Camping with Canvas Holidays - Chapter 1: Camping, who me?
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Silver Travel Advisor’s Steve Aldridge is taking his first camping trip in many years courtesy of Canvas Holidays. His mission? To find out whether camping can be as enjoyable without the children as it was with them.
When the suggestion that we go camping dropped into my e-mail, instant visions of creeping from our tent to the toilet in the dark, stepping in something unpleasant sprang to mind. Did we want to be making a re-vamp of Carry on Camping, you must be mad! Thinking about it though, I remember on the Silver Travel Radio Show, I had listened to Jennie's interview with Margaret Robertson of Canvas Holidays (see below) saying that things had improved greatly from the old days, with many of the sites offering mobile homes, if tents weren't your thing. That was a thought, even with the children we had always opted for a mobile home. It would be fun to see what it was like to do the camping thing without them. In a mobile home we would have our own "facilities", so no need for the little bucket that my son says is a must for his festival tent adventures. Yes let’s give it a try.
Selecting a site was actually quite difficult, there are so many to choose from. The Canvas team were very helpful in suggesting a site suitable for our needs; somewhere not too hilly, quiet and with interesting surroundings. We settled on the Chateau des Marais site in the Loire Valley in France. Canvas took care of the booking, including the Eurotunnel reservations.
We've done the Eurotunnel before (read my previous review) but we were passengers in our friends’ car. So this time we would have to prepare our car for the journey. There had been some discussion on Silver Travel Advisor Forum regarding driving in Europe and I'd picked up a couple of useful links from that discussion that told me what we needed. Although the sites were similar, there were subtle differences (always the case) so we gathered together all the bits we needed, taking a few extra items to be sure. There was also some debate regarding the need for breathalysers. General consensus is that although it’s the law, there will be no enforcement at this stage….yeah right! We'll take them just to be sure.
There had also been some debate on the forum about the best maps to use. Someone favoured the Michelin atlas but we went for the very similar AA version as we were more familiar with the layout. We'll also be trying out Navfree, a free Satnav app you can download to your phone. I'll let you know how we get on with it. We also found a site called parkopedia to help us find parking in town, so again I’ll let you know how useful we find that. It’s worth checking your car insurance too. When we purchased ours it came with free European cover, but it turns out that is only the minimum you need by law. To have the same comprehensive cover abroad as you enjoy in the UK is, yes you guessed it, extra. So by the time you've added European breakdown insurance, headlamp deflectors, high visibility jackets etc. you'll probably be looking at £100-£200 outlay before you even set off.
The advantage of taking the car and not having a boot full of buckets and spades plus other child related paraphernalia is that you can take some of your favourite foodstuffs and cook for yourself, thus saving on restaurant bills. We've put together a pack to take, but will our mobile home be full of the heady aroma of culinary masterpieces or will we just head for the restaurant, we'll see?
Of course there's the bliss of not having a baggage allowance and a reasonably generous boot. They'll be no discussions such as “darling shall I take the blue dress or the red one”…take them both.
We've decided to take a fairly leisurely drive down, stopping at a couple of places on the way there and back. So the week at the campsite has extended into a 2-week trip, so we can see at bit more of France. The Lonely Planet guide has been good for looking up where to stay and what to see on the journey. It'll also be getting a very serious thumbing whilst we are at the camp site, as there is plenty to see and do in the area.
So here we go, camping, that will be intense! (well it won't be in tents, it will be in a mobile home but never let the facts spoil a joke). More blogs to follow to let you know how we got on…
- Read Chapter 2: The bag and the carousel
- Read Chapter 3: Chateau Des Marias
- Read Chapter 4: On yer bike!
- Read Chapter 5: Testing the hypothesis
- Read Chapter 6: I kissed the girl!
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