I spent a summer season working for Eurocamp, managing a campsite in South Vendée, France and I really cannot believe how much fun I packed into those 6 months!
Back in April, I took an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo. I met some great people also going for the same training, we watched a live band and a magician and had a cocktail or two! After docking up the day after, I completed 5 days training in North Brittany and then went down to the town I’d be living in, La Tranche Sur Mer.
I met my team after a few days and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch! We camped out in tents and were only minutes from a beautiful beach and the main town (not to forget our beloved Super U guys!!).
As the town was quiet at the start of our season, we got to discover and enjoy the bars, restaurants, cafés and beaches that soon became our go to places. Breakfast on a Sunday at The Slice became the norm (OK so we were in France but you can still enjoy traditional American pancakes if they’re as good as those ones!) Steak with garlic butter went down a treat for dinner at our favourite restaurant, Le Phare West and a few evenings a week at The Starfish & Coffee became a ritual; live music, football, amazing people and my favourite part…the darts board!
As the weather heated up, we decided to be more daring than a walk to the beach. So we walked to the beach and took a windsurfing lesson instead! It was the best laugh ever HAHA! When my family came to visit, I took my little brother and sister for a lesson and I was still the worst one!
The whole season was one big BBQ…nearly every other night in fact. Toasting marshmallows and singing with the ukulele or guitars with our customers was a lot of fun! The sunsets we witnessed were out of this world, florescent skies, thunderstorms and clear views of lightening made camping all the more fun (can’t say the same about the HUGE spiders and spider bites though!). We grew our own vegetables, watched outdoor concerts, had a swimming pool and Jacuzzi and ate mozzarella sticks like there was no tomorrow.
Waking up for work was a lot easier knowing the bread man drove outside everyone’s tents to serve warm and freshly baked croissants, pain au chocolats, baguettes, donuts, muffins and any other specials he had. We went on a lot of bike rides around the town and much shorter ones to each others tents! One of our first big bike rides was to a lighthouse where we watched the sunset.
We had a lot of things to celebrate in this short period of time together; birthdays, fireworks on the beach for Bastille Day and Courier Christmas. Yes, I said Christmas. Well as this is a summer seasonal job, you didn’t think we’d miss out on an Xmas party did you? That’s right, exactly 6 months before Christmas on 25th June, we celebrate the festive season. We dressed up, bought each other secret Santa presents, put on Xmas music and had the BIGGEST feast! Customers already knew about our Christmas and had brought us stuff from the UK. We had stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, pigs in blankets, bisto gravy… you name it, we ate it! It was such an amazing day and the whole campsite came to find us to wish us a Merry Christmas!
The town I lived in had everything but it was also great to venture out too. I hired cars and had road trips to the most beautiful places. Îl de Ré is a beautiful island you reach by bridge over the Atlantic. Cobbled streets, old bicycles, stone country houses with beautiful, bright flowers outside and everywhere you look, you find another restaurant, café or market stall. Sitting on the huge stone wall surrounding the beach front, you can watch the calm stretch of ocean whilst eating homemade ice cream! I was lucky enough to visit this island 3 times.
We also visited La Rochelle a couple of times mid-season and got to sit at the harbour and drink cocktails whilst watching a live jazz band in the sun. The views are really picturesque here and it is definitely worth a visit.
A couple of evenings, we drove over to Sables d’Olonne, walked along the beachfront, ate crepes and watching acrobatic entertainment on the strip. There was a great market on at the time and I couldn’t resist getting a hair braid!
Talmont was another town I visited which is one of the closer towns to La Tranche Sur Mer. An old, medieval town where all the staff were dressed up and in character. There is the old Chateau de Talmont Castle where you can experience life from the middle-ages, watch falcon shows, knights on horses shows, crossbow shooting, learn calligraphy writing and much more. There are many bakeries along the street leading up to the castle that smell amazing when you walk in, it’s filled with fresh cakes and pastries and I bought and finished one in less than 5 minutes! A few of us also managed to get to Indian Forest which is more or less the equivalent of Go Ape in the UK. I’m very adventurous and loved the paint balling BUT I don’t care what anyone says, the beginners level of zip lining and tree climbing is the one of the scariest things ever!
Nantes is where I flew home from, but during my season I drove me and a couple of the guys here and we had a really good day shopping. We had a taste of familiarity at Starbucks and strolled down a busy, narrow street of cafés, bars and restaurants and enjoyed the most filling, savoury crêpe ever! Towards the end of our contract, we upgraded from our usual and we all went to Equinoxe a fancy seafood restaurant which served us the most impressive food.
Saving the best until last, Puy de Fou. The second most visited attraction in France after Disneyland. It is a historical theme park that has the most phenomenal, out of this world shows. There are no words to describe the amount of time and effort that goes in to each one and it is an absolute must-see. One of my favourite shows there was the bird show. Huge falcons and owls flying over our heads, landing on people’s shoulders and crossing each other in the sky on cue. Then there were the vultures flying in order together, it was simply mesmerising. But the big finale were the HUGE eagles flying down one by one from a hot air balloon and catching food from a really high height. It really was unbelievable!
What an amazing season!