If you’ve seen the film Dupont Lajoie (The Common Man) and you think this is what French campsites are like, then you’re completely wrong. Since the film was released in 1975, things have changed. A campsite only accepting tents and caravans, with sanitary facilities that are clean if you’re lucky, activities limited to French boules competitions and evening events where the highpoint was the election of “Miss Camping” are no more. Today, there are almost as many types of campsite as the choice of holidays on offer. Some of them focus on quiet and nature, while others highlight luxury and an incredible range of facilities. Some campsites are situated near cycle-touring routes (the “Loire à Vélo”, for example), or on the Way of Saint James, and even offer pilgrims special rates.
Accommodation for all tastes and all budgets
One word sums up what a first-time camper can expect: abundance. Abundance in the choice of accommodation on offer. For example, for mobile homes, there is almost endless choice: from a very small two-bedroom for a couple, to a large three-bedroom mobile home with two bathrooms for blended families, via top-of-the-range mobile homes that even come with a private spa.
Need more room? No problem, you can also opt for one of the many HLL (Habitation légère de loisirs: light leisure accommodation, with bungalows and chalets), ranging from the traditional chalet to accommodation with highly innovative design. If you want to get back to nature on holiday, you make like you’re in Out of Africa, you can try out a lodge tent, which is just as good as “bricks and mortar” accommodation in terms of comfort and luxury. Lastly, if you’re looking for original rented accommodation, you’ll be spoiled for choice, too: a Mongolian yurt, tree cabin, floating accommodation, etc.
Even if you are planning to set up your tent or to park your caravan or campervan on a campsite pitch, the possibilities are varied: with or without private water access, with or without electricity (6 to 20 A), with or without waste-water disposal. Some campsite even go further with a “premium offer” including individual sanitary facilities.
For all the family
Abundance also describes the events and activities for all the family that you can enjoy, no matter which campsite you choose. Even if pétanque can still be found on all the programmes, a very wide range of activities are available, beginning with water parks. In just a few years, we’ve gone from a basic swimming pool towards sometimes magnificent water parks with several pools (some indoor), slides of all types and sizes, thalassotherapy areas, open-air spas, etc. Among the facilities that are on the rise are gyms and, above all, wellness areas, including spas, saunas and hamams, in some cases with dedicated staff to provide beauty and health treatments, such as massages, among others.
For organised activities, everyone can find what they’re looking for. Children can spend all or part of the day at the Kids Club (or even the Baby Club at some top-of-the-range campsites), while parents enjoy a lie-in or take part in muscle-toning in the swimming pool. A little later in the day, some campers will play football, bowls, go on a treasure hunt or fool around on the slides in the swimming pool, while parents head for the wellness area to relax in the care of a masseuse or beautician, while not forgetting all the activities on offer by partners of the campsite (canoe rental, horse-rides, etc.).
As for restaurants, and the pun is intended… there is something for all tastes. Depending on the campsite, you’ll be able to choose between take-away dishes (pizzas, fried chicken, cooked dishes) and dining-room service, with often high quality French cuisine. Some campsites like to serve regional dishes and can introduce their guests to the local cooking heritage. Others go even further and opt for real gastronomic cuisine.
Lastly, to round off the day, you can expect a few surprises in the evening. Of course, there are still themed events, lottery or karaoke, very often very well organised by the campsite activity leaders. But another sign of the changes taking place in camping is that campsite managers more and more call in professionals to provide their customers with top-of-the-range services and shows that are often at a very high level.
If while you were reading the above, you felt tempted to spend your next holiday on a campsite, then why not try it!