After last year’s successful European camping roadtrip, I found myself to agreeing to another camping adventure this summer. And unlike last year, where we spent part of our trip either staying with friends or in an Airbnb, I somehow suggested spending the entire time under canvas. Yes, 15 consecutive nights in a tent!
The closer we got to our departure, the more I worried that I’d made a terrible mistake, especially as friend after friend shared their plans to stay in lovely villas and hotels! But looking back, I’m so glad we were brave. We’ve had such a ridiculously busy year of work that a couple of weeks being properly unplugged was exactly what we all needed.
Our 2019 route
This year we decided to explore more of France, with stops in Normandy, the Loire, the Dordogne and the Pyrenees. At 2,800km it was a long way to go, but we made sure we had plenty of time at each of our stops so we didn’t feel rushed and most of our driving stints weren’t too long. Here’s the route:
We decided to make a short stop in Normandy at the start of our break. I’ve wanted to visit the D-Day beaches for as long as I can remember, and with this year being the 75th anniversary this felt like the perfect time to go. We chose Castel camping du Brévedent, about 30 minutes south of Deauville, as our first campsite and it was clear immediately that we’d made a good choice.
Set in the grounds of a Louis XVI hunting lodge, surrounded by forest and based around a lake, it was a peaceful spot. The children were delighted to find rabbits to stroke and chickens wandering around the site, and they wanted to jump straight into the lovely pool.
The site facilities were excellent with a lovely bar and restaurant, trails to walk, playgrounds and clean bathrooms. Best of all, the camping pitches were excellent. We’d treated ourselves to a premium pitch which came complete with a little shed containing a fridge, BBQ, table and chairs – plus a lovely view of the fishing lake. I was sorry we only had two nights there!
We only had one full day in Normandy before heading south, so we set out towards the coast to explore some D-Day sites together. First stop was Pegasus Bridge, where the British 6th Airborne Division landed on the night before the Normandy landings to secure strategic river crossings – the first allied troops of the invasion.
It was amazing to see the bridge on display having heard its name so many times, and the children were genuinely interested in learning more about the drama and sacrifice that unfolded there.
We were all fascinated to see the replica Horsa glider which transported men to France – it was absolutely enormous. I found it difficult to imagine loads of these silently descending over Europe.
We headed to the beaches for lunch and a walk. We ended up at the site of one of the British D-Day landings, Sword Beach. The sun was shining and the beach vast and empty, quite different to how it would’ve looked 75 years ago.
We whiled away an hour on the beach together before we headed back to enjoy the campsite a bit more!
It was a fabulous first stop on our trip. We clearly only scratched the surface of Normandy – I know we’ll be back again for a longer visit next time.
But France awaited, so it was time to hit the road… Next stop, the Loire Valley.