No Room at the Inn

Having determined to leave, the morning at Fanjeaux dawned blue. This, however, proved to be like a classic English false dawn in that it soon began to cloud over.

We’d been invited for a coffee at the owners’ farm house and we called in at 09:00 to bid them farewell. As we were leaving just before 10:00 the blue sky had all but disappeared. Not that I doubted it for one minute but we’d made the right decision.

We had decided to head for the Mèze area. It’s one of our favourites. In truth, it’s where I want to live. Mèze is a pleasant town with a delightful harbour surrounded by decent seafood restaurants featuring, of course, wonderful oysters from the Basin de Thau, on which it nestles.

The most convenient campsite for this area, for those with bicycles, anyway, is the camping municipal at Loupian. Being a municipal it is, of course, not flash but that suits us. We’ve stayed there several times.

After our earlier visits, the Loupian campsite became an ACSI site. ACSI is a Dutch camping organization and is, in my book, little short of the mark of the Devil. ACSI offers a fixed price “deal” for two with electricity. It acts as a magnet for the deal-seeking Dutch, taking custom away from independent sites and concentrating custom on the ACSI sites. So, Loupian is now much busier than it ever used to be.

Enter 2024: with the weather over most of France being as bad as it was in the UK, Provence and the Mediterranean coast have reportedly been inundated by campers that might otherwise be enjoying other parts of France. We’ve seen posts saying, “Provence is full”.

We arrived at Loupian at about 11:30 – the accueil closes between 12:00 and 14:00. Provence wasn’t all that was full, Loupian was also full. Honestly, with the weather and the swarming Dutch, I had feared as much. This is only the 2nd time we’ve seen a full campsite in the 40+ years that we’ve been camping in France. The last time was over 30 years ago during the main holiday season and on that occasion, since there wasn’t a nearby alternative, the owner allowed us to stay on the hardstanding outside the gates and use the facilities.

Bother! On to plan B.

There was a desperation plan C which was a CCP (like an Aire de Camping Car) nearby but a few years ago we had discovered Camping Villemarin, an aire naturelle, about half way between Mèze and Marseillan, 5kms to either. We headed for that with all our fingers crossed.

It’s only a spit and we arrived before midday so wouldn’t disturb lunch. I asked if there was a pitch, and the owner asked for how many nights. I tried four. He consulted his manual booking system. Thumbs up – excellent! We were shown to the same pitch we’d had last year and were very happy. We settled down to lunch.

Clearly trying to find another pitch in the sunny bits of the south of France given this year’s situation was going to prove difficult. We began to wonder how long we might be able to stay. I went and asked. Our pitch didn’t seem to be booked for a good while so we could essentially stay as long as we wanted. We’re here until June 30th. Brilliant! Of course, we may have to have a couple of plateaux de fruits de mer while we’re here. Well, rude not to, really.

Nymphs, VillemarineWe were enjoying a sunny afternoon, nicely relaxed since we had a home until we had to head north, when I spotted an odd “discolouration” on Frodo. Upon closer inspection, the discolouration proved to be a little clutch of shieldbug nymphs still around their egg cases. Given being inundated by Brown Marmorated Shieldbugs here last year, I performed a quick internet search and, sure enough, these were 1st instars of the same beast. We’d imported several, inside Frodo, back to the UK and now Frodo had given birth to the next generation. Quite why the female had chosen to oviposit on Frodo, with no ready food supply for her offspring, I know not. These little guys are hardly 2mm across. The egg cases look interesting, too, with a sort of black butterfly design on them.

Nymphs pair, VillemarineI saw that three at least, of the diminutive siblings, had broken away from the cluster and gone walkabouts, perhaps in search of a non-existent food source. There are apparently about 100 food plants but a Ford transit based motor home isn’t one of ‘em. I may have to try relocating the little darlings to try to give them a fighting chance.

So, the net result of this is that we’ve figured out one of the main breaches in biosecurity. The Brown Marmorated Shieldbug was apparently first reported in England in 2021. Given our experiences of ferrying them to England from southern France in 2023, I would not be surprised to learn that it was motor homes and caravans returning from the continent that were responsible.

Posted in 2024 Summer