Plus ça change..
A meander in the river Dordogne……
the remains of a medieval city…….
a tree-covered island in the stream – which is nowadays a tranquil campsite.
I hardly know where to begin when it comes to talking about Beaulieu and Camping des Îles – it was one of the first few wonderful campsites we discovered in 1994. We returned for a few days every year for ten years, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends or family always with a bigger, better tent and more kit as finances allowed. So it means a lot to us. Over those years it changed hands from a low-key family-run affair to a more business-like operation but never lost its cool, green charm.
We arrive as the temperature on the road hits 31 degrees. Just as we approach the ancient wooden walkway that spans the very narrow road to the site, the manager is leaving in his van. He waves us back and points out the height under the walkway is 3m dead. And we are 3m 10cm! Disappointment clutches our hearts. Mercifully, he indicates there is a back way in over a new bridge and if we hang on for ten he will lead the way for us. Much winding back through the streets later we reach the Accueil from the other side. Phew! Optimistically clutching my ACSI card in the hopes of a good discount the receptionist says we can have a big discount OR a premium riverside pitch. Given the 31 degrees we opt for the riverside. (22.40 per night inc. hook up.) Ah well. I guess we will have to economise elsewhere.
In this weather good pitch selection is premised on two things – shade and satellite reception. In that order. I figure out belatedly, that, unfortunately, the sun and the satellite occupy pretty much the same part of the sky. South in general for the first and 28 degrees east of south for the second. Hmmm. The van will need to be fairly precisely positioned between the trees to to get both. We try a couple of pitches and then, melting in the heat, tuck Portia into a piece of shade that may give a sliver of a view of the right piece of sky. It doesn’t. But with good site-wide wifi we don’t need the satellite. We can still get Radio 4 on the internet. Hurrah!
Straight into the water! I don’t think so. The water is 15 degrees (according to a naval chap a couple of pitches down). Getting in was a series of gasps and yelps and determination. In the past we have been here in August and it seems to make a difference! Also, due to all the rain, the river is currently very high and strongly flowing – usually it runs relatively gently over the stones at this side and only has a deep fast channel over there by the trees. It is only eighteen inches deep but I am worried about being dragged away over the stones because I seem to float on surface of the flood rather than sink to the bottom. Neil seems OK but is hanging on. Clearly women are more buoyant with all that subcutaneous fat. Well – that’s my story:-) I find a stick for anchoring myself and bob about like an oversize pink ice cube.
In the morning the sun does not hit the van until about 11.00 and stays on us until about 14:30. So the positioning was not a complete failure for shade but it is so hot it makes only a couple of degrees difference inside. All windows are open and all fly screens closed, the awning is out. I drape beach towels over the open windows when the sun sneaks in around the side. No chance of cooking inside in this heat – we must get a Cadac gas barbeque to use outside. Portia has a connection for the barbeque already installed but a good barbeque is quite pricey. We have yet to figure out how Amazon works in France. You can also get effective 12v fans but I had already dismissed that idea because they cost £78.00! To balance the baking daytime heat we get we get beautiful sunsets and balmy nights.
It is 23 June – an auspicious day. The last one when we will be complete Europeans but we didn’t know that then. We postal voted a couple of weeks ago. We are surrounded (loosely speaking) by chatty and friendly Swiss, French and German campers, plus the British naval chap Nick and his wife Meg. (Nick is the only other person we have seen swimming – mad dogs clearly. There is also a sun blasted swimming pool by the way.) He wanders over with a bottle of fizz and suggests that we meet up tomorrow to celebrate or commiserate accordingly. We laugh at the thought of Leave taking the day. Ho ho ho. We leave the radio on low overnight: a slight hint of Leave doing well up North as we drop off; puzzled commentary on Leave doing better than expected in the middle of the night; shocked analysis when we wake up and find Brexit has done it. Quizzical, sympathetic looks follow us on our shamefaced walk to the showers that morning and many conversations are had during the day. It seems the Swiss don’t like the open borders either (had a vote) but can’t leave in protest as they are not members. But they may now have another vote. We share the fizz later anyway.
Beaulieu has shops and resturants 200m away in town. We have scoured the traiteur on the square for lasagne but ended up with cold roast chicken (very nice). We bought local strawberries at the SuperU – the area is known for them – and they restore one’s faith in strawberries. The next day we mistakenly walk out much further than expected to the Intermarche in the almost-midday sun and find some lasagne in the traiteur section. Supermarket lasagne? Hmm.
Our fears that in the last ten years the campsite would have become over-developed was not realised. It has cetainly become more sophisticated with more fixed pitch rentals and a bigger swimming pool. The sections away from those facilities have stayed just as tranquil and green as before though. The sanitaire block near us has just been done up and is fabulous!
We had visiting ducks here as well. I finally got mine in a row….
and gave them some stale baguette (pre-soaked, to spare their little throats).
- get a compass to pinpoint the exact location of the pesky satellite
- get a fan – this now sounds like a great (early) birthday present! The heat only lasted a couple of days before dropping to a tolerable (for me) 25 degrees- phew. I can see heat is something to be taken seriously in a motorhome.
- find out how Amazon works in France when you only have a “le Bourg” address and a personal post box round the corner
- check where the shop actually is before you start walking out to it along hot roads – it’s always the assumptions that catch you out!
- supermarket traiteur lasagne is not as good as the independents’ but not bad either
- mattress toppers are great. Tried these out on this trip – Neil slept on his now-redundant duvet and I used the thinner double topper folded over. Both are great!