Daily life at a campsite in France

With two children, a husband and a dog, Alinda left for South-West France 15 years ago. There, this family from Brabant started a different life, in the middle of the countryside, full of plans and expectations. During the summer months, they run a mini campsite and offer a gîte for rent. Read more about everything that is involved in this in the Spottocamp blog.

Brabant France Emigrate Starting a campsite

Alin
May 16, 2022

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When, after much delay, our campsite was established, we were at the beginning of a new challenge. The terrain was ready to receive guests, the sanitary building shone from all sides and we were looking forward to it. Full of enthusiasm, and also a bit nervous, we received our guests and mastered the role of host and hostess. Dutch and French guests, but still mainly Dutch. Real camping with a tent or caravan is too adventurous for most French people. They prefer to book a 'mobile home', or a square mobile home, fully equipped with sanitary facilities and air conditioning. Something we find terribly unsociable. With us, you will find a site that offers a beautiful view and provides for the basic needs of the true camper.

It is really great to be able to meet different people all the time; campers who like to walk off the beaten track and find it special to discover new things. The culture, the cuisine and the nature. It results in nice conversations and it is cosy. But managing a campsite also means cleaning. A lot and often. And we only have one mini campsite! The sanitary facilities have to be impeccable and the grounds have to be in tip-top shape. Maintenance, especially mowing the grass, takes a lot of time during the season. A swimming pool is also laborious. Every summer morning starts with cleaning and sweeping. Preferably after everyone has showered, then you can work undisturbed. The toilets, showers, washbasins and the kitchen sink are cleaned at least once a day. If there are a lot of people, we do it again in between.

Daily chore: separating waste
We want to work as sustainably as possible; we separate the waste and compost the green waste. We ask our guests to help us do this, but in practice there is a lot of sorting to be done. Wear rubber gloves and start sorting! We sort out all the rubbish and still make a lot of profit. We have chickens and horses, and last year also pigs. The latter ended up in the freezer and for the other animals there is still quite a bit of bread and vegetable waste left over.

Running a campsite? It is the people who make the difference and the encounters that are worthwhile.

Last-minute bookings for the campsite
During the summer months, everything is focused on the guests. Because we only have a small campsite there is enough time left for family activities. But everything is always mixed up. You keep an eye on the phone and check your e-mail several times a day. Because as it turns out, holidaymakers are increasingly choosing to pay a last-minute visit or call the same day for a stay. It happens that the campsite is virtually empty in the morning and that all the spaces are occupied by evening.

Campfire
We have set up a central fire pit. Making a campfire is the way to get the camping guests together. It is very cosy, in the evening around the fire, and it leads to good conversations. We bring a bottle of wine and a few beers and share them with the guests. We need wood for the campfire, which we collect in the neighbouring forest and all our prunings also go into the fire. It is fun for children at the campsite to collect wood for a mega-fire. And above all: make a fire until you drop!

Hiking in the mountains
Over the years we have hiked quite a few trails to see if they are interesting for our guests. Many of our visitors come especially for that. The beautiful mountains also invite them to do so. Hiking in the mountains is very different from hiking in the 'flat' Netherlands. Much more challenging, exciting and adventurous. It means that many of the campers leave early in the morning and only return to the campsite later in the afternoon. Full of stories and experiences. It's great to hear those enthusiastic reports. We have also set out a walk from the campsite. A nice round trip of a few hours that also brings you back to the campsite. Before the start of the season, we redraw the markings but somehow our interpretation of the route is not always clear enough. This often leads to funny situations where our neighbours put the 'lost' hikers back on the right track. Every year we resolve to add more arrows and landmarks. It's an adventurous hike!

Parlez-vous Français?
Besides the physical work on the campsite, there are all kinds of other requests that come your way. In general, Dutch people have some trouble with the French language. Now and then some translation work is needed to assist the guests. Car trouble, caravan trouble or a doctor's visit. Sometimes it means that you have to jump in on the spot, sometimes a simple phone call is enough. That is a disadvantage of France; there are few people who speak English, although younger people are becoming more proficient in this language. But the willingness of the people is great and with hands and feet you can get far. Google-translate is a godsend on holiday.

Setting up the campsite, making preparations and getting everything
readyMost of the work is done in all the preparations for each new season. All winter and part of spring, all activities come to a halt. We literally don't look back and have to rebuild and set up everything from scratch. That starts with mowing the lawn. We have to use a lawnmower and a brushcutter to cut everything down to size. Then we tackle the small campsite building with sanitary facilities. All sorts of animals and insects have taken it as their winter home. We find nests of seven sleepers, mice and the occasional rat. Spiders find the climate in the building pleasant. There is nothing else to do: get rid of everything! All the things that we keep there during the winter, out! Dusting, cleaning and sweeping. Remove the cobwebs, clean all the tiled walls and scrub the floors! Once that job is done, there are a hundred other things to prepare. Find out if all the information from last year is still up-to-date and get new brochures from the tourist office. Check all the electricity boxes; does everything still work? The swimming pool: cleaning it, putting in new water and switching on the pump. And then the best part: filling the flower boxes with summer flowers. Everything ready for the visitors!

Frying kilos of chipsWe
do not have a restaurant on the campsite. But we do offer some simple food. Twice a week we fry fries. This means that our fryer works overtime on those two evenings. There are really kilos of fries in there. Those are busy evenings but very enjoyable! Our children used to love it: thanks to the guests they also got fries twice a week during the holidays! Furthermore, we offer table d'hotes at least once a week: enjoy sitting at our table. A shared meal that offers just that little bit more than the standard camping food. But again: nice stories that show people's sincerity. That is actually the conclusion of running a campsite: it is the people who make the difference and the encounters that are worthwhile. We can rely on that for a whole winter!