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Want to Meet the Locals? Try Camping

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Oct 19th, 2016, 01:29 PM
  #1
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Want to Meet the Locals? Try Camping

Very few folks here talk about camping as an option when planning a European vacation but IMO more should - especially folks with kids and especially those who want to meet and mix with the locals - something you really have to do when camping.

Forget tent camping and mud- European campgrounds more and more have chalets or motor homes to rent out on the site- good if going to one locale.

Or rent an RV ('camping car') as many Europeans do and travel around.

There are camps everywhere - all major cities have at least one or usually several on their edges or sometimes like in Florence, Amsterdam or London right in the cities proper.

Camps have great facilities usually (inevitably there is some kind of rating with stars) - nice communal showers (some RVs may have douches in them) and WCs (but bring your own TP and maybe even toilet seat!).

I've camped by bike, by train and by car- I've always used a tent but for most that is impractical- lugging camping gear around on a bike is OK - on trains more a hassle in getting to the camps but in cars fine. But few Europeans tent camp and a nice RV can make camping downright luxurious.

RV camping is not really cheap however asrental fees can be staggering depending on type and driving a heavy vehicle of course consumes a lot of petrol. But if wanting to meet the locals camping can't be beat.

Typically you fix your own food in your self-catering RV and in nice weather eat out front - rather close to many others - you see the same neighbors every day - there are often pubs on the premises as well as basic grocery/needs stores.

GREAT FOR KIDS!
I highly recommend camping for kids - camps are family-oriented and have lots of things for kids to do - like usually a nice swimming pool and play equipment. Language is no barrier on the kids' playfields.

TO BE CONTINUED

ANYONE HAVE CAMPING EXPERIENCE TO TELL ABOUT?
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Oct 19th, 2016, 01:40 PM
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I would LOVE to camp by bike in Europe someday. It would not have occured to me that there were non tent options or that one could also camp by train. What does onsite lodging usually cost? Is it fairly easy to sight see? Are you generally talking private campgrounds or public land like state parks here in the US?
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Oct 19th, 2016, 01:53 PM
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Are you generally talking private campgrounds or public land like state parks here in the US?>

Mainly private campgrounds and some run by municipalities but TMK there is no system of state parks or national parks with organized campgrounds - better camps are privately run. Camping municipals may have austere facilities at times -like even Turkish toilets!

But there are zillions of private camps - EVERYWHERE but most are not in national park-like areas but especially along the seaside or around any sizable city or actually even tiny ones with those Camping Municipals which could be a place in the local stadium.

will try to answer other questions later.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 01:55 PM
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There are gorgeous campgrounds, 2-4 stars all around where we live. I would never recommend them for meeting "locals." The clientele is mainly from other parts of Europe - the UK, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Cengtal Europe...very very few French, and obviously not "locals" - why would they need to camp nearby where they live?

They all have non-tent options, but they may not be cheap. The nearest campgrounds to us, which are 3 and 4 stars, cost about 500 € a week for a mobilehome for 4 people. They do have great swimming pools and playgrounds for kids and weekly animations and concerts and food tastings and such, and the good ones have nice cafés with good food at cheap prices. Plus kayaks and canoës and bicycles for hire.

I don't know what you mean, marvelousmouse, by ïs it fairly easy to sightsee?" It depends on the location of the campground and what you have for transportation, obviously.

We lived in a fancy trailer in a local campground for two months while our house was being renovated. It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't bad, either.

BUT there is NO WAY I would suggest doing this to "meet locals." For very obvious reasons, locals aren't camping in their own locales. DUH.

I would also mention that in recent years campgrounds in France have been rife with drug salespeople from The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. Everyone in my neighborhood knows if you want drugs (and I'm talking meth and heroin and coke, not just mariuana), you go to the Brin d'Amour campground up the hill, which is basically an illegal drug pharmacy. Not true of all campgrounds, for sure, but there is no end of Dutch druggies coming into France and setting up campground drug shops in high season.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:09 PM
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Municipal campgrounds are ubiquitous in France, but they have only tent and campervan hookups, minimal facilities, and are bleak, at least the ones near us are. We often go to drop our rubbish off at the municipal rubbish drop-off, which is where the municipal campground is, and ask ourselves how anyone could think this was a pleasant vacation. Sometimes, if you're lucky, they are near the municipal swimming pools, which are also rather bleak, and can be a short walk into town. But unless you are a vagrant and really looking to live the most spare life possible, they aren't much fun. We drive by people sitting outside their campervans in the municipal campgrounds in Les Eyzies and Le Bugue all the time, and they look like people who are just barely beyond homeless, sitting at a fold-out card table with a starving dog by their side, an old radio blaring, some laundry hanging on a string outside their camper, staring into the distance...doesn't look like a pleasant vacation.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:14 PM
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Yikes, the drug thing is not great. I'd imagine that has an impact on the type of people you'd see around the campground. Would not feel safe.

The sightseeing question: wondering if it's convenient to camp without a car and still get to see stuff in town. I camp near/in cities often in the summer, as hostels are fairly rare in the us, but almost always those campgrounds are way off the transit system or on a bad side of town so I would not do it without a car. So I'm guessing I'm asking PalenQ to elaborate more on any carless camping experiences. Please

500 euros really isn't bad if that's 7 nights- that is probably what I've paid for very basic cabins some places here.

I interpreted PalenQ's meet the locals slightly differently- as in you're more likely to meet and socialize with ordinary families that might be from a place a few hours away. I like camping because people tend to be friendlier and more courteous than in a hotel. Similar to hostel but more family oriented. May just be my experience though.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:20 PM
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BUT there is NO WAY I would suggest doing this to "meet locals." For very obvious reasons, locals aren't camping in their own locales. DUH.>

Yes But what I meant was ordinary Europeans not locals of the locale- folks who talk about wanting to me Europeans or the locals of my parlance.

and yes indeedy camps are a mixture of folks from lots of different European countries- all the nicer.

So please excuse my use of the word locals! Meet ordinary Europeans easiest than in a hotel in in a tourist city - and great for families.

And yes Campings Municipals can sometimes be nice but are typically austere and cheap and may draw the clienteleSt-Cirq is talking about -I use them only when transiting- whenever ready to stop for the day there is always one nearby and never full - unlike the posher private campings that I would encourage folks to stick to.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:26 PM
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About a decade ago when my son was a teen-ager he and his buddies with cars would go to say Maastricht and stock up on cannabis or shrooms and take them back to France- not sure it is Dutch druggies who are doing those sales or more likely French themselves. France BTW has a higher consumption rate of cannabis, especially amongst high school agers, than Holland where it is defactolly legal.

I would not worry about camping in a drug den though I believe St-Cirq in that case.

I have seen in Orleans Customs cops pull over vans with Dutch (NL) plates and bring out the dogs so there is vigilant against that.

But in the zillions of camps I have stayed in - especially private ones - I have never seen any such thing (as I guess I would not).
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:42 PM
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So I'm guessing I'm asking PalenQ to elaborate more on any carless camping experiences.>

So I've camped by bike or train or car in practically every main tourist city in europe and a million other places and rarely if ever will any camp be remote but on the edge of the city with metro/trams/buses very close to them -camps often have a shuttle to the nearest station, taking all told usually about 30-45 minutes from camp to city centre- some much less. This transport runs early and late and usually very frequently.

London's Crystal Palace Camping is just a 20-minute train or bus ride from central London, one of the most close in camps-Florence's Piazza Michelangelo Camping is right in the heart of the old city with sites being terraced facing the whole of town - one of Europe's most scenic camps (along with the one in Grindelwald!)

So getting into the city centres from camps is rarely any problem and the areas they are in- suburbs - are often nice too and of course very un-touristed.

Biking I usually also leave the bike in the camp and take public transit in unless I just want to ride around a certain city.

Camping by train likewise sees good public transit from the stations to the camp areas- but hauling a tent and gear around on trains can be tough - I did it a lot when I was younger but now would only do bike or car camping.

Plus with a tent you are always subject to the fickle weather of northern Europe - camps can get muddy, etc.

With a tent and car or bike or train however just about every camp everywhere will be able to squeeze you in in some corner -with an RV best to have reservations if in July and August though off season you can easily wing it as camps are rarely much full outside of peak summer season when kids are out of school and parents on vacances.

Even people with cars leave them parked in the camp as cars are generally useless for touring around large cities.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:47 PM
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If anybody is familiar with the famous writer Martin Walker, who lives in Le Bugue in the summer and has written about 9 murder mysteries about "our town," he mentions often in his books the drug trade in the campgrounds in the neighborhood.

I happen to be all too familiar with the nasty drug trade in a couple of local campgrounds. It's not something you might even notice if you were just an innocent client, not suggesting that, but it's rampant and not something that those of us who live here aren't proud of.

It happens late at night, Pal, when the campers have gone to bed and the campground bar is still open to the locals..and no other local bars are. It's paysans who've consumed too much alcohol and want to get high. I have seen it often, and it's not pretty. I wouldn't have seen it if we hadn't have to stay for 2 months in a mobilehome when our home down the lane was unlivable.

I don't think you'd find any such thing in a municipal campground, just private ones. And just sayin'.....could be a nothing report
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:51 PM
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Seems like the local police should be told of it - have they -au undercover cop could bust it up and in France my son says police are always looking for drugs- stopping and frisking young folk often in his area (legal in France).

I do not doubt a minute St-Cirq (I've seen her postings for a long time) but think the average camper would never know it so do not be afraid of such nefarious activity.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 02:56 PM
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Well, StCirq, I appreciate your contributions to this forum very much, for a long time.

But with your post you did not do yourself a favour. It was just Trumpish: an outright lie, insulting whole nations, and reinforcing prejudices which have been wrong for half a century.

Since my boyhood, I have been camping in Europe, mostly in France. Our last camping experience was this September, six weeks ago, on the Côte d'Azur. I know what I am speaking about.

During the last decades, camping has changed a lot in Europe. In the 1970ties, campgrounds were full of long-haired guys driving vintage Citroens and drinking cheap red wine.

Today, the campgrounds are full with exactly the same guys. However, these guys have lost most of their hair and they have become business tycoons, managers, judges, doctors and whatever. They do not drive Citroens any more but RV which cost the same as a mid-size condominium in a major city.

Actually, we still use our 40-year-old tent (absolutely rainproof!), but we are certainly in a minority position.

At least, we pay 4 Euros per day for electricity and we have a refrigerator that makes enough ice cubes for our apéritifs. Of course, the campground has wifi and a swimming-pool.

And yes, you do not need a tent or RV to stay at a campground: they have several types of tents and mobile homes for rent, all equipped with real beds, kitchens, fridges and bathrooms.

So, why do we stay at campgrounds and not in hotels or vacation homes?

Because we love it to be so close to nature - to hear the crickets and the owl at night and to sit at sundown right at the waterline and sip our apéros. And, of course, because it is still very cheap (we pay 30 Euros per night for a tent including 2 persons, a vehicle and electricity).

If you are interested, this is our favourite campground on the Côte d'Azur:

https://www.campeole.co.uk/en/camping/le-dramont

Why have I never posted about camping on the Côte? Because when I read that someone plans to go to Nice, I already think, this guy has no sense for beauty and I do not want to throw pearls at sows.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:04 PM
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Of course, you do not meet the locals on a campground.

On European campgrounds, you meet other tourists from Europe, mainly Dutch, Germans, English, French, Swiss, Italians - in about that order.

You will socialize a bit, if you want or not, because you have some points where you necessarily meet. However, campers are basically individualists and they tend to respect the private sphere of their neighbours, often more than hotel guests. It rarely occurs that you hear noise after 10 p.m. on a campground.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:17 PM
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Of course, you do not meet the locals on a campground.

On European campgrounds, you meet other tourists from Europe, mainly Dutch, Germans, English, French, Swiss, Italians - in about that order.>

Again this is what I meant by "locals"- ordinary Europeans and rarely any Americans!
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:30 PM
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Traveller1959- thank you for the Cote link! Looks lovely. I can not figure out how to book a tent site (I was attempting to check out the prices). Is the problem that the option does not exist or is it that my mobile does not like the site? I'm leaning towards the latter because the only dates I can bring up seem to be this month and Nov.


"campers are basically individualists and they tend to respect the private sphere of their neighbours, often more than hotel guests. It rarely occurs that you hear noise after 10 p.m. on a campground."

Yes, sums it up perfectly. I've had many more problems with neighbors in hotels than in campgrounds.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:34 PM
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Of course, there are no Americans on campgrounds - we don't have donuts on European campgrounds and how can Americans survive without donuts?

At least, this summer, we have met a guy from Australia, who camped together with his German girlfriend and their little baby. I wonder how he survived without vegemite.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:39 PM
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Sometimes in August or July seaside camps may attract partying youths- my son and his group were thrown out of one site - they had rented a nice mobile home but one guy got drunk a few times and was so obnoxiously loud they gave them all the heave ho- my experience is like TR1959 - these are mainly family-oriented places that are really quiet at night.

Now the tent only campsite at Vliegenbos right in Amsterdam sees mainly younger folks who do party at night but those are few and far between.

There is a nice equipped seaside camp at Biot- well across a busy highway from some of the nicest beaches around and a few miles from Antibes I would recommend for its location.
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Oct 19th, 2016, 03:53 PM
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Hello Mouse,

the campground closes at 30 September. So, October and November is senseless. And the dates for 2017 seem not to be programmed yet, because WE/Short breaks does not work at all. Maybe call a live person tomorrow.

Good night!
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Oct 19th, 2016, 04:04 PM
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Yes Petanque is listed as an activity at Camping du Dremont and this is a great attraction for me - boules as the French call it - I have spent much time watching the often animated action at the boule pits in camps-and boules can be played without an official pitch -just any old plot of earth makes a possible one.

https://www.google.com/search?q=peta...HfRuCM4QsAQIGw
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Oct 19th, 2016, 04:15 PM
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Camping holiday is nothing new for Europeans, and most have at some time camped in tent, or stayed in onsite caravan or mobile home. When children were young, we had a few holidays on camping sites. Sometimes we drove to it, or with the advent of low-cost airlines, we flew and used public transport to get there, or hired a car. There is a campsite convenient to Disneyland Paris, and we have used it as a base to visit the theme park as a much cheaper option than staying in Disney hotels. There are several tour operators that do a package, either self-drive or travelling by air or rail. Some of them own their generally superior accommodation, with all mod cons like dishwasher and air-conditioning, such as Eurocamp. It can be a fun way to mix with other Europeans, especially if you have children, and generally they have good facilities for swimming, sports and recreation as well as onsite shops and restaurants. And some of them are situated in areas of stunning natural beauty, such as French Alps.
Whether it's something to recommend to generally older and more independent Fodorites is open to question.
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