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Madcap adventures in French Camping beginning with a short film festival

4 December, 2012 (11:25) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Every year, our friend Marta holds an outdoor corto 1 minute film festival at her home in the country, just outside Barcelona. We have participated in the last 5 festivals. Here’s a link to the 3rd annual 2008 corto festival – little did we realize that the whole concept from 2008 of renting a big truck to sleep in would evolve into what planned for this year. If you check out the link you can view our 3 fun corto videos from 2008, the year we rented a big cargo van to bring our dogs and to crash in. Its tradition to spend the night for this event every year. Some people bring tents, others simply sleeping bags.

Three years later, we still participate and its still a blast, but we only entered 1 film this year.

There were a lot of unpleasant details I omitted in my last blog (its very stressful to drive a huge camper and also read maps and GPS); in fact the only real fun was the camping itself, which was an amazingly relaxing experience in itself. We bickered a lot while driving and decided “never again” although in the final tally the pros of the campervan experience outweighed the cons. We decided if we ever did it again it would be with a third wheel to co-pilot.

Mark has been wanting to visit his friend Bobbie (Robert Mann) for a couple years now. A few years ago we visited him in Paris, where he and Tracy have another apartment, but Paris is mainly Tracey’s; she does makeup for the stars and models of Vogue, Elle, etc.

So when the annual corto festival came around this year we rented another (slightly smaller) campervan and invited our good friend of 17 years, Cristina, to take off with us on our adventure in French camping. We pay all the expenses, her only responsibility is to sit up front with Mark and help him navigate. I am ridiculously useless at maps and at GPS, but wth someone else to help with the directions we could give campervan camping another go.

Cris is the friend who originally introduced us to Marta and invited us to participate in the festival our first year living here.

These parties involve lots of jamming as well as a yummy meal plus the climax of getting to see our efforts projected onto a big screen on Marta’s wall. Its really a hoot! Normally between 17 and 30 artists participate. With a duration of only 1 minute each there’s no time to get bored with any one film.

The slide show above begins with a close-up of our campervan and ends with us hitting the road, me with the video camera in back, Cris and Mark up front. This is going to be an interesting trip – Cris speaks no English, only Spanish, which is fun for Mark. I am the designated French speaker when needed.


It is August. We have set out for France in our big campervan. Cris has a tent. Mark drives and Cristina sits up front to co-pilot. This is the agreement; Mark and I are paying for the van and the expenses, she tags along with the designated job of co-pilot. Little does she know what she’s agreed to; this is going to be one madcap adventure, of this I am sure.

a few words written from my bed-mobile in the back:

squeazing 3 big personalities into a tiny box.
endless sunflowers in bloom
wild, they dance in the flaming yellow sun.
Tom Tom GPS versus common sense
A 12 year old map versus Tom Tom GPS
a blur of yellow and green countryside
accompanies the staccato voices of Cristina and Mark mapping out our route.
As driver Mark is goal oriented. As passenger Cris is more of an improvisationalist.

I roll around in the back, in what will become my bed-mobile for the next 10 days.

1) A French toilet 2) View from my spot in the back of the campervan 3) passing hundreds of kilometers of sunflowers 4) Every so often we’ll stop and pose.

When we stop in Cahors it is almost sunset. Here the city poles are covered with crochet, which gives them a unique look. Of course, I cannot resist posing my dog on one:

We manage to find a nice three star campground at Riviere de Cabessut in Cahors. It has Wifi, which is a big plus. Our designated spot gives the illusion that we are alone, although it is only a hedge of plants that separates us from the next camper. Cristina sets up her tent, Mark tests the Wifi, Quixote and I go exploring for the river we see on the campground map. The river proves to be off grounds and inaccessible, but the walk there is amusing. Lots of local French campers, some with families, others of elderly couples enjoying a baguette and coffee in their respective foyers. Here is a typical French tent (and another spot to pose Quixote):

The next morning, after coffee and croissants we set out again. From my perspective in the back, I can see villages, castles, sun flowers … all a blur through my side window. It is better this way, Mark and Cristina have finally found a groove together as co-pilots. We stop for picnic lunch and frankfurts at a lake in Lubersac. it is like an impressionist painting, “A day at the lake” so I break out my Nikon and take some snaps:

I can’t resist trying out my super zoom here before we set out again:

1) Go granny go! 2) Endless series of divers

We make it to a municipal campground in Chateauroux by sunset, only we arrive 30 minutes after the campground closes. Too tired to go driving in pursuit of another campground, we set up camp just outside the grounds and are quite happy:

Its actually really nice here, next to a beautiful park. Although we can walk into the campgrounds and use the facilities there, there is no way to enter the grounds with our van because the kiosk is closed and a metal bar prevents entry. But its okay – we have a nice time, its very relaxing. Cristina sets up her tent and after a home cooked meal we all sleep like babies.

We set out in the morning. We are still several hundred kilometers from our destination on the Loire. We stop in Pompadour to take in the castle of Richard the Lionhearted:
Castle of Richard the Lionhearted in Pompadour

Every place we stop, I make a mental note, “it would be nice to return here someday and spend time…” But we have a schedule, so we press on.

This was a highlight for us; a sign with Fromage in the middle of nowhere: we follow the sign to a little hut, where we stock up on fresh cheese, home made marmalade and honey. We walk around the grounds after making our purchases, and find the animals we need to thank:

Mark records the sound while Cris and I shoot photos:

GPS versus maps; I’m glad to be left out of the decision making. We stop at a passing chateau while Mark figures out which way to drive from here:


After several days of improvising our route and campsite, we finally make to it Chamont, where our friends Bobbie and Tracey live. I will begin a separate blog for this.