them work, usually obtained from places such as our closed reception. Popping my head around the van door I ask if they are as lost as we are. Seems they have run out of both Calorgas and water and they do not seem to be able to obtain either in the area. Is this another issue that we will face on our escapades through Europe? The great British gas bottle it seems, is useless on the continent. Another thing you would expect your dealership to advise you on rather than sell you two bottles of useless gas, paying a deposit on bottles you are either going to have to store in an already overloaded campervan, or throw away to make room for the European equivalent. So much for good advice, if anyone knows a workaround or solution to this problem I would love to hear about it.

The Port of Saint Valery en Coux The harbourside at St-Valery-en-Coux

One good thing about our exchange was that we heard about another campsite on the other side of town that was open. However it did not have working hot showers. I guess we would have to stay dirty for another day or two. Much better than face the ordeal of cold showers, it was cold enough outside with the heavy winds as it was. So dirty dishes packed away in a large carrier bag we are off in search for the other campsite in Saint-Valery-en-Caux. We head off for the campsite along the town’s bypass, looking for signs to point us in the general direction of the site to no avail. We end up at the west side of the town and decide to head in on this road, to the village centre and then south back out to the ring road. Still no sign of the campsite and getting concerned that we maybe better heading back to the known location of the closed campsite. at least we would have somewhere to park for the night even if no water or electricity. But we still had one road to try, sign or no sign and that was from the east. We ended back in the centre of town and on the beautiful harbour side where we decided to park and see if we could find a way of getting the address of the site.

Five unsecured WiFi signals and no ability to connect, most of them SFR, where it seems if you are a customer, you can use the hotspots to connect for free. No username and password and definitely not an SFR customer, so no dice. One of the connections was promising though and offered us an hour internet access for €4 paid via Paypal. So when I finally get through registering and to the payment part, the signal was pretty poor, I am informed that my credit card attached to my Paypal account is no good for the transaction…eh? All this technology and an abundance of camping books and not one can provide me with an address for the site.

Defeated we decide to head back to the safety of a closed but known parking area on the east of town. But wait one more shot, I decide to pay the Spiv’s and Extortionists their pound of flesh, and to try and use my mobile phone to do a quick search on Google for campsites in Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Success at last, it west as they say and I enter the address in the TomTom. As we get to the first roundabout heading out of the harbour, what’s that over there Frances cries, it cannot be a sign to a camp site? It is! Elated we head out of town to the west on the only road we have not yet tried following the TomTom’s directions, and voila a camp site and open, we think. I knock at the reception door and I am greeted by the owner who states the campsite is open but no douche… At this point I don’t care as long as we can get water and electricity I’m happy. We pay the money and then as I’m leaving the reception to park our vehicle I spot an ACSI sticker on the door. Question – If it is an ACSI affiliate then why is it not in the book? Seems it was on our DVD all along if only we had looked.

The wonderful open campsite called Camping Etennemare in Saint Valery en Coux The wonderful open campsite called Camping Etennemare in St-Valery-en-Coux

Finally sited we bed down for the night and dinner, all that left to do is connect the electric and fill up with water. As if it was that easy…. Out in the cold with my electric cable and a water hose connecting to a water tap that didn’t work and an electric point that was the wrong shape and everything. Blue 16Amp commando in one hand and looking at a farty little 10amp euro socket to try and plug into, I wonder if this day and our camping experiences will ever get better? I walk over to the next available pitch to try the water there, and success we have water from this tap. It was time to return to reception, to see if they could help out with a plug conversion and to ask to move to a pitch with working water. The look on the woman’s face as I show her my commando was not promising, she scrabbles about in a cupboard and pulls out an adapter cable. Can it be our day is finally ending on a high? Yes it’s the right adapter, we have electric and once moved to the new pitch, we will have water as well. I settle down to a fully deserved slightly chilled French beer and a nice steak dinner, contemplating as I eat, where I can sort an adapter of my own, now I know what I need.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 12th, 2010 at 5:34 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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