Category Archives: Camping

1975: 18 Aug, Lez-Eaux, France

During the night, it rained quite heavily; it had certainly been very cloudy in the evening. Sarah and Gareth slept in the little tent and Andrew had his half of the trailer all to himself which pleased him very much. Sarah awoke us all at about 7am all bright and cheerful and we eventually had breakfast at 8.0ish – croissants, French bread, raisin bran and Wonderloaf according to taste… Afterwards the holiday books were written up, with a certain amount of grumbling.

Went into Granville and parked at a meter, then walked along the narrow little street to the beach by the casino. Sandy beach with rocks, and lots of young, pearly oyster shells about which we collected.When we couldn’t hold any more shells, decided we’d better get back to the car with them. Shops seemed quite expensive in Granville, but they were mostly shut anyway as it was Monday.

At lunch time, we looked for the Relais in Granville and were somewhat horrified at its 18Fr lunch so we drive on to Sartilly to the Vieux Logis. Here the menu was 16Fr so we went in and ordered 4 assiettes. David, Sarah, Gareth and I all began with moules marinière which were absolutely delicious and mountains of them. Andrew had tomatoes vinaigrette, delicately shunning the mussels. Then we all had steak, sauté potatoes and salad, again delicious and bien cuit. We drank a red wine called Excellence, and they had an Anjou rosé. To finish up we all had a peach except for David who had a coffee ice-cream. It was all very delicious and the place was full of French people, including lorry drivers of course.

The weather by now was being very nice and sunny, we went to the nearest beach which was Carolles, and was big and sandy with a rocky headland at the southern end. There were lots of people about, all French, and we spent a very pleasant afternoon there. The children and David went into the sea which was quite warm, and Sarah enjoyed herself on the surfboard. Andrew swam out to the raft. Later, when the tide came in they all made seaweed castles, there were immense quantities of seaweed being washed in.

It was interesting to see the differences between the French and English approach to the seaside resort. No deck chairs for sale – most people sat on the sand. Volley ball nets were set up and free to all. Very little in the way of candy floss etc. though there were some men selling ice-cream walking up and down the beach. Certainly very little of the ultra-chic beach outfits which the Daily Telegraph had assured us would make us all feel very dowdy when we got the French beaches.

Reluctantly left at about 6.0 as the clouds began to move in – the Iles Chausey were totally obscured after being brilliantly clear. When we got back to the camp we had a bacon and egg tea, with fresh fruit, and the children played table tennis afterwards with David. Retired quite early, feeling ruined after a busy day.


1968: Norway – Day 5 – Stavanger-Kinsarvik

Weather rather grey and misty as we left Stavanger, and disappointed by poor visibility.  Passed several islands with little light-houses and one island full of oil storage tanks. Gareth went off to sleep much to our relief so we had a bit more freedom to explore.

Had coffee and then watched arrival [of the boat?] at Judasberg. A milk churn filling plant near the quay had a fascinating conveyor belt of churns and several were loaded on the boat.  Weather began to improve after this and soon we were in sunshine.

Sarah befriended by some ladies from Birmingham who plied her with sweets to her great delight – Andrew too. Scenery became more and more impressive – steep wooded slopes, rocky islands and small, brightly painted wooden settlements clustered on available land. Soon saw our first snow patches, and some very impressive waterfalls cascading into the fjords. Had a smorgasbord for lunch, fed Gareth and then arrived Sanda 2.30pm. Quite a big place with an aluminium works – imported bauxite HEP. Clouds of industrial smoke for the first time almost. Weather now hot. Climbed out of Sanda on a road that grew quickly narrow and gravelly, and then began to pass through snowy patches. Soon we were in really wild snow-covered country, the road running through walls cut in snow 8′-12′ thick. Lakes on either side only beginning to thaw and all greeny white. Summer cabins perched in very unlikely spots. I was terrified and children pretty quiet (not Gareth!) but we made good progress.

At Noldal joined a much better road – a toll road with long tunnels and which was much better for the nerves. Emerged in a very steep valley with rushing river and wooded sides and snow on top. Tributary valleys had numerous waterfalls and Latefoss much the most impressive.

Dropped into Odda, squeezed in at the entry to the fjord and David cashed some travellers cheques. Plenty of industry here, and then the road follows the fjord, extremely pretty with snow-capped mountains, steep slopes and apple trees all along the lower slopes wherever there was enough room and enough sun.

Arrived Kinsarvik 6.0ish and managed to get a hut opened for us. Very simple with pine panelling and all natural wood and formica on the table and work surface. Lovely view over fjord and ferry terminal. Only problem with hut is comparative lack of space, so much room being taken up with the bunks. Had a ‘roast beef’ lunch from a tin and put children to bed – no one showed any signs of going to sleep, least of all Gareth down on the floor, so we went to the shop to investigate – wide range of goods available, including bread and milk, very handy. Met a typical Viking young man from Hangesun who had been in the Navy and spoke quite good English. A temperance motoring association – MA – holding a rally at this site this weekend, hundreds expected. Decided to pitch our tent and bag a site anyway. Found a nice, reasonably peaceful spot. Only problem the granite under the soil which made putting tent pegs in a major problem.

Loads of people rolling up and interesting variety of tents appearing. Plenty of children about, so our should have plenty of company. Weather seems set fair, with clear skies and the view of the fjord through the pines and silver birth with snow-capped mountains behind very satisfactory.

Our managed to fall down the slopes from the top of the camp to the road in the first half hour “It wasn’t great”.

1968: Norway – Day 2 – Kristiansand – Mandal

Once out of Kristiansand, driving less alarming, and we bowled along wooded roads quite fast. Even had a road under a road which surprised us so early on. Yellow markings on the roads, surface a bit variable. Country very pretty, houses made of wood and painted in white, mustard, dark red, pale blue and green. Not a great many animals about, mainly a few brown cattle. Pale beigy coloured horses. Strawberries planted everywhere mulched with polythene.

On arrival at Mandal, search for camp site. It was not really open, but we could camp. Unfortunately no proper toilet/washing facilities open, the previous block had been damaged by frost, now one nearing completion but not ready yet. Rather disastrous till we discovered the existence of some more-or-less ready ones. Got the tent up, children played on the beach, which was a nice one with clean sand and gentle waves. Camp situated in the pine trees and well hidden. Mr and Mrs Romford had a hut, they are quite big with one main room and a smaller one (with bunks) and kitchen corner. Exceedingly boring conversation about their Yugoslav holiday. Had an early night – tent crammed with everything, we must organise this better.

Children seemed happy anyway and Gareth being much better now he has more familiar things around. The by at Mandal is pretty with numerous skerries, rather rugged, and pine trees down to the sand-dunes. Small automatic light-house in the dunes. Our main problem – lack of facilities – no shop open… just as well we had evap. and the milk we’d brought and a sliced loaf – and of course all our food. Tent organisation too.

1971: June 12, Aubigny-Calais-Dover-Hornchurch

Woke up to find weather and could hardly believe our luck. Got on far more quickly with the packing up and were well on the way far earlier than yesterday. Before leaving the site, helped the couple we ate with last night to get their car out of the large muddy hole they’d driven into. Roads to Calais quite maddening – either bumpy, or through endless towns. Only a few well-surfaced stretches, it takes an amazing length of time to reach the coast. Met loads of British cars driving along from Boulogne and Calais. Were surprised to see some French owned Triumph (2000s) near St Omer – very few Triumphs on the continent at all, and most of those were in Switzerland.

In Calais, stopped and bought some pâtés, bread and wine with our remaining currency, then drove on to the boat and found a table near the windows. Ate a large lunch (brought on by us) and had a cup of their coffee, did our duty free shopping, and in no time at all the white cliffs of Dover were showing. Had to sit waiting in the car for ages before they let us out, but eventually at around 2pm drive out of the Customs and headed for home, arriving back at 4pm.


Total cost of holiday, including various insurances, cattery fees, hire of spare parts, kit, etc.  : £220

Total mileage: 2000

Costs are up on last year – but distances greater of course, and costs of everything up, e.g. the cross Channel ferry fares. And we did sleep on the boat this time too. We were lucky in getting low season charges at Camping Marina di Venezia – 14,000 lire. Would have been considerably more after June 16th.

For a camping holiday this sort of site really does mean every gets a holiday, including Mum! Everything is easier in a warm climate, to begin with – washing dries, so that the mounds of dirty washing are kept low. Less cooking is needed – salads and cooked meats are all one wants, and there is plenty of good fresh fruit.

A well-equipped site like this one has things like ample hot water – showers help one keep clean easily (a cold, wet, cold water only site is a great deterrent to hygiene…) and makes washing up simpler too. Then, the facilities, like a choice of restaurants and bars mean that one can have a ‘meal out’ without having to worry about going far from the children. The shops too, made it easy – one could go to a site like this and never leave it except to go home! The big drawback – apart from the size and possible crowds – is that it can be expensive – all those facilities are there partly to extract your money from you after all.

For the journeys, careful thought is essential – warm weather sites are always hundreds of miles away and 2-3 days travelling more or less essential with young children. We think hotels on the journey out if possible – you don’t feel like unpacking a crammed car for one night, and there are always so many more things around on the way out. And you are probably too more tired too after all the preparation to come away. Coming home, overnight camping stops make more sense – one is ‘in the groove’ of camping anyway, better organised and less fussy. And quite probably short of cash too… it is a cheap way of spending the nights. Hire of a caravan/bungalow/chalet can be very useful, though there are not many of these available. Is all this an argument for a caravan? Not unless you want one anyway, and I don’t think we do, the disadvantages outweigh the usefulness, to us anyway.

We have also learned to seize opportunities where toilets are concerned. Except for Germany, exemplary – it can become a desperate problem – not all cafes have them by any means, especially in Italy. And beware siesta time or lunch, 2 hours in most continental towns and garages – things close down very firmly. Even toilets.

We felt this holiday was very successful, despite wet weather on the journeys. Venice was so beautiful, the camp site so good, and the weather marvellous there. The children enjoyed it too, plenty for them to see and do, they slept like logs every night. (Gareth even slept through the thunderstorms).

Next year? Somewhere warm! Some in France perhaps. All that lovely FOOD…..

1971: June 5, Camp Marina di Venezia

Another fine morning – rolls and fruit juice for us for breakfast, eggs for the children, in the shade of our little tree. Did some washing after breakfast, during the course of which operation Gareth vanished. Frantic hunts all over the camp site, and he was eventually found being taken to the reception office by a German lady who had found him right on the far side. Whew! He was very subdued for a while, let’s hope he doesn’t try wandering off again. No doubt, as he had found his own way back from the beach to get his cars, he felt he could manage from the toilets to the tent.

Went on to the beach. Andrew and Sarah played with the boat, Gareth and I built camps for Jerry Mouse and Panda. Sarah is a proper water baby, she loves diving under the water, and stays in for hours. Had a salad lunch with the corned beef and tinned fruit, then a siesta before going back to the beach. Sarah caught the sun on her arms quite badly (not wearing her beach jacket as she had been told to do) and retreated miserably to the tent, put to bed with soothing lotion, aspirin and milk, and fed parts of his tea by Gareth who was most concerned about her.

Andrew hunting around for his playing cards, having brightly left them on the table outside the tent in a brisk sea breeze… All turned up in the end, but got very fed up with the hunt, he was sent to bed in disgrace. Gareth being very virtuous, the only Good Child.

We were exhausted so went to the pizzeria and had a Pizza Romana and Pizza Marina. The oven is fascinating, shaped like a huge clay bee-hive, with wood fires. Imagine working there on a hot summer day! Had a 1/2 bottle of local red wine, and the meal was super – tasty filling, nice thin pizza – just the job! Went back to sobbing Sarah, more lotions and disprin and she went off to sleep, chuntering away. Watched a couple make elaborate preparations to sleep in the car – could not think what they were doing at first! People opposite with the teenage daughter obviously going tomorrow, doing some immaculate packing.

1971: May 31, Camp Marina di Venezia

Rained all night, and awoke to rather dubious weather – overcast skies, but not cold. In Innsbruck the same kind of weather would have been several degrees colder and much more uncomfortable… Had a bracing cold shower (unintentionally) and then we all enjoyed a nice bacon breakfast – Gareth especially pleased about this, he’s not really a fan of the continental breakfast. Decided to have a lazy day with no driving at all, and did various odd jobs. Children made a start on their holiday diaries – Gareth included, his looks like a special kind of shorthand. Some people from Barry and Bridgend camped near us, with several children, their Welsh accents coming over loud and clear. Most campers seem to be Germans, they’re all around us. Size of many of them staggering, these vast women stroll around in tight trousers, bikinis and other unbecoming garments. Why did I ever worry about my weight? The men are often obese, not just fat, and many of the children are already well on the way. Had our lunch outside – very nice tin of corned beef, with rolls, tomato and onion salad and fresh fruit and cheap sparkling Moscato. Rained on and off during the afternoon, and Gareth kept up a steady stream of hints about some little plastic lorries he’d seen at the shops, in the end we gave in and he had them… Played happily with them in front of the tent, making camps and garages.

We opened a tin of coq au vin we had brought with us – very tasty and plenty for 2 (for once, most of these tins and packets seem designed for minute appetites). Had some boiled new potatoes, then some enormous pears. After Andrew, Sarah and Gareth went to sleep, went for a coffee and contemplated the delicious array of gelati – about 8 kinds, choose what you like.

NB Did a vast line of washing, all blew merrily on my line between two trees behind our tent. There are some things you just can’t escape from, even on holiday, and some you can. I’ve no intention of looking for an iron.

1971: May 30, Bressanone – Venice (Punta Sabbioni)

Had a marvellous night’s sleep and looking forward to a shorter day’s drive this time. Clocks put forward for Italian summer time. (Who said we were the only ones in Europe to retain this odd idea?) Had rolls, apricot jam and coffee for breakfast. Children had cold milk this time! Then Sarah played with the hotel kitten – a diminutive tabby called Schmidt. Paid our bill £10.50, including the evening meal, which we thought very reasonable. Drove off through pouring rain of course – there is a conspiracy against our enjoying nice weather on this journey. Couldn’t really see much of the beautiful Dolomites, obviously a pretty area – what we could see of it.

Stopped for coffee in Cortina, teeming with rain, everyone looking very cross under their umbrellas. Saw the Olympic ski-jump, it looked terrifying. Continued through the cloud-swathed Dolomites, descending continually through increasingly Italian places – near the border, dual place names used (Italian/Austrian) and German seemed as important as Italian, but from Cortina onwards, much more Italian, and buildings that had that scruffy Italian look about them. Getting hungrier and hungrier, and eventually bludgeoned David (whose bodily comforts seem to follow a quite different pattern from at home) to stop for lunch at Vittorio Veneto, at a local cafe (not tourist). Loo was the ‘squattie’ type, Sarah intrigued of course, I was less fascinated. After some complicated negotiations in mixed languages, got our lunch. Clear soup with ‘envelopes’ of pasta (rings with meat in) the roast veal with rosemary – tomato salad – Andrew had cold, rare, roast beef, all very appetising, and red wine. Then Sarah had some ice cream and Andrew a fresh fruit salad. Gareth had eaten nothing but bread sticks, red and some beef…

NB Much use of plastic roofing in these Alpine villages, effect odd but not too garish.

Well, on we went, still through rain, coming down from the mountains in the very flat Piare valley. Vines much in evidence – we were on the Strada de Vin Rosso and the road was embanked – obviously an area liable to flooding. And so, as we got in the Venice direction, the weather brightened, could hardly believe it in view of what we’d had en route. Followed the signs for our campsite, dozens of sites along this road, all trying to entice you in. The NSU looked like everyone’s idea of a German camp, organised to an incredible degree – even the horse riding was along straight lines up and down the trees. I wonder if they get any British campers there.

Our site – Marina di Venezia very gay with flags and handsome virile looking young wardens – bet they cause chaos among the unattached female visitors… Site is vast, lots of trees, and right on the beach – all sandy, and a line of little trees between beach and site. Found a suitable pitch, handy for beach and toilet/washing block, and children shot off to sands immediately. We put the tent up in the warm sun, in fact had to change to thinner clothes, and managed to get everything reasonable by tea time. After tea  (crab soup and bacon sandwiches) explored the site – facilities are very good, with a larger supermarket, various shops, including ladies and gents hairdressers and large first aid post. Lots of restaurants – pizzeria, cafeteria, sea food restaurant, bar and proper restaurant. The nearest town is some way off so I suppose it’s not surprising a site this size should be so well equipped, but it’s quite surprising even so. Walked along the beach – weather quite warm even late, and saw a cruise ship, all lit up going out of Venice harbour. Several ships about, mainly tankers. Water is surprisingly clear after all the gloomy reports of the polluted Adriatic.