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Every summer millions of Europeans head off on their vacations to go camping and get away from the city life. The highways are full of cars towing caravans and big motorhomes are in abundance. All these holiday travellers heading to campgrounds in France, Netherlands and Spain looking to enjoy a week or two in nature. But camping in Europe is far different than what the average American would consider camping. Having grown up in Colorado where to go camping meant you grabbed a sleeping bag and a backpack with some food and water in it and took off to a national forest, hiked a ways into the pines until a suitable camping spot was found - a tent being optional and usually only used if a stay of longer than a couple of days was contemplated. European-style camping was something totally foreign to me.

So when I recently went camping for the first time with my Dutch wife was I ever in for a surprise. Camping in Europe is hugely popular, but is a totally different experience. Organized campgrounds are to be found most everywhere that cater to everything from large motorhhomes to one-man tents. The campers pay a small fee for a space in a campground that usually has electricity available for an extra fee and often internet access. Many of the larger campings have everything from restaurants, swimming pools and even discos. All have toilet and shower facilities which allow the campers to eliminate the need of having to take care of business in the bushes and bathing in a cold river or lake. Camping in one of these sites you find yourself camped out in the midst of hundreds of other campers all within speaking range of one and another. My first experience with European camping left me with the feeling that I had been in a large outdoor motel with no vacancies.

Even though these two ways of camping are totally different, both possess their own merits. Something to be said about the European style of camping is that it certainly nice to awaken to a nice hot shower in the morning and to not be forced out into the forest and have to drop ones shorts to take care of business. Below are two campgrounds I have stayed at and found them to be well worth a stay.

St Martin Camping

Camping Saint Martin

Saint Martin's Campsite is at Creissels, 4 kilometers from Millau in the southern Aveyron right up against the cliffs of the Larzac plateau, at the foot of the cirque of Boundoulaou, the campsite is in beautiful surroundings not far from the highest viaduct in the world and near the Tarn Gorges. The sites are shaded and many activities are available such as swimming pool, family entertainment in July and August. There are plenty of mature trees for an abundance of shade and a small river runs through the site. This camping site is clean, well maintained and only 10 minutes outside of Millau. There is a Le Clerc grocery store a 5 minute drive away and easy access to activities in and around Millau. Not far away is the spectacular Millau Viaduct and the special village of Peyre built into the rock cliffside. The area is a center for paragliding from the cliffs above the Tarn Valley.

Mobile home with bathroom and WC - Dimensions: 7 m x 3 m, living room with sitting area, dining area and equipped, open-plan kitchen. Two bedrooms, one with a double bed, the other with twin beds touching each other. Outdoor table and chairs on personal terrace.

Mobile home without bathroom or WC - Dimensions: 6 m x 3 m, living room with sitting area, dining area and equipped, open-plan kitchen. Two bedrooms, one with a double bed, the other with twin beds. Outdoor table and chairs on personal terrace.

90 pitches on 2 hectares or 5 acres
Flat, grassy and shaded site
Facility is handicap accessible
3 Euros for electricity per day.
Free Wifi
Snack Bar
Swimming Pool
WC and Laundry Facilities


Ambiance de Vacances

Ambiance de Vacances

Located in La Verrerie, a hamlet near Saint-Nicolas-des-Biefs in the south-east of the Allier, a department of the Auvergne region -also called the Green Heart of France. They rent rooms like in a bed & breakfast, chalets or cottages, a fully equipped caravan and camping sites. Saint-Nicolas-des-Biefs is one of the highest villages of the Allier at almost 1000 meters guaranteeing spectacular scenery and diverse vistas. For walkers, cyclists and mountain bikers there are several nice short routes as well as some long routes. Table d'hotes available with a four course dinner. The accommodations are simple but good and contain all that is needed for a pleasant stay at an affordable price. Owners Miriam and Edmond Kreuk are friendly, helpful and attentive hosts and will go the distance to assure guests of an enjoyable visit.

The mountains of Bourbon are an attractive setting for several bike rides. With relatively little other traffic on the road is very quiet. the Bourbonnais is a hiking paradise. La Verrerie is just over 1000 meters in elevation and close to the Plateau de La Verrerie - a wonderful walking area with spectacular views to the east. It overlooks Roanne and surrounding villages and has several trails that will take you to special places, villages and hamlets. Overall, Ambiance de Vacances is a peaceful and quiet haven in the mountains with friendly and pleasant owners. The pansion rooms are very comfortable and tastefully decorated.

Newly decorated Pansion rooms in main house.
Cosy cottages for 2-3 people.
Fully equipped caravan.
Camping sites.


Wine Tasting Notebook

French wine map
The fastest and most direct way to learn about wine is to take good tasting notes. This is no big secret, but simply the way that beginners learn the fundamentals and professionals hone their skills. The wine tasting forms act as both time savers for professionals and training wheels for beginner and intermediate wine tasters. The accompanying guides serve as a great way to jog an experienced taster's memory as well as an excellent introduction for novices to hit the ground running and learn about wine.

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French Wine Map

French wine map

There is not a more detailed, technically accurate or better looking Wine Map of France. The maps are extensively researched and includes adjacent regions in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. The map includes detail maps of Bordeaux, Côte d'Or and Beaujolais. Each is 24 by 36 inches, expertly printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper that is suitable for framing. Included with each is an eight page index booklet.

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Wine Varietal Chart

French wine map

Clearly see the big picture of wine grape varieties and how they relate to one another. A beautiful addition to any tasting room or wine cellar. The accompanying reference book, The Wine and Grape Indexes, is the most comprehensive index available of the grape varieties used in worldwide wine appelations. It helps to answer the proverbial question: what grape am I drinking? The Wine Grape Varietal Table is 24 by 36 inches printed in color on acid-free archival paper and is suitable for framing, making it a great gift for any and all wine lovers.

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An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France
by Clive Coates

In this handsome and engaging book, Clive Coates, one of the world's leading authorities on wine, gives us the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and detailed study of the wines of France ever written. Coates's vast knowledge of his subject together with his natural gift as a storyteller make An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France as informative as it is entertaining. He discusses every appellation and explains its character, distinguishes the best growers, and uses a star system to identify the finest estates. With more than forty specially commissioned maps that show the main appellations and wine villages of France in detail and a format that invites browsing as well as in-depth study, this book will be essential reading for anyone, professional or amateur, interested in wine.

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