Cap [not much] Fun

Way back in 2007, we were in France shortly after the eminent Mr. Stein’s French Odyssey programmes. In one episode, he visited a town called Bazas which, he said, was France’s prime beef capital. We’d never heard of it but we thought it would be a jolly wheeze to check it out and try to get some for the BBQ. Francine found what sounded like a pleasant rural campsite just outside Bazas within walking distance, just a couple of kilometres or so from the centre.

We duly arrived and it it did look like just our kind of habitat, which is to say a rural environment with little to distract from the serenity. To check in we were met by a very pleasant owner who, on hearing that we were here to try some beef, proceeded to educate us by giving us a brief lesson. Apparently, “il y a trois races”, he began. I’m pretty sure that, at that time, he mentioned Charolaise, Limousine and Bazadaise. He impressed upon us that Bazadaise was king and the one to go for. We went to get set up.

Once settled, armed with our new beef knowledge, we walked into town in search of suitable beef for our portable Weber. The central square of Bazas is dominated by a cathedral opposite which we found what looked like a very traditional butcher. We entered somewhat nervously and attempted to explain to the butcher what we were after. Everything went well. He made straight for what looked like a thick piece of sirloin steak. It was actually thick enough to have been cut into two decently sized individual steaks but we thought we’d leave it whole – it should cook better that way. M. Boucher stroked the meat lovingly and we received our second lesson of the day, “bien assaisonner”, he said, “c’est très important”. Well, quite, I’m all for a bit of good seasoning.

The beef was very good. Having previously bought beef in France only from supermarkets, it has been very disappointing but this showed there was very good beef to be had.

Fast forward to 2023. We’d enjoyed getting reacquainted with our friends in Arçais but it was now time to move on. Francine’s initial plan was to revisit a centre of oyster production near Les Mathes hopefully to enjoy a plateau de fruits de mer. Meteo France, however, had other ideas; storms were due to batter that part of the west coast. We needed a plan B.

We could head down towards our favourite dairy sheep farm near Carcassonne calling in at Bazas en route for another sampling of their beef. The campsite seemed to be still in the book but the entry rang alarm bells; there was mention of a water park on site. Hmmm.

CapFunThe journey went well and, on entering Bazas, we began following the old campsite signs. Nothing looked familiar. We were confronted by large “CapFun” signs and what looked like a new entrance road which took us up towards huge water slides and land covered in wooden cabins. We couldn’t actually see any area for camping, neither was there an obvious reception office but we parked and eventually found it.

CapFun is a chain, a little like Center Parcs. All the staff wear bright red T-shirts emblazoned with “CapFun” and point to it every time they refer to it – brand awareness, I suppose. It is, of course, a magnet for the breeding majority and I’m sure fulfils a useful purpose but it is far from our usual habitat. On our 2019 excursion into former East Germany our first night stop in Belgium had been on a CapFun and that had been little short of a nightmare – we had to beg to move pitches. However, there was no alternative campsite in the near vicinity so needs must and we checked in for the night.

CapFun night haltHidden by what must have been about 200+ wooden cabins, there was a small area for 15 or so travelling campers which we were directed to. The pitches were actually a good size and we found an appealing one with some shade then deployed our shop blind awning for more. We have a feeling that this area may have been a part of the original (pleasant) campsite. Time to wander in to get some Bazadaise for our new Cadac gas grill.

Bazas centreWe found what was, I’m sure, the same butcher opposite the imposing front of the cathedral and waited while two ladies were served [don’t take that the wrong way]. My turn. Disaster, the man had no Bazadaise. In fact,  he had hardly anything that wasn’t large enough to serve King Henry VIII as a banquet rib roast. I suppose it was a bit late in the day, being the afternoon opening session. There really was only one piece suitable, from which he cut two modest steaks. This time the breed was Blonde d’Aquitaine which is a new one on me. Still, so be it.

Our beef was tasty enough but little to write home about. So, pleasant campsite with informative man gone and no Bazadaise. Our overnight stay was actually quite reasonable, unlike the Belgian equivalent but it can’t be said to have been a successful visit.

Posted in 2023-06 France

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