Domaine les Gandins
|Map of the village|
We followed blue skies from Switzerland into France where our final two campsite nights would be spent. With about half an hour left of our four-hour drive I looked for the print out of our booking for Domaine les Gandins and my heart sank when I read the dates. I'd booked for 9 and 10 May and this was 9 April. Not only that, this site had required payment in advance by international bank transfer.
|The most beautiful campsite|
I confessed what I'd done and Tony shrugged and said it'll probably be OK. I was less convinced thinking the site might not have space, or might not be willing to let us move our booking. I also had a sneaking suspicion the site wasn't even open yet as I'd tried booking this one for our February trip.
We arrived in the little village of Saint Germain de Salles and before long Cleopatra was making her way up the private drive of Domaine les Gandins. Halfway along the drive a group of people flagged us down, looking at us inquisitively. I wound down my window, showed them my email booking confirmation and explained we'd booked for the wrong month.
|Lazy campervan days|
The girl, who said her name was Sonia, said it wasn't a problem. They weren't open yet but we could take any space on the camping field. She would just clear it with the boss, her father, that it was OK to put the hot water on for us.
What a relief! We drove onto the camping field which was flat, with lush green grass and interspersed with trees. The sun was still shining and our decision on where to pitch was based around maximum sun and where the trees would cast a shadow.
A few minutes in to our arrival routine Sonia came back with a key to our private bathroom and said the water would be hot in four or five hours. I thanked her profusely.
|Beers in the sun|
Domaine les Gandins is, hands down, the nicest campsite I've ever stayed on, appearing to be more the garden of a large country manor than camping place. There are several wooden gites and some safari tents dotted around and fields of sheep and chickens.
The shower block consists of many private shower rooms and it hadn't occurred to me what a difference it makes to have one all to yourselves. For a start you wouldn't need to get up early to avoid a queue for the showers, and being able to just leave your wash bag and towel in there is a simple but welcome advantage.
|The local landscape|
The nicest thing about the site is the lack of signs. There are none. No signs telling you that you can't do this, or here is the place where you must do this. It's just a field with trees.
|Reading in the sunshine|
It was so lovely and hot in the sun we decided to do nothing more than lounge around and drink wheat beer for the afternoon. The picnic blanket was brought out for its first ever use and we both read our Kindles and dozed until early evening.
|Friendly campsite cat|
We brought out our cooking stove into the evening sun and prepared our favorite camping meal of sausages and lentils with mustard, moving from drinking beer to wine. A beautiful white cat with occasional black patches came to keep us company and was very friendly, staying with us for a couple of hours until the dinner was ready and he was rewarded with a piece of sausage.
Dinner digested and plates washed, we settled inside, content with sun-kissed faces, full tummies and eventually boozy unconsciousness.
|An old signal box|
I woke around 7am and opened my side window in the top bunk bed. Because we were close to a cherry tree I was able to watch up close as a coaltit enjoyed the first rays of morning sun. Later I even saw and heard a woodpecker chipping away at a pine tree.
We enjoyed a strange breakfast of the remaining lentils from the previous evening and four more sausages brought out from the cool box.
Then we set out for a walk, which Tony had planned by closely examining Google Maps on his phone. For a longer stay in this area I think bikes would be an advantage, but we enjoyed our lazy amble around deserted roads, across a gushing river and alongside a disused railway with views across green fields to the hills beyond.
|The cat's back!|
We were content to spend the rest of the afternoon as we had the previous one with drinks, books and a white cat.
Later, Sonia came over with the gift of two bottles of local wine, a white and a rose. She told us it was her father who had made the mistake with the booking and we had actually requested the two dates we had turned up for.
|In front of the house|
We made spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, cooking the spaghetti and keeping it to one side while we used our single pan and hob to make a sauce. We'd been a bit overzealous stocking up on vegetables in Lidl and the Bolognese was a great excuse to use plenty. It bubbled away for a couple of hours and was delicious. The spaghetti soon warmed up again when piled high with its sauce accompaniment.
The two days spent at Domaine les Gandins were the most chilled we've yet had in our three months with Cleopatra. The sunshine, chilled bottle of wine and a book, enjoyed with beautiful surroundings, are a combination we hope to enjoy more as summer approaches.