Brittany at a glance
Many first-timers see the rugged coastlines and pretty fishing villages of Brittany and Normandy something of a home away from home. In particular, the Celtic influences of Brittany lend it that delicate balance between the exotic and the familiar. To the north and west, dramatic headlands reach out into the sea, shaped by its fearsome vigour, while further south the landscape has been tamed, its vast sandy beaches, warm waters and rock pools offering an exciting playground for the kids.
The lively fishing ports are the secret to Brittany’s excellent reputation for seafood. Lobster, oysters and clams are just some of the delights you might find yourself indulging in on the seafront at Cancale or in a café at St Malo. The famous Breton crêpes are not to be missed either – sweet or savoury, they ignite the taste buds of the hungry tourist.
The villages themselves are postcard-picturesque. There is a pervading sense of the traditional in their granite buildings, the colourful fishing boats and the watchful lighthouses. From Le Conquet to Quimper, you’ll find their energy and charm irresistible.
Normandy at a glance
Normandy’s rich landscape offers enough to satisfy even the most demanding traveller. From the wild, craggy cliffs of the Cotentin Peninsula to the green pastures further inland and the fashionable resorts and sandy beaches of the Côte Fleurie, there’s plenty for the first-time explorer to discover.
The bustling cities of Rouen, Caen and Bayeux combine imposing displays of gothic architecture with the tranquillity of parks and gardens to create a vibrant yet harmonious atmosphere. With their museums, exhibitions and monuments, each reminds the visitor of France and Britain’s inextricable historical bonds. The drama of the Battle of Hastings can be imagined when viewing the Bayeux Tapestry and Caen’s Memorial Museum commemorates the 1944 D-Day Landings.
Known as the dairy of France, Normandy offers some of the finest French cheeses, including Camembert and Pont l’Eveque. A visit to the Pays d’Auge is rewarded with the region’s excellent cider and a Calvados tasting is not an opportunity to be passed up.
First timers’ perspective
Aside from their respective appeal, Brittany and Normandy are a practical option for the first-time camper. Whichever site you choose, whether it’s Camping la Briquerie (FR14180) near Honfleur in Normandy or Camping le Neptune (FR22160) in Lanloup, Brittany, you won’t have far to drive from the port, and you certainly won’t encounter narrow, twisting access roads that you might find in more mountainous regions. Brittany’s roads have the bonus of being toll-free, so there’s no need to check you’ve got the right change before setting off to discover the area.
The region’s popularity with British tourists means English is spoken widely by both campsite owners and locals. Visitors receive a warm welcome on arrival and, should you need it, there is usually a readiness to help settle in first timers who may benefit from being ‘shown the ropes’. And when it’s time to depart, a simple drive back to the port makes life easy, along with a civilised departure time from the campsite.
Before you leave:
- Check your car or caravan insurance, as well as your roadside assistance policy to ensure they provide adequate cover abroad.
- Ensure your passports are up to date and that each traveller has an GHIC card for health care cover.
- Have the relevant driving documents and equipment – such as a warning triangle and high-visibility jackets - handy.
- If you’re staying in a tent, choose one that is at least ‘one man’ bigger than you need and opt for a good quality sleeping bag.
- Taking the dog? Don’t forget to check that the campsite allows pets.
- Although campsite receptions are open for long hours, they are often closed over lunch time – plan to arrive after 2pm.
- Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself using unisex toilets or showers – they are relatively common in France. If you’d rather avoid them, ask about the site’s facilities beforehand.
- Men should have a pair of brief style trunks if they’re planning to take a dip in the pool – as a result of French law, most sites do not allow longer swimming shorts.
- Keep an eye on the kids if the site has an unfenced river, lake or stream.
- If planning to use the site’s electrical hook-up, take an extension cable (at least 25m). Most sites now use standard European sockets, and, if in doubt, the site reception will be able to help.
- Many sites offer full service pitches (‘grand confort’) but these are usually very popular and should be reserve in advance.