Travelling in France – Baie de la Somme

The Baie de la Somme has been a regular feature of our trips to France over the years. Just a few hours drove from the Calais ports it often provides a first night of relaxation before heading into the more challenging regions of southern France or Northern Spain.

On this occasion we arrived mid-afternoon on a Thursday at our preferred aire in Le Crotoy. The books described this site as ‘Le Crotoy 1’ because there is another aire at the far extent of the town. Our choice hosts more than a hundred motorhomes some of whom have a stunning view of the bay and across to St Valery some12 km away by cycle path

The site provides a ticket machine (€7 per night in 2017) and a ‘Euro Relais’ stand for fresh water, waste disposal and, if necessary, power.

Acres of space mean that units are not squeezed together and the approach to alignment and to tables, chairs and sunshades is typically French laissez faire. The ground is rock-hard packed sand in the middle but the edges which are highly prized pitches have some grass and, in the wet season, some mud. Clearly it had rained recently in the following picture and one young French boy a,used himself for hours cycling through and then scooping up mud to hurl in every direction while keeping up a running conversation with himself and his imaginary friends.

Once the amusement palls it is time to head into the village, a few minutes walk away along a well formed path at the side of the small marina. One of the attractions of the site is the plethora of wildlife, particularly birds which crowd every area and entertain the passers by with their calls.

The village provides everything the visitor could want including a good tourist information centre but excluding post boxes. We struggled to find one single postbox on our walk through the village and back along the coast paths but, as the French would undoubtedly say, ‘tant pis’. There are restaurants to numerous to mention, all providing a sumptuous feast of fish and crustacean delights from produce caught and landed each morning. After dining well you cold enjoy a leisurely walk along the paths and alleys coming across a wide variety of interesting hotels and turreted homes. There is even a Pierre et Vacance centre jut at the other end of the village.

The lasting image, as you head back to your well-appointed accommodation, is of the sun setting over the bay and gleaming off the water.

The bread man arrives early each morning and circles the aire tooting his horn and inviting you to supplement your cornflakes with a warm baguette or croissant. Your memory, as you pack off and head further into your vacance, is inevitably going to be of the beautiful scenery and quiet relaxation and your plan the inevitably return as soon as possible.

All the Aires Book, Northern France N 50.13.094 E 001.37.992.

Camping CarParks – Taillebourg

Just to break up the journey I decided to head South and explore a new site, again owned by CCP, but intriguingly in the grounds of a chateau built as a stronghold to watch over the river Charente.

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We had few neighbours and those who were there kept themselves noisily to themselves.   What did surprise me about this aire was that it included showers, toilets and washing facilities.   Again, I’m guessing that it’s the remains of an old Municipal.




The aire is within the grounds of the chateau and castle.   Perched high on a rock, it was strategically important in the defense of the Charente river and seat of power of the Charente-Maritime region.


Remains of the ancient keep of Taillebourg commanding the heights over the Charente

Richard the Lionheart destroyed the castle itself in 1179. Geoffrey de Rancon, master of the house, may have died in this action, but he is also listed as having participated in the Third Crusade in the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi[1] and appears as a witness to Richard I’s peace treaty with Tancred of Sicily in Messina on 6 Oct 1190.[2] In 1173, Richard had fought against his father in alliance with his brothers and the King of France, Louis. This uprising had failed, and as punishment, Richard was sent to bring the rebellious lords to heel. This conflict lasted five years, ending in the victory of Richard and his destruction of the supposedly impregnable fortress of Taillebourg.


This castle was inaccessible on three sides, protected by mountains, and the fourth side was heavily fortified. Richard knew that the overthrow of Taillebourg would lead to the immediate surrender of the barons, and captured the stronghold in his first great military victory.

A brief walk up a grassed ramp brings us first to the gates of the chateau.  As we passed through the gates we were met with a wall of sound as the local childcare centre was dispensing its contents onto the cobbles and the noise of their joyful release echoed around the stone buildings of the chateau.   A path around the main house brought us directly to the ruined castle tower and the fabulous views over the town and the deep swirling currents of the river Charente.

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Once we drank our fill of the view, we retraced our steps, heading down into the red pantiled roofs of the town below.   Services are minimal apart from the obvious boulangerie, patisserie and tabac.

Further information: Camping CarParks, rue des Prés du Vivier 17350 Taillebourg   N45°49’57.7″  W0°38’47.9 €12/24h

Camping CarParks – Saumur

The city of Saumur has long been a favourite of ours and we have spent many happy weeks camping on the banks of the Loire at a campsite called l’Etang de la Breche or more recently at Flower Camping l’Île d’Offard situated on an island opposite the imposing chateau.


The impressive Chateau de Saumur

On this occasion we had decided to stick with Camping CarParks (CCP) and use their new site right next door to the Flower Camping campsite on île d’Offard.


The island of Offard

To be honest, the last time we stayed at the Flower Camping campsite it was towards the end of the season, mid-September and they had shut almost everything down, the pool was closed, as was the bar and some of the toilet facilities   Despite that, they still expected us to pay the full price for camping with a motorhome.

How the owners of CCP managed to persuade the planning department of Saumur to let them build a cheaper Aire next to an established campsite is beyond me.   I’m very surprised that Flower Camping didn’t launch strong objections to this obvious competition   It’s worth noting that in the time we were there the Aire was almost always full and the campsite had very little traffic.


The road bridge over the Loire into Saumur

Nonetheless a short ten minute walk along the bank of the Loire and over the Cessart Bridge brought us smack into the heart of Saumur and we headed towards the market square for a well earned drink, or two….  Saumur has a famous weekly market. Every Saturday morning with hundreds of stalls open for business in the streets and squares of the old town, from before 8am.

Saumur is home to the École Nationale d’Équitation (National School of Horsemanship), known for its annual horse shows in July each year.   Much of the west side of the city is given over to parade grounds and garrison buildings all built of the beautiful, but fragile Tuffeau stone quarried from the cliffs above the river and resulting in extensive caves where the locals keep their wine and live as troglodytes in the heat of high summer.   It can get hot there as we already know.   On a previous visit in our older motorhome we recorded temperatures of 46C dropping only to +30C in the middle of the night.  


Saumur is renowned as the birthplace of Coco Chanel



It’s also renowned as the temporary prison of the Marquis de Sade.


Further information:  Camping CarParks, Ile D’Offard, Saumur  N47°15’39.0  W000°03’55.5    €12.75/24h