Approaching the end of another trip around La Belle France. As usual, Francine and I had to decide how best to approach the unwelcome journey north: three easier days or two longer days. Also as usual, once we get onto our favourite farm near Fanjeaux with the very hospitable Luc and Nadine, we have difficulty dragging ourselves away. Predictably, we elected to go for two longer days, maximizing our time in pastoral heaven.
Today we dragged up to Neung-sur-Beuvron in La Sologne. This was a minor deviation from our originally intended stop. For the last hour or so of our trip heading north on the autoroute, we had been passing beaucoup des bouchons (many traffic jams) of eager French holidaymakers attempting to head south with what must be described as restricted success. Bouchons on the French autoroutes are relatively rare because most are toll roads and quite expensive. The French concentrate their holidays into the second half of July and first three weeks of August and, being a week later than usual in our return, we were crossing swords with the first big holiday migration weekend of the season for the French when even some of their roads get busy. The newspapers gave almost as much coverage to the French annual migration as they did to the lamentable performance of Les Bleus (the French national football team) in the World Cup. (I’m told it was bad but I don’t “do” football so wouldn’t be able to judge.)
Approaching the junction prior to our intended clamber-off point, a sign greeted us announcing an accident 7 kms/4 mls ahead. After 550 kms/350 mls we had no wish to sit in a bouchon ourselves so we exited early to a backup campsite. We’d used this site before and it had been very quiet. It had also been the site where, from the local supermarché, I experienced the most disgustingly undrinkable wine ever. I actually poured two bottles of it around an unlucky oak tree which doubtless succumbed shortly thereafter, so bad was it. I offer this ability to discard a drink as proof against my alcoholism. Anyway, this time the site was heaving, mostly with Satan’s little helpers, rugrats. There were three huge groups camping in tents. We were about as far away from them as it was possible to get and basically OK but one night was enough.
The French habit of swarming away en masse in late July and August leaves the country exceptionally civilized outside of this period. This effect doesn’t occur in England which always seems busy from April to October. In fact, we had trouble getting on a campsite at New Year, the depths of winter.
We used to travel to France in the high season and, to be fair, only once in over 25 years have we failed to get onto a campsite because it was full. However, our recent travels in quieter times have spoiled us and the disappointment of going home has been lessened a little.