Europe,  France

St Valéry sur Somme

St Valery sur Somme - Le Walric swimming pool
The pool at Le Walric, with its sliding cover

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 - wild flowers
Some of the beautiful wild flowers we have seen at the side of the road everywhere here

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.

St Valery sur Somme - medieval city
Part of the old medieval city of St Valery sur Somme
St Valery sur Somme
One of the charming streets in St Valery sur Somme

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?”

St Valery sur Somme - playground
The playground along the promenade at St Valery sur Somme

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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  • Sue C

    Hi love great blog. The little town does look beautiful. Looking forward to the next one. Love to all xx

  • John

    Yes, the French can at times appear quite perverse be it male oswim wear or loo roll. However, my experience of the French has always been very good.
    As I read the end of your blog regarding the mud I realised that 100 years ago lots of British /commonwealth troops were also less than impressed with the mud in and around the Somme!
    Hope you don’t get bogged down like they did. Looking forward to your next instalment

  • Anne

    Haha. Made me laugh reading this . We have been here but we were in one of the static Europcamp caravans that might have been hemming you in . I remember it as a very good site and Catherine definitely enjoyed that swimming pool with that retractable roof. Definitely a popular stop off point with Brits backwards and forwards to the ferry or the tunnel. Glad the girls are getting to speak some French. I always found everyone very kind when I tried to speak French and my accent was definitely not superb.
    All is well here. Catherine starts her new job a week on Monday, which is very exciting. She viewed a flat in central Manchester on Saturday, which if their offer is accepted, her and Matt and Harriet will share . Jane was in Manchester on Saturday and had lunch at the Royal Exchange with myself and Cath.
    Martin and myself are on count down to our holiday, which is another 2 months off but we are discussing which trips we want to go on while we are away.
    I am sure you will be very glad to know that Bury have won their first match of the football season and even more exciting looks like the England cricket team are going to win their match at Edgbaston, Martin was there on Wednesday for the first day of play.
    Well , have to go and start the tea. Enjoying your blogs and facebook up dates.
    Lots of love Anne
    kisses to the girls and tell Andy not to forget that loo paper 🙂