[I know, posted out of sequence again.]
The French have a lovely word for heatwave: canicule. It’s not just the Brits with an obsession about the weather, the French are banging on about a canicule now. Parts of France were forecast to hit 40°C yesterday which is a tad too much even for a heat-seeking tourist such as Franco. Fanjeaux was reportedly up at 37°C the day before we returned but yesterday we were at a hot but relatively comfortable 33°C. Today, we were setting out on the first stage of our journey back north to the area that had been baking in a slow meteorological oven at 40°C. A departure committee of four of the regular camping couples de Fanjeaux hugged and waved us off.
The main feature of yesterday’s 33°C was the strong, hot wind that accompanied it. Clearly, we were in a fan oven. This morning was no exception; the wind continued. Towing a caravan in a strong wind can be unpleasant at best but fortunately the wind was blowing from the east, helping us on to our first obstacle of Toulouse, about 45 minutes away. Helpful information boards across the autoroute declared “Vent violent”. No shit! With the tail wind, though, we sailed along with ease and, as we sat in the gare de péage with Francine paying the toll, the extent of our wind assistance became clear; we’d averaged 38mpg. How much!? 38mpg is unheard of towing Guillaume, nudging 30mpg is considered v. good.
Once beyond the first obstacle of Toulouse, we turned north and the vent violent calmed. Now we began seeing further helpful information boards across the autoroute declaring “Canicule: hydratez vous”. “Pass me a beer, Francine” – just kidding. 😀
We were heading a few kilometres north of Limoges. Our interest was a former peat digging area, now a nature reserve, called Les Tourbières des Dauges. It’s an area that another dragonfly fan told me about and I was keen to try somewhere new. As usual, finding a suitable campsite was the first challenge. Passing further comforting “Canicule: hydratez vous” signs every few kilometres, we re-examined the choices in our book and opted for one at Bonnac-la-Côte that was said to be shaded. Clearly, with the prospect of sitting on the centre shelf of a moderate oven at 30-something degrees C, Anglo-Saxons were going to need some shade so we opted for that one, even though it looked expensive being a 5-star Castels site.
As we passed Limoges and approached, Primary Navigation Officer overrode Sally Satnav, who was about to send us along what looked like it might be a narrow lane and got us to the campsite in time for a slightly late lunch (baguette collected en route). This site seems to be used by our Caravan Club. I wandered into the reception area and leapt into my now practiced best French to ask for a pitch. The lady responded in French, then switched to English, complete with a sort of apology for doing so, declaring that she was English. Fair enough.
1st July is the start of high season so I suspected that prices had gone up.
“What’s the nightly rate?”, I asked.
“It’s just gone up,” she confirmed, “it’s €35 a night”. [Low season, incidentally, was, I think, €29.]
Fortunately, my heart continued to beat. The most I can remember paying for a campsite in France prior to this was a few centimes under €20. Trust the Caravan Club to go for something expensive. We were in unknown financial territory. The shaded description would in practice have more accurately been part shaded but we found an Anglo-Saxon-friendly pitch with a couple of large trees suitably positioned relative to the passage of the sun and got Guillaume settled.
Being a 5-star campsite we’d usually avoid this like the plague ‘cos the attendant swimming pool and play area attract doting mothers with hoards of Satan’s Little Disciples. Besides, we don’t use the equally expensive restaurant and bar, either. Thus. it’s like paying for a bunch of facilities we neither want nor use. We knew it would be expensive but thought we’d treat ourselves to some convenience. The choices around our targeted nature reserve were limited. The pitches are a decent size, though, and we are in the grounds of an old Chateau, whose photogenic appeal would be vastly improved without electric buggies and white plastic chairs adorning its façade.
There were some deer – well, three – fenced off in the grounds but the most interesting thing was this tree standing alone in the middle of a sizeable lawn. From a distance it had us thinking Horse Chestnut given the shape of the flower clusters but, of course, it was much too late for one of those to be in flower. Close up it looked quite different, both flowers and leaves. Fortunately there was a name label helpfully displayed within the curious structure of branches, the largest of which seemed to descend to the ground and then grow back upwards. It is a North American Catalpa, apparently. No, we’d never heard of it either. 🙂
For the price of this campsite I’d expect a luxurious sanitary block with gold-plated taps but in practice the sanitary block feels decidedly tired. Most of the doors are painfully low for anyone over 5’ 8” and I comprehensively brained myself on doorframes twice. Ouch! I’d also expect Wi-Fi to be inclusive but the cheeky bastards want another €6 a day, and it isn’t even all over the site. I enjoy a good joke but someone’s having a laugh.
At about 9:00 PM on a short walkabout to settle our baked salad, we spotted a dragonfly hawking about part of the campsite. I didn’t get a good look but flying at this time of evening, I can only think that it was an Western Spectre/Dusk Hawker (Boyeria irene). Maybe I’ll get a chance to investigate tomorrow evening, though the chances of it settling are very slim.
Now to try to get an expensive and very hot night’s sleep.