Camping in France: Not the same without the Brits

Domaine de La Paille Basse is a five-star campsite in the heart of the Lot countryside with 144 pitches for tents and caravans and 144 mobile homes and chalets. Connexion paid a visit to see what it is like to go camping this year

14 July 2020
The Maillard family on holiday at the Domaine de La Paille Basse campsite
By Jane Hanks

Campsites are hoping for a good season this year as open-air holidays are likely to attract holidaymakers during a summer overshadowed by Covid-19.

Campsite director Gabriel Joly

Domaine de La Paille Basse, near Souillac, is one of them. Usually, 60% of its clients come from the UK. This year is, so far, quiet. It is only half full and though mobile homes and chalets are fully booked for August, only 30 out of the 144 pitches are filled.

“Usually the site is covered in tents in July and August, but this year it looks empty. People are worried about sharing toilets and showers in communal blocks.
"That is why they prefer rented accommodation on the site with private facilities,” said Campsite Director, Gabriel Joly.

'Heartbreaking not to see our regular British customers'

“It is heartbreaking not to see all our regular British customers. One couple have been coming for 33 years, but now they are in their 70s they rang to say they are sorry but they cannot risk the journey. There are very few reservations from the UK for July or August. This year is very different.”

He said more French clients have booked places. Some have never camped before, but think it is a good solution for this summer: “You can tell their tent is brand new, bought for the occasion.

"Most do not have a big holiday budget and come for short periods, a weekend or three or four days to escape the big cities and we have some coming from Languedoc because they say there are too many people by the Mediterranean so they prefer to come to a less crowded area.”

Read more: Of course Britons are welcome, say French tourism officials

A break after Covid

The Phelippot couple, who live near Rennes, were by the pool with their three children.

The Phelippot family

Both parents work in a retirement home and felt they deserved a break after confinement: “We made a last-minute booking to come here for some sunshine and felt that a holiday on a campsite would be ideal this year.

"It is easy to keep social distancing rules and we are having a lovely time.”

Aurélien and Théodora Maillard are both laboratory technicians from Paris, who also wanted a break from Covid-19 work. They were with their two children Anna and Antoine: “We came here last year and it was magnificent. So at the end of June we decided coming back would be the best way to have a holiday. It is very calm and not at all complicated to stay here.”

The Martels - Michèle, Céline and baby Matthis - travelled from Paris, too, and have family in the area: “We thought the best solution to see them but be separate was to stay in the campsite. We are here for a long weekend and will be back in August. We are in a chalet, there are not many people and so we feel we have a bit of freedom at last.”

The Martels

Health measures

Mr Joly said the campsite has implemented all the necessary health measures and there are signs throughout the campsite advising people on social distancing and when to wear a mask.

They ask that clients respect the 1m distance rule from people not in their group, to wear masks in the shop and when ordering in the restaurant, and only two people are allowed in Reception at a time.

They follow cleaning protocols and respect the six-hour gap between outgoing and incoming clients. Activities and entertainment have been adapted so they can only accept half the usual numbers at the mini-club for children, but they are able to run some entertainment such as quizzes, concerts and karaoke, disinfecting the microphone between each participant.

“Everything is running really well, but you can sense people are a little wary - and though people are having a good time there is not quite the same conviviality that, for me, camping is all about.”

Read more: France's undiscovered holiday locations

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