We spent a few weeks at a campsite (European-style – a lot different than the forest and campfire setup I think of when I think of American campgrounds) in France with C’s family. The campsite was full of things for the boys to do, and they spent most of their time running around, attending kids club (N only – the other boys refused) and playing lots of soccer (football) with the other kids staying there.
We did make it off the campsite a few times to enjoy some pretty special experiences.
Right after we arrived, we learned that the Tour de France was passing only about 15 minutes from the campsite. Figuring that was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, we drove to a small village along the route and stood in the hot sun for about an hour waiting for them to arrive. They breezed by us in about 15 seconds, but it was still totally worth it. Very exciting!
here they come!
Another special experience was being in France during the end of the 2018 World Cup. We had watched a few matches on a tv screen in the courtyard of the campsite, but since a majority of the campers were foreign – lots of English and Irish – I decided we should drive to the nearest big city, Nantes, to catch the World Cup Final – France v. Croatia – with the french.When we arrived in Nantes, there was an enormous screen set up with thousands of fans watching, but it was already full by the time we got there, so we decided to head into the city center to try to find a bar where we could sit and watch it. Wow, were we naive. All of Nantes (and a good deal of the people living in the surrounding area, I would imagine) was on the streets (besides, of course, those who got themselves a spot in front of the big screen), and they all had the idea to find a bar to watch the game. Any place with a TV showing the game was packed to the rafters, with any possible sight-line occupied. It was chaos, but in a really fun way!
We finally managed to catch a goal from an ice cream shop, across from a bar, where we were able to see a screen inside from through the windows (seriously!).
We knew we wouldn’t find a seat anywhere, so we left after half time and headed back. Unfortunately, we missed the end of the game, but the part we saw, among the French was something I’m sure the boys won’t forget!
That is it for once-in-a-lifetime sporting events, but we did have lots of fun doing a ropes course (twice) that is located right next to the campsite. N was technically a little young for the family courses (a few months shy of 6), but we called him six for purposes of those days, and he did an amazing job keeping up on the courses.
We also had fun taking trips to the beach – twice we went and spent a few hours playing in the sea and the sand.
A few hours from the campsite was the Loire Valley, famous for its gorgeous castles. We stopped at the Chateau de Chenonceau, a castle given by King Henry II to his “favorite lady” (as translated by the castle brochure), Diane de Poitiers (don’t worry, his wife eventually got her revenge – once King Henry II died, his wife made Diane de Poitiers give it up, and took residence herself). It was pretty hot and crowded in the castle, and the audio guides were all sold out, so we just walked briefly through the interior, but enjoyed the beautiful gardens and views of the castle over the river on the outside.
Our last stop on our trip through the France was in Clermont-Ferrand, a special place because it is where C and I met 20 years ago during study abroad. It was a kind of surreal stop, seeing places we remembered, and some we didn’t remember, and the kids had to listen to lots of stories of times gone by.
While in Clermont, we went up to the Puy de Dôme (something we didn’t manage to do the year we lived here during college!), a place just designated as a UNESCO world heritage site less than a month earlier. The Puy de Dôme is a part of a chain of dormant volcanoes stretching 45km west of Clermont-Ferrand. We took a train up to the top (something we couldn’t have done the first time we were here, since it was just built in 2012), then hiked back down to the bottom. It was a beautiful hike, with the unique craters dotting the landscape.
We also enjoyed watching lots and lots of paragliders float down to land just outside the visitor center/train station.
Once again, we had a great time in France and look forward to discovering more new places (and visiting some old places) next time we go!