France's Camping Gems
French chic style doesn't necessarily allow pockets for your camping gear, but France's verdant wine country with its comfortable weather, medieval hill towns and farmhouses, or the big scenery of the gorge and mountain regions are perfect for pitching your tent in, and littered with camping options – and not just the sandals and socks corporate camping kind.
There are lots of small, family run campsites perching on cliff tops, lounging along the banks of pretty rivers, peering over great gorges, in quiet pockets on working farms and of course conveniently located for some great eating and drinking opportunities. And they all have quiet and character.
Best Camp Food in the World
What could be more civilised than dining and wine-ing amongst the vines, sometimes on Michelin starred meals, then walking back to your tent along rural lanes between the fields where your meal just grew. La Brouquere, a campsite in Gondrin, is in the heart of foie gras country, on a property that used to be a winery. In this region, chicken isn't the standard meal option, duck is. And armagnac. And the gently sloping landscape will roll, or waddle, you back to the six pitch site, each with their own bathrooms, and the communal pool-cum-hot tub to hear about the history of the farm and region from the campsite's owners. Camping Domaine le Poteau in Castlenau d'Auzan, is equally surrounded by the sights, sounds and scents of agricultural France, and produces 20,000 bottles of wine and armagnac a year in their own backyard. The owners cook for their guests three times a week, accompanying the meal with bottles from their own cellar.
Set up Camp against a Perfect Backdrop
At Camping Les Tilleuls in Gedre, you look up and see the Pyranees and down at the deep, dramatic gorges. At 1100metres, the pitches are spread over four terraces so all 25 parties have a view. Leave the camp to see more of the area's majestic natural assets which this area is rich with. Le Grand Champ in Chamonix has location, location and perfect location, between and under the sharp, white topped noses of the Aiguille Midi and Mont Blanc. This campsite is dotted with fruit trees so it's a bit like sleeping in a terraced orchard with breathtaking views.
Action Packed Campsites
If Le Grand Champ's location doesn't steal you into energetic action, the huge Atlantic breakers off the private coast of Camping Les Sables d'Argent might. This out of the way campsite location is made for days spent surfing, windsurfing, playing tennis, horse riding, cycling, fishing or even sky diving, but the pine forest setting means it's quiet in the evenings.
Chic and Classy Camping
Just because you're camping doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your appreciation of the finer things. Le Brévedent in Le Havre, is on the green grounds of one of Louis XVIth's hunting lodges, just back from the historic house between the apple trees, glassy pond and a little wood. For the kids there's a maze, a stylish -in the French way - pool and facilities wing, and for grown ups there's quiet, beautiful surrounds and a whole lot of history. Eating is one of the cross generational things to do around here. Moules, crevettes, locally grown fruit and veg – the apples sometimes fortified into cider and calvados - and freshly baked breads and other treats; and the owners, who have had the lodge in their family for generations, often invite guests for a meal.
Campsites with a certain unique je ne sais quoi
It's understandable to be a bit confused on arriving at Les Ormes Campsite near St Étienne de Villeréal, the inspiration for its design came from the classic Tanzanian safari camps, all transported to the charming, medieval-town-dotted, green region of the Dordogne. The Tipis Indiens is like an American Indian camp in the Pyrenees. Four tipis are laid out in camp fire arrangement on a grassy natural mountain terrace, also inhabited by small goats - each tipi sleeps four to six people, complete with fluffy duvets, and the decoration is faithful to the American Indian theme. Les Roulottes de le Serve Gypsy Caravans is the final wildcard themed campsite on this list. The site is made up of three renovated wooden gypsy caravans, each with their own theme: the romantic fifties-style Des amoureux (caravan of love) for two, the 1920s four-sleeper Des manèges, and the Des étoiles, which can also sleep four and has an oriental vibe, decked out with an impressive collection of knick-knacks from the east. There couldn't be many better locations than the hills in the heart of the Beaujolais region. The owner, Pascal, has his own little carpentry workshop on site, where he hammers away, building cabinets and caravans. Guests can also have breakfast and dinner at the main farmhouse, a short walk from the caravans. The farm is surrounded by fields with grazing horses and vineyards.
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