Our next stop in France was St Valery sur Somme, on the coast about 100 miles south west of Calais. As we joined the main road out of Guines, we decided that one of the Dover-Calais ferries must’ve just come in because virtually every car passing us for quite a few miles had a British numberplate! We drove past some beautiful countryside, with rolling hills and vast fields of wheat in all directions, and beautiful wild flowers at the side of the road. But the thing we remembered most about the journey was how windy it was!
St Valéry sur Somme
Highlight: exploring the medieval town and finding a fabulous playground for the girls.
St Valéry sur Somme is a delightful town on the edge of the Somme estuary in Picardy in north west France, just less than half way between Calais and Le Havre. It has a lovely port, a charming medieval quarter and an attractive tree lined promenade with views out across the bay. The town was only about a 20 minute walk from the campsite, so we enjoyed leaving the car behind and exploring on foot. The cobbled streets of the medieval town were lined with lovely timber framed houses with colourful shutters. There was an old church and some ramparts you could access, with stunning views of the town, port and bay. From here we could see hundreds of the many sheep that graze on its salty flats. Apparently in the spring the meat from the lambs is a local delicacy called ‘salt lamb’. From our high vantage point we could also see lots of groups of people walking out in the bay. You can do a tour that introduces you to the wildlife and habitat of the area, but the tides and sands are dangerous and there are warnings that you must not go out there unaccompanied.
We left the quiet streets of the old town and joined the throngs of people strolling along the tree lined avenue that runs along the side of the estuary. After a while we found a great play park, set back and down from the front and out of the wind. Andy and I sat out on the grass and we let the girls play. M played for ages on the roundabout with a little French girl who kept talking to her in French. Occasionally she ran back to us to tell us she didn’t understand what the girl was saying and we suggested things she could say in French in return. We couldn’t hear, but we think she told the little girl her name was M and she definitely asked her “comment ça va?”
E meanwhile has been practicing some French of her own. Every day she likes to go to the campsite shop to get the bread. The first time we went with her and she asked for the bread in English. However, whilst at this current campsite, she has had a go at speaking some French. Yesterday she asked (in French) for two baguettes and one pain au chocolat for pitch 135. Not only did the lady in the shop understand her, she told E that her pronunciation was ‘superb!’ We hope that they will both gain confidence during our time in France and will have a go at speaking French when they can. They have certainly both made a good start and are building on the vocabulary they have already learnt at school (thank you, Mrs Cox!).
Other things we did whilst here:
The rest of our time here was spent on routine jobs – shopping for food, doing some school work and getting the washing done – and looking in greater detail at our future route. We did spend an afternoon in the campsite swimming pool, which had one of those retractable covers on it that we have seen all over northern France on this and other visits. It means that you can swim in all weathers and it keeps the pool cleaner and warmer than if it was just open to the sky. Unfortunately for Andy, it also had the ‘no swimming shorts’ rule that a lot of French campsites seem to adopt. So, he had to go back to the caravan and don his ‘budgie smugglers’ instead!
A note about campsite toilets:
Anyone who has stayed at French campsites will probably have some sympathy with what I am going to say now……what is the point of providing toilet facilities but then not bothering to supply toilet roll or soap to wash your hands afterwards? The French are a civilised nation – surely they realise that this is not good hygiene? And no toilet seats either? What is that all about? (In fact at this current campsite, the toilets are not even designed to have a seat, ie. there are no holes where you could attach one!) I can sort of understand why the no seat thing might be desirable since it must make cleaning a lot easier, but no toilet paper? Come on!
This is not a cheap, no-frills campsite either. When you’re paying €35 or so a night, you don’t expect to have to remember to take toilet paper with you when you go to the loo! In fact, during our stay here we even had one time when one of us (I’m not saying who!) did forget to take the toilet roll with them. They did a number two and then had to sit and wait until one of us back at the caravan realised they hadn’t returned and ran round with the loo roll!!!
Campsite: Le Walric, St Valéry sur Somme
Liked: very nice, clean swimming pool (although balls/inflatables weren’t allowed, nor were swimming shorts – only tight-fitting, speedo type trunks for the blokes!), good location – only a 15-20 minute walk from town
Didn’t like: pitch felt a bit hemmed in (in between quite a lot of static caravans). Also most of it was mud ie. no grass left and the grass that was there hadn’t been cut! No toilet paper or hand soap in the toilets!!!!!!
Score: 5 out of 10
Has anyone come across the no-toilet-paper situation anywhere else in Europe? I wonder if it is just here in France or if happens elsewhere?
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