La Belle France. On our way! (1)

We’d been saying for aaaaages that we’d go to France for half term but never actually booked anything until a few weeks before.

Being the first trip abroad in the camper, we wanted to stay on a proper campsite rather than an Aire (gnu work up to them) but breaking up v. late in October meant a good number of sites had already closed for winter.

We dithered over where to go, not wanting to do a long drive on both sides of the channel in one day, and when to time the crossings. KB wasn’t keen on an overnight parkup and early morning crossing so we worked out a new plan. There was never any doubt that we’d use DFDS for the ferry, good value, no nonsense and short crossings on what could be choppy waters at this time of year made sense.

We found a website listing campsites open all year

Campsites open all year

which led us to choose Camping La Fontaine des Clercs near Le Touquet and when I emailed le p’tit m’sieu he booked us in, no deposit required but payment on arrival, ideal.

With it having been a v. long and tiring half term we decided against trying to rush to be ready to leave Saturday morning, and with the end of the week tipping into November we planned on a Sunday to Friday scenario. We left ours by nineish Sunday am and Brian led us majestically to the port of Dover.

We filled up before checking in, as mother had spouted forth about the high cost of everything in France in September, and as it happened, we didn’t need to refill until we hit British soil again.

The smashing bods at DFDS bumped us on to an earlier crossing, obviously spotting the anklebiterz gnashing in the back, and after a brief snack on the dock side (top benefit of the van) we were off and sailing by 2ish.

The infants were well impressed by the views, the chairs, the opportunity to run around, and as it became clear that there was indeed a chop on the manche, they loved how the floor shoved them up and then disappeared from under them. Much chortling and gostering was had, but not by Mummy, who sat quite still. The boy child lasted for about an hour before needing a cuddle, which was better than expected as he usually wails at tummy roads, but Madame was full of beans all the way across.

With the time difference and confusion at just having put the clocks back over the previous night it was about 5ish when we landed. The weather had settled nicely and there was a beaut of a sunset as we passed through the barbed wire-lined exit route.

We arrived at the site in just about an hour’s drive and parked up outside the acceuil. I went and introduced myself to le p’tit m’sieu. He was a very chatty little geezer, a bit Harold Bishopesque about the visage and toured us around a full range of emplacements. He’d assumed we would want to be sur le gravier but I told him sur l’herbe serait mieux pour mettre la tente. It took about an hour of perusing, driving round, paying out cable and it getting progressively darker before we plumped for one of the terrasses, as le p’tit m’sieu said we could use the whole space of quarante-quatre and quarante-cinq.

The temperature was dropping, so it would be a good opportunity to see how the diesel heater held up, and if the children kept warm up in the pop top. We left the mess tent till morning, KB chucked up a temporary tarp arrangement for the outdoor furniture and we snuggled in.

Surprisingly, Madame and I were given a guided tour of the facilities by le p’tit m’sieu. Some were locked up, being low season, but impressively, the shower block was heated. They were very much vintage French municipal style, but spacious and clean. Hand washing sink had the force of a Karcher pressure washer and there was no papier hygiènique offered in true French 20th century style – it reminded me of many a French campsite from years gone by and I think I liked it the more for it – no shop, no entertainment, just plain and simple.

Monday morning we enjoyed the fact we were on holiday and took a very leisurely approach to the day. There had been no mention of boulangeries ou depôts de pain (mother would be horrified) so we took the unprecedented step of having bacon buttie for brekkie, which on French soil was frankly weird. We put up the John and the mess tent (unfortunately in dog egg central) and took a stroll around the camp to get to know our surroundings.

It was absolutely freezing but we were wrapped up warm and had fun picking conkers and walnuts, the offspring enjoying much tomfoolery with large sticks.

We had brought supplies for a chicken/pesto/pasta teatime but just in case we took a trip out to Ecky Lecky’ s that we had passed on the way in from the autoroute.

The children locked on to the toy aisle in a matter of seconds and had to be guided away much to their dismay but were mildly pacified by chocolate based pâtisseries for after tea.

I amused myself perusing some comedy items

and we bought a few supplies. A quiet first day and a snug night ready to explore on Tuesday.

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