Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Things to do in the Camargue Area of France

The Camargue is our favourite place in France. I only visited it for a day but it completely captivated me. We had a ride on the white horses, arranged just as we were passing which was fantastic. And then stopped for lunch in Saintes Maries de la Mer. The Camargue is a triangular area of Provence with the town of Arles to the north and the Rhone delta to the east. It is made up of wetlands, pastures, dunes and salt flats. Part of it was designated a nature reserve in 1927 and in 1970 the area was granted National Park status.      

Many of the tourists come to see the famous Camargue horses, and the flamingos which are the symbol of the Camargue National Park.  You can also see the distinctive Camargue Cattle which are black with long horns and are tended by French "cowboys" called "les gardiens", who ride the white camargue horses. It is possible to go for a ride on these horses.

 There are three major towns in the Camargue :
  • Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (population 2,000)
  • Aigues Mortes (population 6,000)
  • and Arles (population 55,000).
The main road through the Camargue goes from Arles to the north to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a lovely village on the Meditteranean to the south. If you are here in May you can see the traditional and colourful Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Gypsy festival & pilgrimage which is one of the major Provence events. Every year the Roma celebrate and worship their patron saint, Saint Sarah in the coastal village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue region.

Port Camargue
You can explore this area and see the extensive area of marinas and yachts.

Bulls have roamed the marshes of the Camargue since antiquity and form part of daily life in this region. You can go and watch the traditional "Feria Corridas" or bullfighting in the Roman arena of Arles, which take place from Easter up to the end of September each year. Before the Feria, you can view the bulls in the "Espace Toro", and you will be able to find out more about bullfighting traditions in the south of France, Provence region. (Bulls are not killed in bull fights in France).   

The Roman Theatre in Orange is a fantastic building to visit. It has a 65 m long stage and still has some of the original accoustic wall. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Theatre was no longer used as a place for entertainment. Restoration only began in the early 1800's. The use of the Roman Theatre as a stage for lyrical and musical performances became prevalent in 1971. All of the world's great lyrical artists have performed there.

Seaquarium Le Grau du Roi (5km)
An aquarium with different sections including seal and dolphin shows and a touch pool as well as Mediterranean and tropical fish.

Aqualand Cap d'Agde
If you have younger children or teenagers with you who would like to have a day in a water park then the excellent Aqualand Cap d'Agde is well worth a visit. This is a large waterpark with an excellent selection of pools and slides. Suitable for toddlers and teenagers. It has over 20 attractions on 4 hectares of beaches and waterslides to suit the whole family. It is quite expensive but it is a fun day out. Mind you if you are like me and you would be too scared to go on any of the flumes etc then it is a bit much having to pay the full adult fee !

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Friday, 11 November 2011

A Room with a View - or...a Caravan with a View or a Mobile Home with a View ?

Les Criques de Porteils, Collioure
When you book a camping holiday abroad it can be difficult to visualise exactly what view you are going to get from your mobile home, tent or caravan. You can arrive at your campsite and if you have booked with Keycamp or Eurocamp or similar companies often you end up following your rep - who is often on a bicycle ! - and you await with trepidation to find out which part of the campste you are going to spend the two weeks of your summer holiday !

However wiser travellers get booked up well in advance and if you want to guarantee that you will have a fantastic Sea View or Lake View from your holiday mobile home or caravan then this is entirely possible to do.

Eurocamp and Keycamp allow you to book certain zones in some of their campsites and some of these zones offer a view.

We can recommend one in France on the Mediterranean, one in Spain also on the Meditteranean and one on Lake Garda in Italy.
Les Criques de Porteils, Collioure
In France near the border with Spain you will find the small Les Criques de Porteils Campsite overlooking the Meditteranean Sea.

This site has numerous sea view plots to either take your own caravan or tent or you can book a mobile home with Eurocamp by clicking here.

Nestled on the rocky coves that typify this small corner of France, this terraced Castels parc has direct access to several small pebble beaches. Criques de Porteils is ideal for a quiet family holiday or couples seeking a cultural retreat from the hustle and bustle of the nearby resorts of Argelès Plage, which is a short drive away.

Read our review of this site on Best French Campsites at

Cala Gogo, Playa d'Aro, Costa Brava, Spain
Cala Gogo in Spain has a Beach Zone that is bookable. Eurocamp don't guarantee a view from every mobile home on the Beach Zone though but if you can manage to book one like the one photographed here then surely that is a dream holiday !

Click here to view the Cala Gogo campsite with Eurocamp
Camping Eden Lake Garda

In Italy you can visit the popular Lake Garda area and why not make sure you have a view of the Lake by booking one of the mobile homes with a view at Camping Eden on the Western side of the Lake. 

You can also read our review of this site at

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Euros - Here to Stay ?

Well after this weeks deliberations between various European Leaders, it looks like we will be continuing to use Euros while on holiday in Europe. If you havent used Euros before then they may take a little time to get used to !

There are Euro bank notes which come in
  • 500E (500 Euros)     
  • 200E
  • 100E
  • 50E
  • 20E
  • 10E and
  • 5E denominations.
There are also coins, which can be
  • 2E  or
  • 1E 
And you can also get Cents which are worth less that a Euro. 100Cents equal 1Euro. There are 50Cent, 20Cent, 10Cent, 5Cent, 2Cent and 1Cent coins.
So for example something might cost 1E 50 which means 1 Euro 50 Cents.

Below are photographs of the various types of money to get used to. The actual designs on each Euro are designed to reflect the different countries of Europe so you may find that your Euro is not actually a French one, but they can be used in any European countries which have the Euro as a currency.

The most likely paper money you will come across will be the 50E, 20E, 10E and 5E notes :

2E and 1E will be found as coins : 

And finally the small fry ! A Euro is made up of 100 Cents so you might find the following in your change :

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Les Journées du Patrimoine - France

European Heritage Days (EHD) is a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Every year for a weekend in September (in 2011 in France it was 17th - 18th September), you can take the opportunity to visit (for free !) buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally open to the public.  The aim of the European Heritage Days programme is to increase public awareness of the importance of heritage, and to awaken the interest of young Europeans in their common history. The event now takes place in 50 countries from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Iceland to the Iberian Peninsular and gives Europeans a chance to explore both their own heritage and also that of their neighbours if they happen to be visiting another country.

The event began in France in 1984, with La Journée Portes Ouvertes, and has now spread throughout Europe.  In France it is now known as Les Journées européennes du patrimoine and in the UK we have come to know this event as either :
  • English Heritage’s Heritage Open Days,
  • Open House London,
  • Doors Open Days in Scotland,
  • Open Doors Days in Wales, and,
  • European Heritage Days in Northern Ireland.
It is a fantastic chance to see into all sorts of building and to find out first hand what happens there. For example this past weekend in Paris, 12,000 people took the chance to pay a visit to the Sarkozy's residence at the Elysee Palace !
In total, there were over 12,000,000 visitors to all sorts of buildings around France. The website will show you what you can visit in a particular region :  In Brittany, for example, you could visit abbeys, chateaux, chapels, churches, forts, museums, manors, gardens and semaphore stations, in fact in total there were 611 open doors events in Brittany this year !

There has also been a new category added this year, with the Announcement by Frédéric Miterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, that certain houses would be recognised as "Maisons des Illustres". These are houses where famous people have lived and you can find a list of the 111 houses on this website :
They include the houses of  :
  • Louis Pasteur (scientist) in Franche Comté
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (painter) in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
  • Jules Verne in Picardy
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (painter) -Atelier de Renoir - Essoyes
  • Victor Hugo (writer) in Upper Normandy
  • Napoléon Bonaparte - Maison Bonaparte - Ajaccio
  • Louis Braille (inventor of Braille) - Maison Louis Braille - Coupvray, Ile de France
  • Charles de Gaulle in Nord-Pas de Calais
  • the Champollion family house in Figeac, Midi-Pyrénées, (Champollion translated the Rosetta Stone which led to the understanding of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs) 
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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Final Motorhome Show of the Season 2011

Well if you've have survived the credit crunch with any money left then why not follow your dreams and go along to the final big Motorhome Show this year and see if you can spot a bargain new or used motorhome. It's on at Shepton Mallet showground near Bath this weekend from 9th -11th September. With all that space to display the motorhomes we can get a real chance to get a good look round them, although if you are seriously buying its probably best to go along early on the Friday to avoid the weekend crowds !

There will also be lots of accessories and outdoor clothes for sale as well and if you really can't decide which motorhome to buy then why not wait until Saturday night when they announce the winner of the Motorcaravan of the Year awards !

I've just been talking to some other campers (retired !) who spend the winter in the South of Spain and Portugal, spending 4 months on campsites and with fees for longer term stays as low as 10 Euros per night then its a great way to spend the winter months ! Especially if we get another winter like the last two !

Here is a link to the Show Website - let us know if you get along to it and how you get on -

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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Fabulous Camping Products for Gadgety Camping !

We enjoyed our holidays this year and because we ended up taking our tent to a site with electric hookup, we ended up using the campsite WiFi and watched the finals of The Apprentice in our tent ! OK its not what you would call wild camping but it was good fun and added just a little luxury to the holiday. We were also able to charge our gagdets making any car journeys that bit more enjoyable.

Here are some products from Amazon that people have found to actually be very useful for camping and are actually listed as bestsellers by Amazon in their camping section. This fabulous small LED light from Rolson Tools costs under £3 has great reviews and we find it really adds a lot of light to our tent. So why not get a few at that price ?

Did you get a Kindle ? They are great for taking abroad on holiday as you can load up as many books as you like onto them so it really cuts down on luggage as you wont need to take a pile of books with you ! However if you want to read them in a tent or late night in the caravan without disturbing others then this handy Kindle light would be useful and has great reviews too :

I have also used a head torch to read in a tent - here is a good one :

And if you have booked a plot with electric hookup for your tent then you will need one of these in order to get the electricity into your tent :

Remember French and other Continental campsites may have the two pin plugs and may not have an adapter for you to borrow, so please check in advance with your campsite or why not try something like this adapter :

OK I know you're still thinking about that Kindle I mentioned ! So if you haven't already treated yourself here are two from Amazon. They both use WiFi to download books from the Kindle store but the more expensive one also has 3G so you can download on the move if you are in a 3G reception zone.


So why not give Gadgety Camping a shot and let us know how you find the Kindle. I find I can read well with one even though I am a slow reader - what about you - let us know what you think !

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Sunday, 21 August 2011

World Heritage Sites in France

Here is a list of all the World Heritage Sites in France as listed by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  Currently, thirty-seven properties in France are inscribed on the World Heritage List. Thirty-three of these are cultural properties, three are natural properties, and one is mixed.

These are the ones currently listed and I have put the Region afterwards so you can see if you are going to be holidaying nearby.
Have you been to see any of these and what are your memories of them - which ones would you recommend to other holidaymakers ?

1 Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, a 9th Century Church with 11th and 12th Century murals in Poitou-Charentes

2 Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay, a 12th Century Abbey in Burgundy
Pont du Gard, Nimes

3 Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

4 Vézelay, 12th Century Church and Hill in Burgundy Bourgogne

5 A 13th Century - 20th Century transboundary property in Belfries of Belgium and France Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardy

6 Bordeaux, Port of the Moon - Aquitaine

7 Canal du Midi (17th Century) in Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées  (for more information about the Canal du Midi plane trees and a fungus that is threatening them see

8 Amiens Cathedral, 13th Century in Picardy
Mont St Michel

9 Bourges Cathedral in Centre 13th Century

10 Chartres Cathedral in Centre 13th Century

11 Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Abbey of Saint-Remi, & Palace of Tau, Reims Champagne-Ardenne 13th Century - 16th Century

12 The Causses and Cévennes, Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon

13 Historical center of Avignon : Papal Palace & Avignon Bridge in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 12th century - 16th century

14 Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
15 Episcopal City of Albi in Midi-Pyrénées

16 18th Century Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans Franche-Comté

17 17th Century Fortifications of Vauban

18 Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion, Aquitaine

19 Le Havre, the City rebuilt by Auguste Perret Haute-Normandie 20th Century

20 Mont Saint Michel and its Bay, Basse-Normandie

21 Palace and Park of Fontainebleau, Île-de-France

22 Palace and Park of Versailles, Île-de-France

23 Paris, Banks of the Seine, Île-de-France

24 Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière, and Place d'Alliance in Nancy, Lorraine

25 Pont du Gard, 1st Century Roman Aqueduct in Languedoc-Roussillon

26 Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs, Île-de-France 

27 Historic Old Town center of Lyon, Rhône-Alpes

28 Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps transboundary property, shared with Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland

29 Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley, Aquitaine

30 Strasbourg – Grande Île, Alsace

31 Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

32 The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire Centre, Pays-de-la-Loire

33 Cité de Carcassonne – historic Fortified City of Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon

34 Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve, Corsica Corse

35 Lagoons of New Caledonia Nouvelle-Calédonie in New Caledonia Barrier Reef

36 The Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of Réunion, La Réunion

37 Pyrénées: Mont Perdu Midi-Pyrénées, transboundary property, shared with Spain

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Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Review of Trip Advisor, Review Sites and Reviewers !

I've just been reading some reviews on Trip Advisor !

It is a fantastic resource for researching a holiday but some holidaymakers' seem to have unreasonably high expectations !
And I have to say some people give themselves away when they give bad reviews ! For example I've just been reading one where a caravanner complained about unhelpful staff at a French campsite who said he had to be packed up and away by 12.00 including being out the barrier of the site. He apparently threatened to block their barrier if required to be away by 12 !  However, what does he expect ?  Every campsite I have been to expects you to be away by 10 am. Sometimes this might be so they can cut grass etc before next arrivals in the afternoon. If you are still rushing around packing beyond this time then I am always thankful that so far no-one has ever complained or charged us more ! This year in Cornwall we actually packed a day early as there was high winds and rain threatened in the forecast so we decided to use a day we had already paid for and packed at leisure and left about lunchtime.

Other comments I have seen in reviews included a site in France which had been taken over by new owners.  In fact it is the excellent site in the Vendee that we stayed at last year. The previous regular campers at the site wrote a review that they were very disgruntled to be evicted from the bar at 1 in the morning !  However I was glad to hear about a site that was strict like this - there is nothing worse than a few people keeping a whole site up at night as they make their way home from the bar !

And then there was a review from people with one of these mega motorhomes - 30 foot long ones - who were complaining about the very tight streets and bridge to get to the Camping International site in Paris !  As though the historic older buildings in Paris were actually put there by the campsite owners just to annoy them !  However I am sure that reviews like that are useful to people who are planning their route in large motor homes !

Another point which reviewers have highlighted about a number of French campsites is that in the busy months people are queuing early in the morning to put their towels on the sunloungers which they are not using immediately - surely the staff at the campsites could come up with a simple system to allow people to use sunloungers for maybe an hour at a time ? It can't be that difficult can it ? Something like the coloured arm band system which some swimming pools use so that you can stay in the pool for a certain amount of time but no longer ?

Another common moan from people is that "the campsite shop is very small and overpriced !" yet they go on to say that "we only managed to get some bread, meat, milk and newspapers" etc. Well really what do they expect ?  In the campsites we have stayed in I would say they all provided a pretty good shop and in one case it was almost a mini supermarket. They have always had sufficient food in stock for you to make a meal if you havent managed to get to the supermarket. And they have usually had fresh bread and croissants.

Review sites can definitely be worth reading as long as you bear in mind that it can often depend on the character and expectations of the holidaymaker who is writing the review !

So lighten up campers and enjoy your holidays without having such high expectations! Relax and enjoy !
And let us know what you think of these Review sites -  Have you picked holidays by reading them ? Did you find them useful ?

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Friday, 5 August 2011

Blue Green Algae - What are the Dangers ?

Excessive blue green algae has been a problem in various coastal and river estuary areas of France for a number of years.  Although the algae is harmless while at sea, the danger is from the hydrogen sulphide gas that is given off by the algae as they decompose when they form in large quantities and when they end up out of the water and decaying on the beach.

So far this year there have been deaths of 30 wild boar in an estuary in Brittany ( and ( and this month the deaths of two dogs on the Tarn River in the Lozère region in the South of France (

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are natural inhabitants of many inland waters, estuaries and the sea. In fresh waters, they are found in suspension and attached to rocks at the bottom of shallow water and along the edges of lakes and rivers.  In small numbers they are important and useful parts of the aquatic ecosystem. They convert energy from sunlight into chemically useful forms, liberate oxygen into the water, take up minerals and produce substances which enter and support food chains.

Like other floating plants, blue-green algae need nutrients to grow, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. If the water is enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus, for example from excess farm fertilisers ending up in the water and if there is also enough sunlight , a suitable water temperature and the water flow is not too hight then the numbers of blue-green algae can become excessive. Such extensive growths are sometimes referred to as BLOOMS.

Such algal blooms sometimes cause foaming on the shore-line and during calm weather they can form a SCUM. They may also use up so much of the oxygen in the water that this can be a problem for fish.
Depending on the exact species involved, scums may appear blue-green, grey-green, greenish-brown or occasionally reddish-brown.

All blue-green algae contain blue pigment in addition to green chlorophyll pigment, although the blue colouration cannot normally be seen in the living cells.  However, when blooms and scums decay, the pigments are released and a bright blue appearance may persist for days or weeks.

Blue-green algal scums can form quickly on calm days, but can be dispersed rapidly if wind and wave action increases. For reasons which are not yet fully understood, bloom and scum forming blue-green algae in freshwaters, brackish water and seawater are capable of producing TOXINS. These toxins have caused the death of wild animals, farm livestock and domestic pets in many countries.  In humans, rashes have occurred following skin contact, and illnesses have occurred when blue-green algae have been swallowed. Blue-green algal blooms and scums are not always toxic but it is not possible to tell from its appearance whether or not a bloom or scum is harmful. It has been estimated that 50% of blooms could be toxic. Waterusers, particularly children, farmers and pet-owners should treat all blue-green algal blooms and scums with caution.

A massive beach cleaning effort operates on many beaches in the Brittany area and in some places it takes up a third of a town's budget just to clear this stuff. The men or women who operate the machines wear gas monitors at all times and if these alert the to high gas levels they have to stop work. ( It is a problem which towns do not want to shout too much about in case this would then affect the tourist trade, but there were recent calls for the French national government to help to tackle the problem.

Excessive nitrates used as fertilisers by farmers are blamed as these run off the fields and into water courses. The algae then feed on these nutrients. A solution may be a move to more organic or natural farming methods eg a return to leaving fields for a year of fallow with clover grown to add nutirents to the soil perhaps ? Raised water temperatures perhaps from global warming may also be an additional factor.

Could children be in danger ? Well yes, possibly, as small children are the same size as some of the dogs who have died. So it is important to take note of any warning signs and maybe avoid areas with excessive seaweed or algae unless you know how to identify the dangerous types. In the Lozère area they have recommended that the smallest children do not bathe in the area where the dogs died in the Tarn river. More information should be available in the locality where you are holidaying. However lets hope this problem gets sorted out soon !

NEWS UPDATE - 10th August 2011 - The French Minister for Ecology, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, has ordered the closure of all beaches with green algae, which cant be cleaned within 24 hours.

Have you come across any algae while on holiday or did you come across warnng notices ? Let us know what your experiences were and would it make you avoid holidaying in certain areas ?
For further information about algae :

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Friday, 17 June 2011

Fête de la Musique - 21st June

The Fête de la Musique is now one of France's main cultural events and takes place on the day of the Summer Solstice, the longest day, the 21st June.

It was launched on June 21, 1982 and is a gathering of professional and amateur musicians and singers, playing rock, jazz, classical and traditional music. The musicians are asked to play for free, and all the concerts are free for the public.

The spirit of the Fête is to play in the open air such as in streets and parks or in public buildings. The Fête de la Musique has also encouraged some of the major musical institutions such as orchestras, operas and choirs to perform outside their usual locations.

It has now been exported to over 100 different countries all over the world, including the UK, where the Alliance Francaise co-ordinates many of the events.

Now for 2011, you can download for free an Android or iPhone app to find out what's going on in your area.

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Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Le Mans 24 hr race

The Le Mans 24 Hour Race starts today, 11th June at 14.00 hrs and runs through to tomorrow at the same time. The race itself is on roads which are normally open to the public.

The cars are driven continuously through day and night by a rota of three drivers. The cars themselves actually cover more distance in the one race than a Formula 1 car does in its lifetime ! The cars can reach a speed down the straight of 20 mph faster than a Formula 1 car and yet are 40% more fuel efficient.

Watch out for Alan McNish, the Scottish driver who has won previously in 1998 and 2008.  He is driving for Team Audi and their main competitors are Team Porsche.

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Friday, 10 June 2011

Spectators's Guide to the Tour de France

If you are lucky enough to be camping near the Tour de France cycle race route this year then here are some handy tips to help you sound like a knowledgable follower of Cycling !

We went along to watch the race two years ago as it left the small town of Auray in Brittany at the beginning of a stage (or etape as its called in French) and we had a great day out.

This year the Tour runs from Saturday July 2rd to Sunday July 24th 2011, it will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,430.5 kilometres. The route varies each year but always includes some short flat sprint sections and some mountainous sections before culminating in Paris with a sprint. This year the "Grand Start" is in the Vendee and then it continues through Brittany, Normandy and Central France before heading south to the Pyrenees then across to the Alps before heading back for a final finish in Paris.

If you are able to catch the tour then go along to watch about two hours before when you will catch the "Caravane" which is a series of mad looking vehicles and characters who throw lots of freebies to the crowd - great fun !"

Then the race itself will flash past - we nearly missed it after all the waiting !  Either our watches were wrong or they set off two minutes early.

Watch out for the following jerseys - they all have a meaning !
The YELLOW Jersey is awarded to the overall leader of the race.

The GREEN Jersey is the next most prestigious and is given to the leader of the sprint sections.

The red POLKA-DOT Jersey is awarded to the rider who earns most of the points on the mountainous sections of the race. The wearer of the jersey is known as the "King of the Mountains". Scotland's Robert Millar was King of the Mountains in 1984.
The WHITE Jersey is the newest of the jerseys and was introduced in 1975. It is given to the best young rider (i.e. under 25).
To impress your friends and family as you are spectating, why not casually mention some of the more famous recent winners of the race !  These include 7 times winner and surely you must have heard of him, Lance Armstrong from USA who won between 1999 to 2005.

Then there was five time winner Miguel Indurain from Spain who won between 1991 and 1995

There were two recent major French winners, Jacques Anquetil, who won five time, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964 and Bernard Hinault who won five times in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985
And there was 5 times winner Eddy Merckx from Belgium who won between 1969 to 1972 and in 1974.

Some possible British and Irish competitors who may be competing and who you can look out for are :
  • Mark Cavendish, from the Isle of Man (I think he is in blue in the photograph above),
  • Bradley Wiggins, the three time Olympic Champion,
  • David Millar, a Scot who is one of only four British competitors to have worn the yellow jersey (the others were Tom Simpson, Sean Yates and Chris Boardman),
  • Geraint Thomas, who has been an Olympic Team pursuit champion, and,
  • Nicolas Roche, son of the Irish 1987 winner Stephen Roche 
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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Farmers' Rescue Mission to Drought Hit Region of Deux-Sevres in France

France has had drought or "la secheresse" affecting a large number of regions for a few months now. Today, Farmers from Beam in the Pyrenées-Atlantique departement which has not been so affected, have driven 200 km on a rescue mission to take hay (in French its called "paille") to farmers in Deux-Sevres (a département to the East of the Vendée) to feed their animals as the crops have just not grown in the dry weather that has hit that region.

It has been a week of unexpected weather with rain and thunder through most of France, but this has not made much impact on the very dry crops in certain regions. 

And further misery has hit farmers in an area of South East France who reported hailstones which have broken greenhouses and damaged the skins on ripe fruit crops such as peaches, cherries and pears, ruining whole harvests.

In a bid to predict what the weather might do for the next month, and whether it will suit holidaymakers and/or farmers then we can remember an old French saying about today's (8th June) Saint's day, St Médard's day"S'il pleut le jour de Saint-Médard, Il pleut quarante jours plus tard.". The saying translates as "If it rains on St. Médard, it rains for forty days after". The same would apply if it is sunny on St Médard's. So here's hoping for some better weather !

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Update on French Drought Situation

The latest update on the drought situation in France is that there is talk that some Nuclear Reactors may have to shut down temporarily as there is just not enough water available in the rivers to pump through them to cool them down. So this may lead to electricity and power shortages. Lets hope this situation improves soon.

It is pretty drastic - too little rain in France and South East of England with France reporting the hottest Spring for 100 years. Meanwhile its apparently snowed in some Alpine ski resorts with Tignes having the heaviest snowfall since November with 0.8m falling on the 1st June !  Bizarre ! And here in Scotland we've had more rain than usual - as usual !

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Weather Forecast with XC Weather

I really like this weather forecasting application from XCWeather to check out the weather in France or in the UK as well. It was recommended by a campsite manager here in the UK as we were hoping to go camping this week but the winds were far too high. So if you want to plan your camping holiday this might be a good tool to use. I like the fact you can click on the arrows to zoom into the information for a particular place.

I've no idea if its more accurate than the Met Office or the BBC or France 2 weather but we find we increasingly can't rely on forecasts so anything which helps a bit would be useful. We have even gone as far as cancelling plans for a weekend at one point only to find out the weather was lovely and I think the opposite has happened too.

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Monday, 16 May 2011

Drought continues in France

The drought is continuing in France into the month of May after a very dry Spring.

There is a meeting today of a "drought committee", which meets at the request of the Minister for Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, to take stock.
Wildlife in the Loire and Cher is threatened by drought. The sun, combined with the lack of rain has caused the rivers to be at their lowest. This could cause fish to suffocate by lack of oxygen in the limited water available.

Twenty-six départements, mainly in the West, are either limiting water supplies to certain uses or are considering doing so.

The worst hit area is the four départements of Poitou-Charentes, which have implemented the strongest measures, so have banned any watering of parks or filling of swimming pools. Poitou-Charentes is popular with tourists. It lies south of the Vendee on the West of France and includes the popular tourist resorts of La Rochelle and Cognac.
Measures are also being taken in the north of France (Somme, Oise, Eure), Ile-de-France (Essonne, Val-de-Marne, Seine-et-Marne), in the Center (Indre, Cher, Nièvre ) in the Lyon region (Rhone, Isere, Ardeche) and Eastern (Jura, Doubs, Territoire de Belfort).

But the problem extends well beyond French borders. Throughout northern Europe there have been unusually dry conditions this spring. The situation could last "a few weeks or even months" because of an area of "very persistent high pressure" announced in early May by the World Meteorological Organization.

We will need to see how this might affect holidaymakers - there may be increased risk of forest fires etc. However the worst effects will be to farmers and food production. The drought has occurred just at the time that seeds and seedlings are expected to take in the fields and when they have small root systems so this could have devastating effects on agriculture and as a result food prices in France.

Update on 24/5/11 - the Government has asked banks to be considerate to farmers who may have cash flow problems. The harvest date of 15 June has also been brought forward.  The départements which have water restrictions in place can be seen on this map of France :

Thankfully there is some rain predicted in the next week so lets hope the situation improves before this year's harvest is badly affected.

Update at 13th June - cracks have appeared in homes built on clay soil in drought hit regions and problems predicted for electricity supply if the heat and drought continues :

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Friday, 13 May 2011

New Road Safety Measures in France

As a result of an increase in road deaths seen so far this year on French roads (an increase of 20% in April and more than 10% overall since the start of the year), the French government has decided to tighten up on road safety and appears to have introduced the following measures. (from my translations of French websites - please correct me if I am wrong !) If you are planning on driving in France this summer then its important to be aware of these as they may affect you. The most severe sanctions are against alcohol and speeding, 

Using a cell phone while driving will be penalised and if you are caught holding a cell phone and using it while driving will now mean you get 3 points on your license instead of 2 points.
Drink-driving will be severely punished due to its being responsible for many traffic accidents. If a driver is arrested with a blood alcohol above 0.8 g / l, 8 points will be put onto their driver's license, currently it is 6 points. The alcohol limit is also to be lowered I believe to 0.2 g / liter. So basically avoid drinking if you plan to drive.

Fixed Speed camera position will now not be publicised on roadside signs and detection radars are to be banned in cars. I believe this excludes the type that is integral to a sat nav or gps system though. However any radar equipment which is purely for speed camera detection is now banned and also banned from sale.
It will now be regarded as a crime if break the speed limit in a 50 km/h limit zone.

Reference :

Update at 25th May 2011 : Confusion reigns about whether to remove the speed camera/radar warning signs from the roadsides in France. A number have already been removed. However they often have the effect of acting as traffic calming measures although I am sure we all know how drivers slow down when they see these signs !

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Monday, 9 May 2011

Tickets for France tourist attractions and Groupon too - Good websites to follow

I found a couple of interesting websites this week which might be worth investigating if you are looking for holiday bargains.

First of all there is a ticket observer website which might find you some deals on tickets for tourist attractions in France. It might also give you some ideas of places to visit near where you are camping.

And the other website I found is the French Groupon site  I follow this in the UK and have managed to get some deals for restaurant meals. You have to follow a particular city so I imagine you could follow the city near where you are planning to go on holiday. I have done this for France and it came up straight away with a farm visit and also an F1 simulator experience near where we are going on holiday as well as a deal for a weekend at a Gite - so could be worth trying out.

Has anyone got any experiences of these sites - either good or bad to let us know about ? Or any other useful sites to recommend ?

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Voie Verte - Green Cycle Route - Atlantic to Mediterranean !

This is fantastic - You can cycle the whole way from Bordeaux near the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea along green cycle routes (voies vertes) and canals. There is lots of information and maps available at You could do all or part of it.

Visit Carcassone, Toulouse, Beziers and other fantastic French places en route along the Canal du Midi, Canal de la Garonne and Voie Verte cycle route.

Eurocamp and Keycamp offer campsites on the coast  80km from the beginning of the route at Biscarrosse and there are lots of great campsites on and near the Mediterranean to chose from at the end in Languedoc Roussillon :

Eurocamp Domaine de la Rive, Biscarrosse

Keycamp Domaine de la Rive, Biscarrosse

Eurocamp Sites in Languedoc Roussillon

Keycamp Sites in Languedoc Roussillon

There are not really any campsites from Eurocamp and Keycamp en route though.

This is a nice blog post from "Experience France by Bike" about the difference between Voie Vertes, Veloroutes and Eurovelo :

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Accident at Disneyland Paris - 25th April 2011

There was an accident at Disneyland Paris on Monday 25th April 2011 with one man seriously injured and five others with minor injuries.

The accident took place on the Mine Train attraction. A piece of artificial resin rock fell off onto the train track, causing a train to derail and rise up and land on a carriage carrying 25 people. The injured man was airlifted to hospital and lets hope he recovers.

The attraction has been closed for the time being.

The question is,
  • is this something that could have been avoided ? Should they not be inspecting the various parts of a ride to check that there is nothing that is working loose and needs repaired or replaced, especially those parts near moving things like trains.
  • Or is this just an unfortunate accident that couldnt have been foreseen ?
I tend to think that this should have maybe been foreseen.
I have a friend who reports a terrifying ride with her young children on a ride at Disneyland Paris where she felt she was having to hold her 5 year old onto the ride. She said it wasnt even a ride that looked potentially terrifying and looked suitable for young children. I shall ask her what it was called and report back.  (I have since checked and she said it was a Nemo themed ride - no wonder she thought it would be OK for young children !)

All I can say is thank goodness I am usually too scared to go on most rides such as rollercoasters - mind you I can imagine that that mine train looks like the type of thing I might possibly have been persuaded to go on.

Update (6th June 2011) - there was recently an accident where a young girl fell out of a ride at Parc Walibi in the Rhone Alpes and it turns out that a teenager was injured when he fell out of this ride in 2003 - The accident with the young girl is attributed to the fact that the safety barrier wasnt holding her in due to size different between her and her aunt who had taken her on the ride. Lets hope she is OK.

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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Great Business French Language Site

If you are planning to work while you are in France and need to brush up some of your business French then here is a great French language course from the French broadcaster RFI. Its based around the adventures of "Daniel", a foreigner who has taken a job with a French company in Pairs. There are 20 episodes covering all aspects of business.

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Friday, 22 April 2011

Interesting French Camping Statistics from FFCC

Here are some interesting statistics from the Federation Francaise de Camping et de Caravanning (FFCC).
I may not have got my translation entirely right so if you want to check for me the original stats can be seen at

Camping is the No.1 type of holiday in France with the most numbers of "tourist beds"
French camping is the 2nd largest in the world after the United States.
France is the most popular place in Europe for camping.
People slept a total of 103 million nights in French campsites in 2009 (and increase of 4.2% over 2008)

There are 6 million French campers and 2 million foreign campers who come to France each year, with the majority being Dutch, Germans and British.

Camping in France employs more than 13 000 permanent employees in 10,430 campsites.

There are 83,051 mobile homes available for rental.

Campsites are currently graded in a star rating rather like hotels. Basic campsites, perhaps offered by a farm, might have for example just shower and washing facilities would have a 1 or 2 star rating, while if you stay in a four star campsite you might expect to find a restaurant, swimming pool, shop, tennis courts etc.
1 and 2 star campsites represent 40% of total emplacements but make up only 30% of nights, with their clientele being three quarters French.   3 and 4 star campsites make up 70% of nights and host 40% of tourists visiting France from elsewhere

The more basic campsites also tend to be smaller with 1 star campsites covering an average of 1.3 hectares while the 3 and 4 star campsites are larger, with the 4 star campsites covering an average of 5.5 hectares.

The number of emplacements in France has increased from 165,000 in 1960 to 900,000 sites late 1980.

Since 2005, camping has become very "trendy" or "chic" if we are to believe the media.

The FFCC believe that the popularity of camping has increased for a variety of reasons :
  • Economic reasons - its a low budget holiday,
  • Camping gets you closer to nature,
  • The excellent facilities offered on many campsites, and,
  • There are all sorts of varied new types of accommodations on campsites to satisfy the demands of consumers - so you can now find such things as kids' tree houses, gypsy caravans, log cabins and yurts on campsites.
A new system of classification of outdoor accommodation was launched on 1 July 2010 to replace the classification of 1993 which no longer reflected the quality of provision of campsites today.  Professionals have until July 22, 2012 to comply. Plans are to have a new grading of  "five stars" to keep up with some of the huge improvements seen on many campsites.

I hope you have found some of these statistics interesting !  I didn't realise camping was so popular in France !

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Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Great New French Cookbook !

Well I have just indulged myself and bought another cookbook !
I love this one - I just saw it in Waterstones and had a look through it. Lovely photographs of France, great classic French recipes but modified slightly to include healthier ingredients. It also has a recipe for Macarons which I got a chance to make last year on a cooking lesson in the fantastic kitchens of the restaurant at La Garanageoire campsite in the Vendee ! Now I have the recipe there is no stopping me !
I will photograph my attempts once I get my recipe book in the post next week ! Wish me luck !

Well I am pleased to report that I managed to make a batch of very tasty chocolate Macarons ! They had just the right texture - just the right amount of chewy vs crunchy. This is really a lovely cookbook. Although its also too nice to get splashs of ingredients all over as well - most of my other cookbooks have a nice "used" look about them !

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Dordogne

If you haven't chosen where to go in France for your holidays this year, then why not consider the Dordogne département, which is found within the Aquitaine region of the southwest corner of France. The region is often referred to as Périgord, a name used for the region before the French revolution

This lovely region is based around the River Dordogne which is popular for canoeing (visit Copeyre Canoe if you want to try this). The soft limestone rocks of the area has lead to some fantastic rock formations and cliffside villages as the river has eaten away at the soft rock. Water has also led to the creation of numerous limestone caverns and caves and in these you can view prehistoric cave paintings as well as stalactites and stalagmites !
The most famous of these - the Lascaux caves have now been closed to the public as damp was affecting the paintings. However a fantastic replica of the cave has been built as Lascaux II which is well worth a visit. And you can still visit original cave paintings in other caves, for example at  Grotte de Pech-Merle

If you want to see some animals which are similar to those featured in the paintings then you can visit at  Le Thot - Espace Cro Magnon near Montignac.

The buildings of the Dordogne are famed for being built in yellow limestone and grey roofs. 

The Dordogne also has chateau to visit :
Château de Marqueyssac - with its famous hanging gardens which  are some of the best kept gardens in France. There is a candlelit walk which takes place in July and August on Thursday evenings.
Château de Milandes - between Castelnaud & Berbiguiéres, which has Falconry displays several times per day and if you are brave there are night flights to observe the chateau from the house's own captive hot air balloon ! 

Château de Hautefort -one of the most prestigious châteaux in southwest france, classified as a historical monument.
Château de Monbazillac - with its vineyard and its fantastic views over the Dordogne Valley

There are also some lovely towns such as Sarlat, which is famous for its Saturday market, and Bergerac, famous for the character Cyrano de Bergerac. There is a culinary festival every July in Bergerac.

If you think the Dordogne sounds worth a visit then you will find some fabulous campsites with Keycamp and Eurocamp by clicking here :
Dordogne Campsites with Keycamp

Dordogne Campsites with Eurocamp

Or read our reviews of St Avit Loisirs and Les Peneyrals campsites in the Dordogne on

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Monday, 7 March 2011

Guide to the Eateries of France

Ever wondered about the differences between all the different types of restaurants, cafes and bars in France ?

Here's a nice little guide from Lonely Planet :

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Motorhoming with France Passion !

Excellent free one night stopovers with France Passion for self contained motorhomes and campervans. The location map shows stopovers in almost every part of France ! :

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

When is the best time to Book your Summer Camping holiday ?

If you are planning to go on a Eurocamp or Keycamp holiday then you might wonder "When is the best time to book your holiday ?"

There are usually early booking offers and late booking offers, but the particular campsite you have chosen may get booked up quickly. So the question is when is the best time to book ? 

If you are going in High Season of July and August you will really need to plan ahead if you want to go a particular site.

I have just scanned the holidays which are still available at the start of March 2011 for this summer 2011. I have found pretty good availability even for the peak of the High Season at the start of August. Only the most popular sites have limited availability.

If you are going to a very popular site you may need to book early. For example La Garangeoire in the Southern Vendee and Les Deux Fontaines in Southern Brittany at the beginning of March already nearly booked up for certain weeks of July.
The good news though is that you can reserve holidays with Eurocamp and Keycamp for as little at £100. So if you have a fairly good idea of where you want to go on holiday why not reserve it early on and then as it gets nearer the time to pay in full, you can see if you can afford to go ahead with the holiday. In these Credit Crunch times with lack of job security this is a good idea.

Two years ago we holidayed at Les Deux Fontaines in Brittany and we get to the site in late June/early July and wondered how was it so difficult to book two weeks holiday when many of the mobile homes seemed to be empty. We discovered that this is because they were maybe booked out for a holiday that started towards the end of our stay. So a holidaymaker only overlapped with us by 2 days but that meant that that particular mobile home was unavailalbe for the particular 13 night stretch that we were looking for.  However, if you are willing to move mobile home half way through your holiday or even to change site then you may find there are still options available to let you holiday in the sites or area that you have chosen.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to try "real camping" then the good news is that the Eurocamp or Keycamp tents are often the last things to book up on a site. Mobile homes seem to be more popular.

If you would like some more information to help you plan your holiday, we now have 20 different campsites in France which you can read about on our website

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Easy French News

We used this website in our French class today. Our teacher had decided we should listen to the news on "France Facile" ! ie "Easy French" !!

Its an excellent site with loads of current affairs information.

And if you cant follow all of the French first time then you can look at the script that goes along with the day's news on "Franch Facile".
I found out loads about World affairs as well as picking up some new French words.

I also like the listening exercises where you can test yourself on your understanding.

Have a go and let me know how you get on - did you find this useful ?

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Monday, 21 February 2011

How to Change Stations in Paris

France has an excellent, fast train service, with the TGV "Trains a Grand Vitesse" (literally very fast trains !) which can take you from the North to the South of France in 3 hours in comfort. A definite alternative to air travel or taking your own car to your campsite for your camping holiday !

If you need to change trains in Paris then this website has some excellent information :

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Friday, 18 February 2011

Pet Travel Scheme - Taking Your Dog to France

You can now take your dog or cat to France thanks to the "Pet Travel Scheme"(PETS) which involves your dog having its own "Pet Passport" !  The scheme applies in the following countries only: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Vatican.

This Pet Travel Scheme allows people to take their pet dogs and cats on holiday to France and then to enter back into the UK without them having to go into quarantine - however, you and your vet must follow the rules carefully - otherwise your dog or cat could end up going into quarantine or having a return journey to the UK delayed.
(I have updated these rules as of 1st January 2012 - to ensure you are also completely up to date you can refer to the DEFRA website)
The basic requirements for taking your dog to France are outlined below. If you are going to a different EU country, please check with the websites I suggest to see if there are different requirements and regulations.

To obtain a Pet Passport you have to do the following things in this order, in association with your vet  :
  • Firstly have your pet microchipped.
  • Secondly have your pet vaccinated against rabies (even if your pet has already had a rabies vaccination).
  • Previously you needed to have a blood test to make sure the rabies vaccination had worked. However this requirement appears to have been replaced with a waiting period of 21 days
  • This should all be recorded on the PETS (Pet Travel Scheme) documentation by your vet and you will be issued with your PETS Pet Passport so your pet can re-enter the UK. You can even add their photograph to aid identification ! Further detailed information about all of this is available at the DEFRA site - I  have put a link further down this article.
  • The dog will require a booster Rabies Vaccination every 3 years - make sure you get this done on time or you will be back to square one in the whole process !
Then when you are ready for your journey to France:
  • Before you set off the dog may need to be checked by a vet to approve that the dog is fit for travel. And although not necessary under the scheme, its advisable to get a tick treatment before you go as the Babesia tick is present in France but not in the UK. Some of these more dangerous ticks etc. are more prevalent in the hotter zones of the south of France.
  • When travelling remember to take all your documentation with you including the Pet Passport !
  • Check if your pet insurance covers you while abroad.
  • Take a dog ID tag which has your details of where you are staying on holiday in case your pet gets lost on holiday.
  • If travelling on a ferry, on most shorter ferry crossings your dog must stay in your car so please make sure you leave the windows ajar and make sure they have a water bowl. Preferably travel on as short a crossing as possible and make sure your dog is in a safe area eg have a dog guard across the back of your car or a secure crate. You can arrange with some ferries to check the dog during the journey, as long as sea conditions allow this to be done safely.
  • Or, if travelling on a longer ferry crossing, for example on the Brittany Ferries ships Pont-Aven, Bretagne and Cap Finistère there are kennels available on board the ship and there are also 14 dog friendly 4 berth cabins on the new Brittany Ferries Cap Finistère which can be used on longer crossings to Spain.
  • Eurostar crossings allow to you cross with your pet in the car with you which is probably the easiest way to travel.
Before your return journey to the UK :
  • Your pet must be treated by a vet in France against tapeworm using an approved treatment (not less than 24 hours and not more than 5 days before you leave). The product used for the tapeworm treatment must contain praziquantel. Ensure all your documentation is correctly completed by the vet or you may not be able to travel. (Be careful as many vets are closed on Sunday and Monday). The vet will probably also check the microchip to identify the dog.
  • Remember to check if it is a Bank Holiday when you want to return, as this will affect the opening times of vets. Also book your vet appointment as soon as you can for the return journey treatment as they can get quite full and you don't want to be refused a sailing because your pet has not got the correct paperwork.
  • Brittany Ferries website states that you should be aware that at all French ports you need to get out of the car and check the pet in, in the terminal - this can take time and be an upheaval if you are travelling alone and also have small children. Although we were able to have our dog checked in the car this year when travelling through Caen.
If you want to travel separately from your pet there are approved transport companies which can arrange this - all the same rules about visiting vets etc. will still apply).

The main DEFRA site will explain about Pet Passports and also has a link to a site explaining the risks of taking your dog or cat abroad and some of the diseases they can be exposed to which are not present in the UK :

Dogs Away is a useful organisation who, for a small fee, will help you to book in with a French vet for your visit in the 24 - 48 hour period before leaving France to get the tapeworm treatment. Well worth it even if your French language abilities aren't too bad as they are dealing with this every day so know exactly what to arrange with the vet.

Brittany Ferries Pet Travel information :
P&O Ferries information :

There is good information, particularly if you read right down to the veterinary information at:

This DEFRA information explains clearly about the blood tests, boosters and vaccinations !
If you would like to take your dog with you on a Eurocamp or Keycamp holiday then the good news is that many of the campsites allow pets although you may be restricted to certain mobile homes. However booking a site with your dog cannot be done online so for more information with Eurocamp have a look at this page :
For some excellent information about taking your dog with Keycamp have a look at

For more information about ferries and taking your pet abroad please refer to :

Here is a nice downloadable guide from Eurocamp Independent which also discusses such things as taking your dog to restaurants in France or taking them to the beach etc. :

If you are wanting to fly your dog to France - I would suggest that you shouldn't need to do this if you are emigrating - take the ferry instead - however for a complete picture here is a website about an airline to help :

  • Please remember to leave your pet with water within the car and leave the window slightly open to give your pet a comfortable journey.
  • AND when you get to France, dogs have to be properly restrained in the car so as far as I can tell you need either a dog guard, dog crate or seat belt - does anyone have more information about this ?  We also bought a muzzle to take as there was some talk that we might need this at the vets.
  • Certain breeds of dog in France need to be muzzled in public. (see below)
For information about some great campsites to take your dog please return to our main website at

Dangerous dogs :
Dangerous dogs in France are classified in 2 categories :
Category 1 are "attack dogs" which include dogs whose appearance is of American Staffordshire terrier (pit-bulls), Mastiff (boerbulls) and Tosa types (i.e. without pedigree). It is prohibited to bring these dogs into France.
Category 2 are "defence and guard dogs" - including such breeds as American Staffordshire terrier, Rottweiler, and Tosa breeds (i.e. with pedigree), and dogs of a Rottweiler type (without pedigree).
Note : the American Staffordshire Terrier breed is not to be confused with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which is not listed as a dangerous dog.
Since 1st January 2010, as a result of legislation dated 20 June 2008, all owners of dangerous dogs (category 1 and 2) in France must hold a certificate of aptitude for keeping a dangerous animal, delivered by an approved trainer, and a licence for the animal, from the local town hall (Mairie). Until modification of the law to allow category 2 dogs to be imported into France, it is advised not to bring such animals into France, whether on a temporary (holiday) or permanent basis. Sanctions may be incurred for absence of licence.