14 Sep Under the Stars
Oh, where to start?
This summer we went camping in France. We picked two gorgeous sites from Cool Camping. And gorgeous they were. Site number one, La Domaine des Pradines in the Causses et Cevennes national park, was the closest to wild camping I am ever likely to get and in the darkest part of France. The night skies reminded me of Africa. It was like camping under the stars…but with a layer of Decathlon canvas in the mix. It wasn’t so much a case of, “Did you see that shooting star?” As, “Wow, was that number 12 or 13?” Which for our six-year-old daughter was as exciting as a trip to the moon.
Campsite number two, Huttopia in Sarlat, was a 10-minute walk into one of my favourite Dordogne towns. Strolling around Sarlat makes me happy. The area is famous for pâté and duck sausage. What’s not to like? I especially like Sarlat when when I get to spend lunchtime, followed by most of the afternoon, in the l’Adresse2 restaurant (no website, but find it ‘in person’ here: 10, rue Fénelon, 24200, Sarlat la Canéda).
But camping… Oh, camping. I am very bad at camping.
I love the idea of it. Being close to nature, waking up to the sound of birdsong being drowned out by crickets warming up their back-leg cellos. Long lazy BBQs, with rosé on tap, and our daughter free to cycle in circles until it gets dark.
And, the reality? Yes, it involved shooting stars in a cloudless, vast night sky. And there were crickets in the field in front of our pitch.
However, it was 11°C when we arrived at campsite number one. Yes, 11°C. When we left the Cote d’Azur seven hours earlier the car temperature thingybobbywhatsit said 30°C. I thought its electrics had been affected by the incredible, if a little disconcerting, drive over the Cevennes mountains. Nope, not a glitch, no mistake. Just 11°. I promptly donned all of my clothes, four outfits at the same time. I looked like a cross between a drunk-on-sugar toddler and the Michelin man.
I wore all four outfits for the next 48 hours.
As we headed to the campsite restaurant for dinner on the second night, Andrew asked if I was going to change. I gave him a look, the kind that can wither fresh fruit. ‘Can’t change,’ I said. ‘Am wearing everything!’ He sensibly ordered a lot of rosé and we stayed in the restaurant for five blissful hours before returning to our tent ‘home’.
After two days, when the weather became more seasonal it was time to leave for campsite number two. Our first night there was August as it should be in the Dordogne – warm, dry and alive with the sound of crickets.
The rain started about midday the next day and gave no sign of stopping. By the time we left 24 hours later all of our clothes – even the ones in our cases – were damp and even Andrew’s unshakeable good cheer – he’s a Kiwi, they’re always happy – was shaken.
I would like to apologise to the following people, who bore the brunt of my camping-related sense of humour failure:
- The lovely waitress in the campsite Auberge at La Domaine des Pradines who was initially reluctant to swap us from the table by the drafty door to the table next to the log fire. I may have insisted with a little bit more force than I meant to. I did tip her VERY well though.
- The moths circling above the shower cubicles that saw me up to three times a day as I tried to warm up. I can only imagine what was going through their minds, “That lumpy white women in the turquoise flip-flops is back under the waterfall again. Yes, I’m not kidding! Honestly, it’s her, again – look!”
- Andrew. My lovely nearly-husband. Who loves camping. And who loves me. But, who might love camping a little less when I am in the mix.