Camping in France

Irish Man's Guide to France. circa 1985 ish.

Brittany and Normandy:

Obviously one cannot hope to see all of Normandy and Brittany – an area the size of the Republic of Ireland – in two or three weeks. However with your “house on wheels” you will be able to visit many of the interesting sights and places in these beautiful areas of La Belle France. Both Normandy and Brittany have many fine campsites and you can take your pick from the Michelin guidebook. The weather in Normandy and Brittany can be warm but it is also temperamental like the Irish weather. However, if you find the weather not to your liking you can always move on to a new area. This is one of the great advantages of Freedom Touring Camping Holidays. Roads in the area are very good and some of the D roads can be very relaxing to travel on. You will pass through quiet little villages and in Brittany especially, you will marvel at the wonderful display of flowers to be seen everywhere. En route for le tour of these lovely lands.
The Province of Normandy in northern France is roughly half the size of the Republic of Ireland. It is a land of rolling hills, green valleys and wooded countryside. Its principal rivers are the Seine and the Eure. It is the centre of the French dairying industry and is particularly famous for its Camembert cheese. Fruit growing is a major agricultural activity and cider and calvados (cider brandy), are produced. The major towns of the region are; Le Havre;-largest oil importing port in France. The oil installations can be seen on the way into the port and along the road out of the port. Shipbuilding is also carried on here. The liner “France” is kept in “moth balls” here as it proved uneconomic to run. Le Havre is the largest town in Normandy with a population of over 200,000.
Not far from Le Havre is the beautiful suspension bridge Le Pont de Tarncarville which spans the Seine. The bridge was completed in the late fifties.
Rouen ;-This city is the ancient capital of Normandy . For Irish people Rouen is probably best known as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. The city is a river port about 40 miles from the sea and can be reached by ocean going boats. Rouen has always been noted for its clock making industry and for antiques. The city was extensively damaged during World War 2 but has been beautifully restored. There is a very fine pedestrianised shopping precinct in the centre of town.
Caen;-  This is a large industrial and university centre on the river Orne, linked to the English channel by a nine mile long canal . The city is noted for its associations with William the Conqueror. Here he founded the Abbaye aux Hommes where he is buried. His wife founded the Abbaye aux Dames and is buried there. The church of Saint Peter has a 255-foot high spire.
Not far from Caen is the town of Bayeux . It is here that the famous Bayeux tapestry, depicting scenes from the life of Harold of England and William’s invasion of that country, is housed.
Along the Normandy coastline there are many picturesque fishing villages built into coves in the chalk cliffs, which are a feature of this coastline.
Honfleur is a centre for artists. Deauville is noted for its racing and casino. Cherbourg at the tip of the Contentin peninsula is an important port.
The Normandy beaches were the scene of the Allied Invasion of Europe in 1944. The movie “Saving Private Ryan” had its Genesis here. Place names such as Utah Beach , Omaha Beach and Arromanches became famous overnight due to the tremendous battles that took place in this normally quiet place of France . The area has many cemeteries where the dead of the different nations are buried. There are also many fine war memorials around this area- a particularly fine one can be seen at Avranches on the borders of Brittany and Normandy. The town of Lisieux not far from Caen , contains a beautiful Basilica in honour of St. Therese of Lisieux, better known as “The Little Flower”.
The province of Brittany lies to the west of Normandy and is roughly the same size. It is comprised mainly of a very large peninsula. Unlike Normandy, Brittany is mainly flat although it does rise to a height of 1200 feet in places. The Brittany coast is very indented with many deep inlets forming fine natural harbours. Fishing and agriculture are the main economic activities of the province. Tourism is extremely important to the local economy.
The people of Brittany are of Celtic origin and thus have many cultural links with the Irish. In recent years much has been done through cultural exchanges and the Pan Celtic Festivals to strengthen these links. Many of the older people in west Brittany still speak the Breton language.
There are many places that you can visit on your Freedom Touring Camping Holiday. Campsites are numerous and well appointed and your Michelin guide will tell you where they are. For touring in Brittany it might be advisable to choose a site from which you can visit the places of interest in northern Brittany and then move on to a site in Southern Brittany. Dol de Bretagne or Combourg would be ideal.
Rennes is the capital of Brittany. It is a fine city where the new mixes very well with the old. Renault has a very big plant there. There is a fine university here and the city is the centre of Breton cultural and artistic life. One or two of the bars even have Guinness.
Saint-Malo :- This port city on the north Brittany coast was badly damaged by bombing during the last war but has since been completely restored. The old part of the city, “Saint-Malo intra Muros” is well worth a visit.
There are many other places in north Brittany that are worth visiting. Among these are Dinan a beautiful old world town not far from Saint – Malo. Dinard on the coast is a fine seaside resort with a beautiful beach and cliff walk. The town has a casino and an excellent golf course. There are many restaurants where one can dine at reasonable prices. Dol de Bretagne has a beautiful gothic cathedral. Cap Frehel, about 50 km from Dinan, is a place of wild beauty with spectacular cliffs and sea stacks. It is a bird sanctuary and many wild birds can be seen there. The small town of Combourg is a lovely little village with a fine chateau that has strong links with the French writer Chateaubriand. Not far from Combourg are the chateau de la Chapelle-aux-Filtzemeens (the name means sons of the Irish) and the Chateau de la Bourbanasais which was for a time the seat of the Parliament of Brittany. This latter castle has a fine zoo and would be an ideal trip for the kids. Near Saint – Malo is the Barrage de la Rance. The river Rance which has a tide of 15 metres is dammed and the power of the incoming tide and ebbing tide are used alternately to generate electricity.
Further out along the North Brittany coast lie the towns of Paimpol and Morlais. Both of  these places are worth a visit and easily reached. A nice day trip from Saint – Malo to Jersey is easy to organise. There is a daily ferry and hydrofoil service. There is very good shopping in Jersey with watches and jewellery at great prices.
The chateau de Josselin is about 70 km to the south west of Rennes . It is associated with the wizard Merlin of the Knights of the Round Table. Also in this area is the Foret de Paimpont which has lots of nature trails. The French military academy of St.Cyre is only about 5km away at St. Cyre Coetquidan. The port of Lorient is on the south Brittany coast. It is a French naval base. Along this southern coast are to be found the fishing town of Concarneau and the towns of Auray and Vannes. Near Auray is the small village of Ste. Anne Auray. There is a shrine here to St Anne the patron saint of Brittany. Further along the coast there is the town of Carnac well known to the Irish who have been coming here for years to enjoy the sunshine and beaches of the south Brittany coast. Outside the town there is an impressive collection of Dolmens. The bays of the South Brittany coast are large and studded with islands of varying sizes.
The area around the mouth of the Loire contains the city of St. Nazaire and the resort town of La Baule regarded as one of the finest resorts in France. St. Nazaire is a large industrial centre with shipbuilding as one of its major activities. There is a very impressive suspension bridge here over the Loire which is very wide at this point. Further upstream is the city of Nantes the largest town in Brittany with a population of in excess of half a million. Shipbuilding and oil refining are important industries here. There are some lovely areas around the Loire in the city centre. This area of Brittany is the wine producing area of the province. The wines produced are Muscadet and Gros Plant. North of St. Nazaire is the town of Redon the area around Redon is made beautiful by the passage of the river Vilaine and a number of small lakes.
No tour of Brittany would be complete without a visit to the Mont Saint Michel. This outcrop of land jutting up out of the sea is one of the most spectacular sights in Europe. A town topped by a Benedictine abbey has existed here since the early middle ages. The Mont is reached by a modern causeway and there is plenty of parking for visitors in the large car parks outside the walls of the town. Bring your camera. This is one place you will surely want to take photographs of. As the piece de resistance of a holiday it would be superb.
Southern Brittany is the gateway to the Loire valley and its famous chateaux. These chateaux, unlike their medieval counterparts, were not built for defence but as places of residence and are noted for the beauty of their architecture and the magnificence of their furnishings. The lower reaches of the Loire Valley is particularly rich in such chateaux. Amongst the most famous are Amboise , Bloise, Chenconceaux, Azay-le-Rideau and Chambord .
Paris Is the political and economic centre of France, and also the administrative and communications centre of the entire country. Paris is regarded throughout the world as an intellectual and cultural capital and is often referred to as the City of light. During the course of its history, Paris has been encircled by a succession of city walls and although these no longer stand the city has retained a roughly circular shape. Many of the old portes and gates such as the Porte de Clingancourt, Porte de Clichy and Porte de Lilas are still major landmarks. A system of boulevards built around the city in ever widening arcs has covered the area where once stood the ancient walls. The avenues traverse the city from north to south and from east to west.
The modern outline of Paris was largely the creation of Baron Georges Haussmann in the 19th century. He laid out new avenues, broadened others and established the enormous squares into which they feed. He placed the railroad stations in a circle at the periphery of the old city. At the heart of this network of boulevards and avenues lies the Ile de la Cite – a small boat shaped island in the seine that was the sight of the earliest settlement. The Seine which flows through Paris in a great arc is the main artery of the city and is spanned by some 30 bridges many of which are of great architectural beauty e.g. Le Pont Neuf, which despite its name is the oldest bridge in Paris. The quais are the ancient tow – paths and near Notre – Dame one finds many of them lined with second hand book stalls. The Seine has greatly affected the development of the city. Since the early Middle Ages the river has divided the city into three parts- the Ile de la Cite; the Left Bank (Rive Gauche); the Right Bank (Rive Droite).
Paris has developed at the intersection of two great highways –The Seine and the route to the south – west from the northern Rhine. The town developed under the Romans. Christianity came to Paris in the third century and according to legend Saint Denis the first bishop of Paris was murdered on the hill of  Montmarte. Again according to legend Paris was saved from the Huns by the prayers of  Saint Genevieve. Clovis, the king of the Franks made Paris his capital.
It was under the rule of the Capetian dynasty that Paris really became established as the capital of the whole of France. The Capetian era marked the highest point of medieval achivement. It was during this period that Notre- Dame, La Sainte Chapelle, Saint Germain des-Pres and the first Louvre was built. The university of Paris was established. Great names associated with this era are Abelard, St Bonaventue, St Albert the great and most famous of all St Thomas Aquinas.
During the Renaissance the second Louvre was built and the Tuileries laid out. Louis XIV lavished money on the city and the Invalides and Champs Elysees date from his reign. Louis XV erected the Pantheon and the Ecole Militaire.
The city of Paris played a central role in the French Revolution. Most of us have read of the blood lust of the Paris mob but in fact not nearly as many people were butchered at the guillotine as popular legend would have us believe.
Napoleon spent much effort in turning Paris into a great imperial city. The restoration of the Bourbons to the throne saw Paris become the home of many great artists, musicians and men of letters. Among these were Delacroix, Balzac, George Sand, Chopin and Liszt.
The period between the two world wars saw Paris become, once again the leading cultural centre in the world. During the presidency of Charles De Gaulle his minister for cultural affairs, Andre Malraux, started an ambitious program of cleaning up the old buildings and squares of the city. This work of restoration is still going on and has given back to the city much of its pristine beauty.    

Places To Visit While On A Camping Holiday.

Notre Dame; Built at the eastern tip of the Ile de la Cite this beautiful cathedral is one of the finest examples of early Gothic architecture. High Mass is sung here every Sunday morning. Road distances for the whole of France are measured from a marker in the courtyard of the church.
La Sainte Chapelle; One of the jewels of Gothic architecture this beautiful church is renowned for its stain glass windows.
La Conciergeerie; Part of the Palais de Justice (Law Courts), this famous prison saw such distinguished inmates as Marie-Antoinette, Danton and Robspierre.
L’Hotel De Ville; Just across the river from Notre-Dame this fine French Renaissance style building is the city hall of Paris.
Le Louvre; One of the greatest museums of art and antiquity in the world, the Louvre houses the Mona Lisa and many other famous paintings. It also contains a huge collection of Egyptian antiquities.
Sorbonne; Seat of the main faculty of letters of Paris university.
Pantheon; Church turned into a burial place for some of France’s most distinguished men and women. Pierre and Marie Curie are buried there. The Pantheon is to France what Westminster Abbey is to England.
Luxembourg Palace And Gardens; Seat of the French Senate
ST Germain– Des –Pres ; The oldest church in Paris .
Invalides; Tomb of Napoleon.
Tour Eiffel; Built for the Paris exhibition of 1899. It is 984 feet high. It is used as a mast for French Radio and Television. Perhaps more than any other monument in Paris has become a symbol of the city.
Basilique Du Sacre Coeur; Built on the highest point of the city (Butte de Montmartre) this beautiful church was erected in 1876 in fulfilment of a vow made by the French nation during the Franco- Prussian war.
L’Opera; The opera house a masterpiece of Charles Garnier.
Madelaine; Church built at Napoleon’s command in the form of a Greek Temple .
L’arc De Triomphe; Built to commemorate the victories of Napoleon and La Grande Armee. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies under the Arc. The arc stands at the centre of the place Charles de Gaulle. Twelve major avenues radiate In the form of a star from this square .
Pompidou Centre; Built in very modern style and this centre houses museums, art galleries, workshops, cinemas and restaurants. Many of the fine boulevards; avenues and places of Paris are well worth a visit.
Place De La Concorde; This beautiful square is at one end of the Champs Elysee.
In the centre of the square stands the oblisque known as Cleopatra’s needle. It was brought to France by the expedition that Napoleon had lead to the Nile.
Other places of interest are the boulevards St Michel, St Germain, and Haussman and the Places de la Republique, de la bastille, Vendome and de la Nation. 
The metro and suburban rail offers the best and quickest means of getting around Paris. If you are going to do a lot of journeys on the metro you should buy a book of tickets (carnet de billets). It’s quite a bit cheaper. A tour of Paris by night is strongly recommended. During the summer period all of the important monuments and buildings are floodlit. There is a tourist office at 127, Champs Elysee where you can get just about all the information on Paris that you may require. There are many campsites around Paris. Perhaps the best one is Bois De Boulogne to the west of the city.  

Paris Region.

There are quite a number of very interesting places to visit in the Paris region. Here again the freedom of having your own accommodation is a great advantage. It is worth remembering that almost every town in France has its own camping site and they are well signposted.
Chartres ; This town is 75km to the south west of Paris . The town is dominated by its famous cathedral whose spires can be seen for miles around. This church is regarded by many as being the finest example of Gothic architecture. It was built in the XII and XIII centuries. Most of the stain glass windows date from this period and are noted for the beauty of their colouring.
Versailles ; The town lies to the west of Paris . It was here that Louis XIV; the sun king built his famous chateau. It is the most famous chateau in the world. The grandeur and elegance of its rooms are breathtaking. The gardens designed by Le Notre, are very beautiful. The chateau and park can be visited every day except for Monday from 10 to 5. The town has its own campsite.
Fontainbleau; The town of   Fontainebleau is about 35 km to the south east of Paris. Francis the I had his castle built in the royal forest in 1528. It was the major residence of the kings of France, outside Paris until Louis XIV had the chateau of Versailles built. The forest was one of the favourite hunting forests of the king of France.

Why not visit the lovely Dordogne?

Most Irish visitors To France tend to head for Brittany and the west coast or Paris or the sunny Med. Why not do something different? Your freedom touring camping holiday gives you the ideal opportunity of visiting one of the loveliest of all the French Regions- the Dordogne .
No need for rigid timetables. There are plenty of superbly appointed campsites in this region. The Michelin guide will tell you where to find them and if in the high season if you are worried about campsites being full all you have to do is ring the site of your choice and reserve a site in advance.”Allo. je m’appelle———.Je suis Irlandais. Je voudrais reserver un emplacement dans votre camping pour ce soir”
The Dordogne region lies to the east of the city of Bordeaux. It is a region of long valleys and slow flowing rivers. Forests of all kinds of trees abound in this region. Towns like Bergerac and Scarlat will charm you. Here are to be found some of the earliest indications of human habitation of Western Europe. The Grottes de Lasceaux  contain prehistoric wall paintings famous throughout the world. Picturesque Rocamadour is only a short drive away. The walled hilltop town of Domme commands a magnificient view of the surrounding valley and the river Lot. You can take an underground boat ride in the Gouffre de Padirac. All around are vineyards and orchards growing apples, pears, plums, apricots and peaches Nature has really smiled on this delightful area. You will have plenty to admire for the period of the holiday and cities such as Bordeaux and Limoges are within easy driving distance. Local festivals are held in many of the villages. Sometimes a town in the region is chosen to host the Regional Festival. These are very interesting affairs with colourful costumes to be seen everywhere. If you listen carefully you will hear many of the people using the local dialect. These dialects exist all over France.  

Alsace-Gateway To The Black Forest And Switzerland.
The eastern region of France is not very well known to the Irish in general. It is France with a difference. In many ways it looks more like Germany than our normal perception of France. The houses look just like what one would expect to find in certain parts of Germany. The dialect that people use to communicate with each other at the market sounds Germanic – and it is. The menus displayed in cafes and restaurants contain dishes more readily associated with the other side of the Rhine. And yet this region is staunchly French. Discover this area for yourself. Taste its excellent wines and beer- in moderation of course. Strasbourg is known to us as the home of the European Parliament. The central part of the city is old world and beautifully maintained. Colmar is only an hour away and hosts a major wine festival during the summer. Mulhouse is a fine city and is an ideal point from which to set out for the Black Forest country or into Switzerland through the city of Basel . The auto route system is very good here and you could easily be in Bern in three hours after leaving Mulhouse. With your accommodation safely stowed in the boot or roof box you need never worry about finding somewhere to stay. A Trailer tent really comes in to its own on a trip like this.
Want To Go To Rome Or Venice.  
Why not? With three weeks you could do the round trip comfortably and still have time to take in many interesting sites on the way. One can reach both of these cities by taking the autoroute all the way. This is certainly the quickest way. For Rome one can take the autoroute just outside Le Harve and travel via Paris , Lyon and Nice to the Italian border. There one joins the Italian autostrada system for Genoa and Rome. Instead of driving down by autoroute all the way why not take the mountain route from Lyon to Nice. You may have to drive more slowly but it is quite a bit shorter and the scenery is incredible. This route will take you very close to the region of ski resorts such as Chamonix and Val d’ Isere. Major towns in the area are Grenoble, a fine city, Chambery and Gap. France has a lot of nuclear power plants and one of these is near Grenoble, a city noted for watch making, hi tech industries and a fine university. Geneva in Switzerland is only about 160 km from Lyon. One of the greatest banking centres of the world. Geneva is built on the shores of Lake Geneva or as the French call it Le Lac Leman. It was here that John Galvin preached and the church where he preached still stands. Geneva is also a centre of world politics. Numerous conferences between the superpowers have been held here. To go to Venice the best route might be through Switzerland and the Brenner Pass in Austria.
Lourdes And Spain.
The Irish have been going to Lourdes for many years. First it was the long haul by boat and by train, and then it was the aeroplane. You can go by car and see not just the Shrine and the town but also many of the beautiful places in the surrounding area. Enjoy the wonderful Pyrenean countryside with its snow-capped peaks and wooded valleys, its dashing rivers and streams and its green pastures. And then head across the Basque country with its gleaming white houses and red tiled roofs. Pay a visit to its little churches with their galleries for men only. Watch the Atlantic rollers come thundering in at the beach at Biarritz or St. Jean de Luz. San Sebastian is just around the corner. If you fancy a bit of a tan why not head for the Spanish beaches taking in the tiny principality of Andorra. Barcelona is not too far away either.
Reading A French Menu.
Almost all restaurants offer two types of meal choices, ”a la carte” and “Le Menu”. Meals “a la carte” offer an extensive choice for each course but this becomes more expensive, unless daily specials are among the choices, dishes that are specially recommended and thus, a bargain. The menu is a meal at a fixed price. Its dishes have been chosen from among those on the “a la carte” list. It usually consists of an appetizer, a main dish – meat or fish, a vegetable, some cheese and /or dessert. Within course some choice is offered, allowing you some latitude in putting together a meal according to your own tastes from among the proposed dishes. The dinner also has a choice of two or three such menus, fixed price varies according to the number of courses it has. The same meal from the “a la carte” list can often cost as much as 30-40% more. Coffee is never included in the “fixed price menu”. It should also be noted that often the countryside “tourist” menu is offered. This means that wine and tips are included in the fixed price.  

Camping in France

Travelling by car to France from Ireland & going Camping? If you are travelling by ferry, and bringing your car, your first experience of France is going to be a port on the North or Northwest coast. of France Travelling directly from Ireland, you will disembark at Roscoff or Cherbourg. If you take the ‘land-bridge’ route through Britain, you may then take the Channel Tunnel or land at one of the ports served by the British ferry companies.

Where to go:  

First time visitors may prefer to sample the delights of Normandy or Brittany, but don’t forget that France has more to offer. The Normandy region is renowned for its war museums, the D-day landing beaches and  its Calvados (famous cider made from local apples). Visitors to Brittany should sample its many beaches, its flower-bedecked towns and villages, the walled towns of St. Malo and Guerande and, of course, the famous Mont St. Michel. Every region in France has its own gastronomic specialities. Visitors to Brittany and Normandy must sample the seafood, the crepes (pancakes) and the tarte aux pommes (apple-tart). Don’t forget to try the local cheeses also! 
All areas of Normandy and Brittany are within three hours drive of the ferry ports. While your first visit to France might include just Normandy and Brittany, it will definitely give you the urge to travel further into the country on subsequent visits. Within a day’s drive of the ferry ports are the Vendee region, the Bordeaux region, the Loire Valley and Paris. 
If you enjoy a beach holiday, then the Vendee is the place for you. The main resorts of St.Jean de Monts, St.Gilles Croix-de-Vie and Les Sables d’Olonne are well served by top class campsites. This region has numerous restaurants where you can sample a wide variety of local seafood, or fruits de mer. The brioche vendeenne  is another speciality of the region. 
Going further south to the Bordeaux region, you may experience slightly warmer weather and the same high standard of camping facilities. Seafood restaurants serve the local delicacies accompanied by the famous Bordeaux wines. 
Moving inland to the Loire Valley, visitors get the opportunity to sample some of the most famous wines in all of France. A visit to this region must include a trip to some of the local caves (wine cellars).  As you drive through the vineyards, the temptation to sample and buy will be impossible to resist! So, leave room in the boot of your car for your purchases! The kings and princes of France built their chateaux in this region and many are open to the public. The most famous are in Angers, Saumur and  Chinon. The chateau at Usse is ideal for children as it is reputed to be that of Sleeping Beauty. Before leaving this region, a canoe trip on the Loire is not to be missed. Campsites in the Loire region are plentiful and of excellent quality. 
If you decide to visit Paris as part of your holiday, you will find lots of campsites on the outskirts of the city. These are generally situated close to railway stations. To see the sights of Paris, day or night, leave your car and take the train! 
More and more Irish visitors are travelling a little further (making an overnight stop) and are discovering the delights of the Dordogne, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean coast, the Alps and the Jura regions. Visitors to the Dordogne area can take canoe trips on the river and visit the many historical sites e.g. Rocamadour, the underground caves at Padirac and the tragic town of  Oradour-sur-Glane (undisturbed since a massacre during World War 2). This is the region for truffles and foie gras. A treat not to be missed. 
Another region renowned for foie gras is Gascony in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The produce of this area is served in the best restaurants in Paris. Melons are a local speciality. In summer, fields of sunflowers stretch as far as the eye can see. This area is ideal for people who enjoy country pursuits e.g. walking, cycling. 
The Alpine and Jura regions offer spectacular scenery with snow-capped mountain peaks visible, even in summer. They are a haven for walkers and nature lovers. Germany, Switzerland and Italy are within easy reach. Campers often hear the tinkling of cowbells in the meadows as they wake in the morning. Wonderful cheeses are made in this part of France. Visitors must try the cheese fondue.

When to go:

While the majority of tourists go in June, July and August, most campsites are open from April to September. Ferry prices and campsite prices are much lower during off peak times. If good weather is not your priority, then a visit outside of June, July or August is an attractive proposition.  Where to stay:  Regardless of what region you visit, the campsites are superb. For French people camping is a way of life, and they take great pride in maintaining a high standard. Campsites are categorised as 2-star, 3-star or 4-star, depending on the level of facilities they provide. For an overnight stop, a 2 or 3-star site would be sufficient.  The 4-star site is recommended for a longer stay. There you can expect to find heated swimming pools, children’s pools, bar and restaurant, organised children’s activities, night-time entertainment and a well stocked shop for your daily supplies of croissants and baguettes. There are numerous guidebooks available which describe, in detail, the facilities available on each site. The majority of sites have their own website and provide online booking facilities. It is recommended to book your sites during high season. There is usually a small booking fee, but it is worth paying it to guarantee getting a pitch on the sites of your choice.  

What to bring:  

You must bring your passport, driving licence, car insurance certificate and the ‘green card’, which should be available, free of charge, from your car insurance company. It is advisable to have travel insurance and the E111 form from your Health Board. This provides basic medical cover while on the continent. French law requires that you have a warning triangle in your car (in case of breakdown). An alcohol testing kit x 2 is now also mandatory. You should also have a basic first-aid, kit. It is not necessary to load up your car with basic foodstuffs, as all that you need is available in the local supermarche.

Shopping in France: 

There are a few well-known supermarket chains that have outlets all over France. Look out for ‘E. LeClerc’, ‘HyperU’, ‘SuperU’, ‘Continent’, ‘Auchan’ or ‘Intermarche’. Everything you need, and more, is available in these superstores – from fruit and vegetables to bicycles, hi-fi equipment and wine!
Every town and village has its market day, and a visit to a French market is a must. Observe the locals as they meet and greet each other, and carefully chose the fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese for the dinner table. Local markets are always advertised on campsite notice boards.  

Driving in France:  

For the first time traveller to France, stories about French roads and French drivers can cause a lot of anxiety. In reality, the majority of drivers treat Irish drivers with courtesy. The general standard of driving and road construction far exceeds that which you are used to in Ireland. Most towns are by-passed so driving on ordinary roads is quite straightforward. As you approach a town, follow the ‘Toutes Directions’ sign unless you want to stop in that town. In that case, follow the sign for ‘Centre Ville’. Motorways, if you wish to take them, are tolled and are useful if you want to reach your destination quickly. Buy a good map and study your route carefully before you leave.  Driving on the right will become second nature very quickly and most first time visitors express surprise at how easy it is.   

Why a camping holiday?  

If you want a ‘freedom’ holiday where you can be as organized as you wish, if you want the choice of moving from place to place, if you want to decide your own meal times and to organize your days to suit yourself, then a camping holiday is for you. Children are fully occupied all day long – it is very unlikely that you will hear the words ‘I’m bored’ during your holiday!  Be prepared to meet their new friends of all nationalities.
Some first-time travellers use companies that provide tents and mobiles but, having experienced the joys of camping, many go on to buy their own camping equipment for future holidays. A tent or trailer tent  if properly looked after, will give years of service and pleasure to its user. The basic equipment can be bought in a package from camping providers such as O’Meara Camping. The attractions of a camping holiday in France are many – for parents, teenagers and children. There are numerous activities available for all ages. When it gets too hot, take it easy under the shade of a tree or by the poolside. 

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