Uzerche and Camping Moulin de la Geneste

As the end of our Easter fortnight approached we needed to begin heading north which meant leaving Spain and finding a last base for the final few nights of our holiday somewhere in the middle to north of France. The weather forecast had us focus on the middle and, while we considered a sixth visit to the island of Oleron off the west coast, we eventually decided to visit somewhere new to us and found Camping Moulin de la Geneste in the Limousin region. I booked and paid for three nights through Cool Camping. An email immediately confirmed our reservation.

We set off from the Costa Brava at 7am having prepared the evening before for a speedy departure. We'd ensured we needed nothing from the bottom section of the boot before putting the bikes on the bike rack, unplugged ourselves from the electric hook up and stowed the cable, and even turned the driver's seat around. We didn't set an alarm but woke naturally at 6.50am. One chair to turn around, the bedding to be bagged up and roof pulled down took 10 minutes and we were on the road with an expected arrival time of 1.50pm.

When the sat nav announced our arrival, a sign saying Moulin de la Geneste pointed down a rough track. It didn't look like the entrance to a campsite but we followed it. It seemed very doubtful a larger motorhome would have manoeuvred itself around a hairpin bend but Cleopatra managed it. At the bottom of the track was a large building undergoing renovation and a collection of sheds. There'd have been room to park Cleopatra but little else. This was not a campsite. We made a hasty retreat before anyone appeared to question what we were doing there.

Back on the main road we puzzled over the sign. I entered Camping Moulin de la Geneste into Google Maps again and was confused to see it reporting a 25 minute drive. It was a few seconds later we realised to our dismay that there are two villages called Moulin de la Geneste within a few miles of each other. We'd even passed right by the campsite on our journey to the wrong village.

Eventually we arrived at the campsite, half an hour after we might have done if we'd put the correct destination in the sat nav. The site was empty but a sign suggested if nobody was around we could find a pitch and they'd find us later, or we could ring a massive bell. We decided to have a scout around the sprawling site. Pitches are generously sized and spread out across terraces on the gently-sloping land. While we don't favour campsites with purposely-planted privacy hedges, the large sizes of the pitches and how they nestle naturally in the landscape took away some of the artificial feeling and we quite liked feel of the site.

We completed a circuit of the site and just needed to settle on a pitch. We could have any since it didn't appear there were any other campers. Many of the pitches looked like they'd get sun most of the day so we just needed to find one not too far away from the toilets and showers, the only problem was we hadn't seen any. Back at the front gate we saw a ramshackle building and went down to see if that was the facilities block. Signs suggested that at one time this was the shower block but asked us to use 'the other' one. We'd missed the only functioning facility block on our first walk around the site and would have to walk around once again.

The only buildings we could see were a line of wooden rental chalets. Just as we were giving up on finding the toilets and showers someone emerged from a chalet and waved. I greeted the lady with my best 'Bonjour,' before reverting back to English to explain we had a reservation, in the kind of accent I reserve for someone foreign. I can't put on this accent to order and didn't even realise I was doing it until the lady asked in perfect English if I was Mark. At that point I thought to myself, why on earth were you talking like that?

It transpired that the campsite wasn't open for two more weeks; they'd decided to delay opening while they completed work on a new site reception. Clearly they had not told the online booking system that allowed us to book a pitch. But it didn't matter - as soon as they'd received notification we were coming they'd set to work mowing the grass on many of the pitches and were in the midst of cleaning and opening the family room for us to use, in one of the buildings we'd wrongly assumed were all chalets.

So here we were, for the second time, on a campsite we had all to ourselves because it was closed. This last happened exactly three years ago when Domaine les Gandins had read the date of our booking incorrectly, assuming it was for a month later when the site would be open, and explaining the family's puzzled faces as we trundled along the road in our bright yellow van one spring afternoon!

We picked a pitch that would have fitted four camping units quite happily. We'd be in the shade of a massive pine tree very first thing in the morning but then get sun for the rest of the day. We were set up for our three-night stay in a few minutes and went off exploring, immediately drawn to the lake by reception.

The campsite's footprint is huge, with camping pitches only a small part. The rest of the land has been given over to a network of pathways just inviting you to explore. We followed one down to the gently-bubbling stream, discovering a set of large hanging chimes and a mallet with which to hit (I won't say 'play'!) them. Bunting hung from the trees along with a wooden swing.

Following the path along the river I spotted two tiny ponies and rushed over to see them. They spotted me too and came over to the fence to be petted. After that Tony was first to see the pigs. 'You haven't seen them, have you?' he asked, knowing that if I had seen them I'd be there by now. The pigs were interested in us but not keen on being touched. I fed them some of the long grass from the other side of their pen.

The path began winding back up the slope towards the camping pitches, but first we stopped at a large chess board, covered in autumn's leaves. We brushed it off and started putting the pieces in the opening arrangement. Several pieces were missing and we rooted around in the leaves on the ground finding all but one white castle, and a dead mouse.

It wouldn't be the only dead mouse we'd see. I actually witnessed the death of the other, in the jaws of a ginger cat. The cat came to visit us on our first two evenings. He was incredibly friendly (to humans, not mice) and enjoyed being stroked and wanting to sit on our knees. Tony wasn't happy with the mouse blood around the cats mouth and the cat wasn't happy with Tony's wet wipe and left us. When the cat reappeared the second night he didn't seem to have eaten any rodents and I was happy to have him jump up on my knee where he stayed until something rustled in the undergrowth.

We had two full days in which to discover the area. The first sight we wanted to see was the town of Uzerche, described as the pearl of the Limousin. We drove through the town on our way to the campsite, the majestic turrets of its medieval old town looking down on us from upon high. We decided to cycle and, although a little hilly, we were there in under an hour. We decided we'd visit Super U first as it was Good Friday and this was France - if the supermarket were even open it might not be for long! Purchasing a baguette for our lunch, with pate for me and sardines for Tony we climbed back on our bikes and headed into the old town.

We at our late breakfast from high up in the historic town perched on a hill overlooking the river Vézère. We decided the best views would be down by the river looking back up at the fortifications and identified a route out of town that would bring us walking back towards it on the opposite side of the river. Many, many photos were taken. I was particularly amused by a red duvet airing out of a castle window.

After crossing a bridge that crossed a bridge that crossed a river(!) we found La Graffeterie, an unexpected and unexpectedly beautiful abandoned warehouse decorated inside and out in stunning graffiti art. It seems it was created for a festival in late 2017, but has been left for people to just wander into. Strange as it seems, I enjoyed discovering this warehouse and being the only two people in its vast expanse of modern street artistry, more than the stunning old town of Uzerche itself.

I can't write about Uzerche without also mentioning that it has a large aire de camping car and adjacent toilet. It sits just above the river looking up at the old town and would be a perfect place to park for the night.

We set out on a four-hour hike on our second day and this is a must for anyone staying at Camping Moulin de la Geneste. It's half an hour's walk into Condat-sur-Ganaveix where, in the main square, a map shows the route. Leaving the town next to the graveyard you can follow the yellow arrows as they take you through the beautiful, unspoiled Limousin countryside, past fields of cows and sheep and through tiny hamlets where washing is drying and chickens are pecking around in the sun. For our walk the trees were in blossom and dandelions were so plentiful as to carpet entire fields in their golden yellow glow.

Our energetic mornings venturing out of the campsite were contrasted equally with lazy afternoons enjoying the peace and quiet of a campsite we had all to ourselves. With the pitches so large and spread out I'm sure the tranquillity extends to high season. This is a great campsite with plenty to do for children and much to explore on and off site. Camping Moulin de la Geneste has earned itself a place on our recommendations map.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, I particularly like the large chess board, however I've not played in ages.

    https://www.my-motorhome-travels.com/

    Take care

    Andy

    ReplyDelete

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