Domaine Les Gandins

The final part of our fortnight camping trip around France was spent at Domaine Les Gandins in the village of Saint-Germain-de-Salles in the Auvergne in central France.

This was our third visit to Domaine Les Gandins this year. We stumbled upon the site through the Cool Camping website and I'm pleased we did; it's idyllic. We were warmly welcomed back by the family owners like old friends.

On the first two occasions we'd shared the site with two other tents at the most. Even then I could see it would be even more magical when it became busy in peak season.

It's a paradise for young children and I'm sure we were the only party there without any. Normally I'd hate having so many kids running around but here I wasn't the least bothered.

Everywhere you looked there was a small person. Bouncing on the trampolines, swimming in the pool, playing in the tree house or wendy house, or pootling around in one the many go-karts. British kids mixed with Dutch kids and they were having the time of their lives.

Despite this, Domaine Les Gandins remains tranquil. We laid in the grass or in our hammock and read our books and I've never been so chilled out.

The grass campsite, filled with tall trees, shares the garden of a large country manor with a few safari tents and wood cabins, plus a handful of charming gites. The estate sits alone in the countryside with only cows and sheep for neighbours. A river, perfect for swimming, runs along the back boundary and a very quiet road is to the front.

Despite having all the facilities you could need, it somehow still gives the impression you're staying in someone's beautiful country garden. Maybe it's the lack of the usual organised-campsite feeling that adds the magic.

On our first evening we ate at the table d'hote along with British couple and two Dutch couples. We enjoyed the fabulous food, four stunning courses with wine, and free-flowing conversation. The poppy flower sparkling wine offered as an aperitif was divine.

On both mornings of our two full days we went for bike rides, one day only to the next village to buy bread at the bakers (and there's no need to do this since a bread van from this bakers calls at the campsite in the morning). The other morning we cycled to Charroux.

Charroux must be one of the most beautiful villages in France. There's plenty to see, including two stone entrance gateways into the town (one with portcullis, sundial and clock). The village is at quite a high altitude and boasts fabulous views across the surrounding countryside. There are restaurants and a creperie but we elected to have ice creams. Tony had scoops of dark chocolate and creme brulee ice cream and I had coconut and banana.

The village is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area and only a thirty-minute bike ride from Domaine Les Gandins.

Reluctantly after three chilled-out days we had to say farewell. The last night of your holiday is never easy, but when you're leaving Domaine Les Gandins it is twice as hard.


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