Home, bunting washed and ironed, basil plant returned to the kitchen window sill, a few pics on Facebook and here are my thoughts on the campsites and the trip.
Boat : Portsmouth to Bilbao - 24 hours of sheer bone idleness
Bilbao to Salies de Bearne (210 km) to Domaine d'Esperbasque
- great site run by a dutch lady set on a hill side - pitches were well terraced in a higgledy piggledy fashion with great views. Good clubhouse with wifi. Swimming pool. Everyone really friendly and met up with another van that had been on the same boat. What are the chances of that!
Salies de Bearne to Pyrenées Natura in Estaing
(126 km) - this was the first of our five Cool Camping sites. Nothing you could fault - good facilities, beautifully kept, club house that sold food and had free wifi. Perhaps a bit too large and 'organised' for our liking but nevertheless a great place to enjoy the local lake, river and mountain walks.
Estaing to Domaine les Angeles, Cézan
(Cool Camping) in the Gers region (145 km). This was our joint top favourite. Run by a very welcoming Dutch couple who couldn't do enough to make you feel at home. Fabulous pitches overlooking sunflower fields and really in the middle of nowhere. Nearest towns Auch and Condom (!!!). They had wifi but you had to pay - but worked well and not expensive. 15 metre pool - which was a real bonus and great cycling around the local area.
Cézan to Domaine Les Mathevies, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Dordogne
(227 km). This was the top pick in the Cool Camping France book. We were disappointed - overcrowded, noisy and the owners were stressed! Our pitch was on the junction for the pool, the bar and the toilets. We met every child on the site! Great location, they had different street food vans come in every evening (great idea) and free wifi. Out of season I expect it is fab. Next time I would stress the need for a quiet pitch on the perimeter of the site, not the roundabout.
Sarlat to Camping Chez Rambaud, Les Salles Lavaugnon
(145 km) Superb Cool Camping site but no wifi - so had to turn on the ol' data roaming!! Site only had 8 pitches - all facing out across the fields on one side and across the valley and trees on the other side. Facilities were impeccable run by an English couple. They have an extensive vegetable garden and we were invited to help ourselves. They had a small 'farm' - 2 goats, 3 sheep, chickens and a cat. Could have stayed forever! Great cycling and there were lakes with beaches just 5 miles away.
Les Salles Lavaugnon to Camping La Venise Verte, Coulo
n (205 km) - this was a one nighter - booked through the Caravan Club. Large, impersonal, but good facilities and clean. In a great location for cycling along the river and Coulon was a pretty little town.
Coulon to Camping Indigo, Noirmouter
(152 km). This really was camping on the beach. We couldn't have a pitch next to the beach as they are too sandy and we could have got stuck. But we were on the other side of the site looking across the marshes to the sea and the town and the west (lovely sunsets when it wasn't raining). Less than 5 minutes and you were on the beach. A large site (450 pitches) but well spread out, lots of loo blocks and kept impeccably clean. Only problem was the weather. 100 km winds took the awning out but no damage done (well done Vango airbeams!!). We cycled into town along a harbour wall and via the marshes - stunning.
Normoutier to Les Taupenières, Notre Dame du Touchet
(282 km) - this was a small Camping à la ferme site with only 6 pitches. We were the only ones there! But it was perfect - quiet, in the middle of nowhere with stunning views. It was run by an English couple who had bought the orchard/farm house and converted the barn into loos, showers, washroom. Best/fastest wifi of the trip - but it was adults only. We were on the 8:30 ferry and we decided to stay there and leave early. They let us put our stuff in the washroom overnight as awning was down - so we made a quick get away at 5 am for the last 120 kms to Caen.
Will put some pictures and links up too.
One lesson we learned was that next time we would go north to south - purely to get the better weather!!
Now to plan the next trip