Camping without plans in France and Spain
January, 28 2020
Some people plan their camping holiday down to the last detail, but others choose the “I’ll see where the wind takes me” mentality. I normally like to plan my trip, but last summer I changed “camp”. With my good friend I travelled to France and Spain without having booked or planned anything. Going where the wind took us, and looking for adventure! Read about how we liked it and which problems we ran into here.
No plans at all?
Going where the wind takes us – it sounds very cool, so let me note one thing right away; hitchhiking or pitching our tent next to a grazing cow in a meadow weren’t things we were willing to do. Also, these (not so) tough adventurers decided to book their first campsite.
Our shared desire to visit the French landing beaches made it easy to choose a starting point: Normandy. And then after the first campsite we’d see where we ended up.
The first campsite: a bit too quiet
In the small town of Tournières we found our first home away from home at Campsite Le Picard. An old-fashioned, authentic campsite where the owner still awaits your arrival and gives you a friendly welcome. Very uplifting. In a very small reception building we got an explanation about the campsite and its surroundings.
It immediately became clear to us that people come here to rest. A small swimming pool, a fishing pond and a playground were the only entertainment. And apart from a snoring neighbour, the campsite was completely quiet in the evening and at night.
We immediately agreed: a little more entertainment wouldn’t have gone amiss. Unfortunately, the surrounding villages did not offer a solution either. The restaurants, pavement cafes and pubs were all closed. It was like walking through ghost villages! With our two guitars we provided our own entertainment at our tent. Strumming the guitar while enjoying a nice cup of coffee is certainly a good way to spend the evening!
The landing beaches of the Second World War will stay with us for a long time. This place breathes history, you can really sense that something violent happened here. The American cemetery is very special. Don’t forget to take a walk through the German trenches. The entrance can be found at the Battery of Maisy. Here you can also admire the large cannons and an Allied landing craft.
Many war relics are for sale here as souvenirs. Broken helmets, shrapnel, parts of weapons, all kinds of stuff. The collector will certainly have plenty to admire. We bought some wartime postcards. The lady in the shop translated the stories on the cards for us. That way, we were confronted even more closely with life during that time.
Expensive ice cream at Le-Mont-Saint-Michel
The next day we visited the world famous Mont-Saint-Michel. We took some beautiful pictures, but we felt the landing beaches had been much more impressive. Mont-Saint-Michel turned out to be a typical tourist attraction, and we quickly ticked it off our list. A tip for anyone thinking of going there: pack your own snacks. Ice cream costs €4.20 a scoop in the streets of Mont-Saint-Michel. So we decided to go without for the day.
Back at the campsite we discussed the rest of our trip. In addition to sun and sea, we decided we’d also like a bit more excitement. Because I used to camp in Spain a lot, I knew a nice spot and the choice was easily made. We packed up and left early the next morning for Camping Laguna.
Coming home to Spain
After a journey of almost 12 hours (with stops) we arrived at Campsite Laguna. For me, it felt like coming home. I had been there at least ten times before. I could find my way to the bakery and the swimming pool with my eyes closed. The contrast with our campsite in France could hardly be more pronounced. Almost every pitch was occupied and there was lots to see and do. That was exactly what we needed!
The friendly staff had a pitch for us near the beach. “What a great pitch, a miracle it was still free,” we said to each other. But we soon realised why it had still been free: there wasn’t a hint of shade. And the hot Spanish sun meant that we would have really liked some shade, especially since we hadn’t brought anything to deal with the sun or heat. Better preparation would certainly have made a difference.
But fortunately you can come a long way with a little assertiveness. A nice spot became available the next day and we immediately reported to the reception. Changing our pitch was no problem at all. That’s how we conquered a nice spot in the shade.
Change of plans
Initially the plan was to stay in Spain for three days, but we stayed more than a week. Because we hadn’t booked another campsite, we were very flexible. The town of Empuria Brava was a great place to go out at night and we had a great time in the sea and the swimming pool. No reason to go anywhere else!
In the car to Spain we had already researched cities and villages that we could visit and we had even made a list of favourites. But in the end, nothing came of that list, and that was fine! We took every day as it came, relaxed, and enjoyed our time to the fullest.
After a week of sun, sea, beach and ‘cerveza’ we decided it was time to leave. We were looking forward to some action, but we also wanted to start making our way back north. Using our smartphones we compared a few regions and campsites. In the end, we opted for Campsite Rives d’arc in the Ardèche and were already looking forward to a nice canoe trip.
Kilometres of canoeing in the burning sun
Our stay at Campsite Rives d’arc was short, but intense. Immediately after arrival we booked the canoe trip we had already read about. But how far? 7, 15 or 32 kilometres? We were advised not to take the shortest route and decided to go for the longest route. In the burning sun, 32 kilometres was quite a challenge, but we got back well in time for the last shuttle back to the starting point.
With a healthy dose of muscle pain in our arms and shoulders, we took it easy the next day. After a quiet breakfast we did do something that was only a little bit active. By spending a few hours geocaching we got to know our surroundings a little better. This playful cross between hiking and a treasure hunt is something we can recommend to everyone. You only need a smartphone!
We ended the holiday with live music at the campsite and a nice evening meal. A day later we drove back to the Netherlands, relaxed and satisfied
Worth doing again?
Reading between the lines I’m sure you will have realised that an unplanned holiday was the right choice for us. The lack of preparation did, of course, give rise to a few challenges. A somewhat boring environment in Normandy and the Spanish pitch without shade are good examples of this. We were able to solve these issues quickly by continuing on our journey and by asking the friendly reception desk for help.
In the end, the advantages of camping without planning ahead easily outweighed the disadvantages. We camped with a lot of flexibility and without stress. In case of bad weather or a disappointing campsite we could just move on. We also easily adjusted our plans during the trip. There was no next campsite booked, so we felt completely free. We would definitely do it again!
Have you ever gone camping without any concrete plans? And what did you think of it? Did you face any challenges or do you have any good tips? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!