On our last trip through Spain and France en route to the UK, something struck me that’s never occurred to me before. When we visit the UK in spring or summer, we tend to travel by motor home, driving up through Spain and France, then reversing the process. On the way back to the UK on our last trip, we also camped in Shropshire, as it was convenient for a family get together, so it was the first time we’ve camped Spanish, French and English in a single trip, and we certainly noticed some differences.
UK camp sites really need to be pretty. They don’t necessarily have to be full facility, but they should be located in beauty spots to attract the campers. The site we used – Riverside in Bridgnorth, Shropshire – was up close and personal with the River Severn, and it was full to bursting point, even in late April, before the camping season had really got going. They were pretty hot on recycling, with bins everywhere to encourage campers to sort and separate their rubbish.
UK camp sites always expect you to pay before you park. We were newly arrived in the UK, and didn’t have much cash other than Euros, and the site didn’t have card facilities. As soon as we’d pitched, we had to head into Bridgnorth in search of a cash point. That’s never an issue in France and Spain. However, if we’re just staying overnight in transit, we tend to pay up front rather than hang around for the office to open next morning, but it’s not expected.
French camp sites are also often located at beauty spots – although there are ‘Aires’ – motor home friendly camping areas – right in the middle of
towns and villages. The French are also pretty hot on recycling, and they make a point of asking if you want to order bread or croissants for ‘le petit dejeuner’ next morning. Okay, you’ll pay more than if you headed off to the boulangerie yourself, but it’s succour for the soul to breakfast on fresh croissants or pains au chocolate, without needing to step off site to buy them.
In one fundamental area, though, French camp sites are very different to their UK counterparts – they’re a lot cheaper, even with full facilities. The site we used south of Bordeaux on our return journey cost less than €12 a night, including electric, showers and use of the swimming pool.
The next night was a different story, but by then we were in Spain. The site we stayed on in Puzol, north of Valencia, looked like a gypsy encampment, to put it bluntly. The pitches were large, but all tarmac, with not a blade of grass in sight, and we were packed in like sardines. If it hadn’t been so late – around 8.30pm – we’d have rolled on, but we just had to stump up the requested €30 – yes, just for una noche – and make the best of it.
Thinking back over previous trips, we’ve always paid more on Spanish camp sites, and they’ve usually been rather scruffy, compared to their French and UK counterparts. But at least the site owners were very welcoming, and we got on well with the other campers because we were so closely packed, so we enjoyed our overnight stops. However, there is a big difference between the camping experiences in Spain, France and the UK. Maybe you have your own observations and examples to add?
I’m not being negative here – we’ll do it all again next time we go back to the UK, and enjoy it as always. Vive la difference, as they say in France!