“ Location: La Plaine Sur Mer, France / infocampinglarenaudiere.com „
Last summer the Northers family embarked upon an adventure. We decided that we would have a week in a gite in the Dordogne. Only instead of flying we chose to drive there and back, visiting a number of campsites along the way. Ok, so we haven't walked to Macchu Pichu or 'found ourselves' in the Far East, but considering we have a five year old and a seven year old, we couldn't just drop sticks and fly off to Outer Whereistan or anything. This review is all about the second campsite that we visited on the way down to our gite.
As we were staying inland for the main part of the holiday, we decided we would hug the coast to an extent on our journey southwards. The second leg of this route involved a six hour drive from near Le Havre to a campsite to the southwest of Nantes; Camping la Renaudiere
A few months beforehand we began to plan our route. We decided that to get from Dunkerque to our gite which was about 15 miles to the east of Bergerac would require two stops. Using googlemaps as our trusted mapmaker and timekeeper, Nantes was selected as it was roughly equidistant between Bergerac and Le Havre. A quick online search of the local campsites threw up a number of websites including La Renaudiere. The deciding factor was the fact that the campsite was situated just a mile and a half from the beach.
What intrigued us most about La Renaudiere was the complete lack of English on the website. Most French campsites have a button you can press which magically translates the whole site, not so in this case. The website itself is very well presented, with smooth navigation, many photos of children enjoying themselves and a nice aerial shot of the whole site.
After deciding that this campsite would be ideal for us we left a message on their online booking form outlining our intentions. An email reply was quickly sent back the next day to tell us that they had provisionally booked the pitch for us to confirm in writing. We promptly sent off a letter (thanks google translate) to confirm the booking. And that was that. No deposit, no money up front, all done the old fashioned way. I suppose making people write a letter rules out timewasters. We didn't mind writing a letter at all, in fact it made the whole process a lot more personable, even if we struggled with the language a little.
Upon arriving at the campsite after a lengthy seven hour drive which included numerous toilet stops and a half hour for lunch, we were greeted by a very friendly receptionist who took down our details and briefly described the site amenities. Throughout our stay at Camping la Renaudiere we attempted to speak French; I find that if you make the effort then people will respond to this and not treat you like an imbecile. Sometimes you can get an individual who can be a bit gauche (you are in France after all), but if they want to give you a hard time its time to bring out the disarming smile and attempt a few gallic shrugs.
Remember I mentioned that the website was all in French? Well, it didn't take long to realise why. We were the only English people there, in fact we were the only foreigners there! At first we were met by bemused stares from some of the natives, but after a few 'bonsoirs' and 'bonjours' all was fine and we all settled down to enjoying our stay. As usual it's the kids that prove the best at breaking the ice and the international language of playing brought our children and our neighbours' children together.
As far as amenities go, I would say the shower blocks are a little on the old side. There was no problem with the hot water and they were perfectly clean, it's just they were a little tatty in places. The washing up facilities were functional and clean. The campsite has a playground which was well maintained and had a safety fence and the swimming pool was very good with a couple of lifeguards on patrol at all times.
Our pitch had a water tap and an electricity point (not required) and was situated within a copse of trees, which provided some welcome shade and made sure that our tent did not get too much direct sunlight. The ground was firm but easily penetrated by all of our tent pegs, so no problems there. The size of the pitch was more than adequate, allowing us to fit a family car and a large tent and still have some space for a table and chairs.
For entertainment the campsite offers a number of activities including pony riding, magic shows, barbecues and a disco. Thankfully the disco is only on twice a week. Being France, as soon as people have had their evening meal, the national obsession with Petanque takes over and a good portion of the campsite is devoted to a number of competitions each evening.
All in all we had a very enjoyable stay at Camping la Renaudiere. If you like a campsite off the beaten track and don't mind being in a distinct minority I fully recommend it. Our stay cost us around 25 euros a night which we thought was quite reasonable.