Our campsite in Flagnac
Our campsite was in the middle of green nature and peaceful.

This summer vacation we decided to head on down to the quaint French countryside yet another time. There is something about the fresh air, the natural surroundings and the quietude which attracts us greatly, even the kids like it. We made it to the Dordogne, about 100 kilometers east of Cahors (where my mother grew up). The camp ground was small, but right next to the Lot river, just off of the small village called Flagnac. The Lot River is about 300 miles (483 km) long, rising in the Cévennes Mountains of South East France, and flowing west past Mende and Cahors to join the Garonne River. The limestone plateaus through which the Lot winds are intersected by fertile valleys and vineyards. We found the perfect spot at the Camping Le Port de Lacombe. Our campsite was situated right next to the Lot River. We often went there and sat on the bank while the kids went in the water on their rafts, floating around without a worry in the world. Fantastic. Each morning we could pick up the croissants and fun bread we had ordered the previous day at the camping reception, run by this reserved Dutch lady married to the French owner. What a life. One evening we went to see this show in Flagnac which is famous in the region, thousands of French folks and us the Dutch travellers.

Click here in order to see an enlarged map of the area
Click on this image to see map of area.

Called "Hier un Village Spectacle" it portrayed the typical life in a French village going through the history. Too bad it was all in French, but the show was fantastic, highly recommended. We had wanted to visit Cahors one day, the place my mother grew up, but it turned out to be pretty much out of the way (100 kilometers) and only reachable via a winding road along the river. Last year the kids had complained alot about having to sit in the car too much having daily excursions, and they just wanted to stay at the campground and run around playing and swimming. All in all an area typical of the French way of life which I appreciate and of which I feel a part.

Vallée du lot:
La Vallée du Lot
La Vallée du Lot.

We stayed near the small village of Flagnac for seven days and seven nights, and it only rained once. The unpredictable weather is part of camping anyway. The campground was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilization and surrounded by green nature. In order to do the groceries, we had to drive to the nearest town about ten kilometers away. Marlies is turning into a real gourmet, and tradition dictated that she was responsible for picking out the next exotic cheese we would have to eat the next day. Kiffin and Thea read alot and watched the kids play around. There was this large field nearby where they played soccer. The swimming pool was a dugout pond which didn't look like much, but the younger kids liked it anyway. One day I took Lennart for a short adventure into the nearby hills across the Lot River. We found a secluded spot on a dirt road where I let Lennart drive the car (see one of the pictures below).

Gish kids walking along the Lot River
Here are the kids during a walk along the Vallée du Lot.

He made it about 300 meters before I decided I had risked my life enough. Oh yes, we had this problem with ants, thousands or millions of ants. It turned out we had placed the tent atop an ant hill and the inside of the tent became invested with those little black creatures. The man from the campground was nice and came by a couple of times trying to gas them away with his interesting contraption. Didn't help, but it was an exciting event for the day. What a pain, but all part of camping of course. Man and nature. In addition, we had this cute little bird who came to us begging for bread crumbs, a small mouse, a large awful-looking rat and a fat green toad who in the middle of the night alway crept up to Marlies's side and slept next to here flap-opening. The parent read an awful lot of books and got a nice tan sitting out in front of the tent in the sun. Oh yes, we ordered alot of pizza as that area is well known for this tasty treat. The evenings when it started to get dark, we turned on the gas light, sat around the table and played games. On of our favorite games is Rummikub, but we also played various card games, including Uno and a Dutch variant called "Meppen" in which you try to beat out your opponent by slamming down your hand when a certain series of cards pop up. Nearing the end of the evening we try to relaz after Sabien and Maarten are finally in bed by looking at the stars through the binoculars and taking a short evening stroll through the campsite and along the Lot river.

Busy beach at Valras Plage
The beach at Valras Plage could get pretty crowded sometimes.

Two summers ago we had already visited Valras Plage, and back then we had liked it so much there that we decided to stay there again this summer. The first time we had gotten stuck at this lousy over-crowded campground. Ironically enough, the new campground was situated right next to the old place, and we even walked right past the old spot on the other side of the fence that our tent had been pitched up. Small world, don't you think? But this time around, despite the crowded situation, dusty and hard ground, I was determined to enjoy the area no matter what. The name of the campground was Camping les Sables and it was just a short walk of fifteen minutes to the beach. The village of Valras Plage is quaint and pretty touristic, kind of reminding me of a combination the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk (without all the rides) and the many stores of Carmel California. Each day was pretty much the same. After we got up in the morning, we gathered all necessities together and walked to the beach around noon. We would lie around for the whole afternoon, the kids playing in the water, and the parents reading their boring books and watching. By the end of the afternoon, we walked back, this time along the main avenue of Valras Plage: first stop ice cream. You can never imagine how tasty this homemade ice cream can be after a sweltering afternoon in the sun: excellent. Then we strolled past all the souvenir stores, checking out the millions of doo-dads and trying to think which would be a nice souvenir. I bought these hand-painted souvenirs for my mother. Then dinner, either a simple pair of baguettes with cheese etc. or those typical pizzas. Again, the pizza's were amazingly delicious. One evening we went out for dinner to a restaurant specializing in Paella, and I had escargot as starters (tradition, again). Then we would stroll by the many artists and watch them sketch portraits or charcoal caricatures of people. There was also this clown who moved like a robot handing candies out to the small children who dared approach his vicinity and drop some coins in his box.


We spent the majority of our time at the beach, at the beach, and again at the beach. just passing the time away, kids splashing in the water, etc. We played alot of paddle beach ball and soaked up the rays of the sun. Everyone got a pretty nice tan, and the kids compared their acquired brownness with each other every evening. The picture below is my favorite as it reminds me well of the times we had and how happy the kids looked. I took a very similar shot two years ago just about at the very same spot.

Kids at the beach (click to enlarge)
The climate in Valras Plage was ideal and we spent every single day at the beach (enlarge).

Below you will find a number of photos I took which cover most of the trip's many events. By clicking with the mouse on any one of the thumbnails, you will be able to view the original full-size picture. I have attempted to provide as best an overview as possible, but of course it is impossible to include everything without creating a huge and inaccessible picture gallery. Now I realize that most of the time I just take pictures of the kids, not that many of the surroundings or countryside. Life as a proud parent, I guess. Just enjoy.

Rummikub in the evenings
In the evenings we played the game of Rummikub with the camping gas light on.
Lennart driving the car
Lennart took driving lessons from Kiffin on afternoon in the hills where it was safe.
Lennart is cool, calm and relaxed next to the Lot river
Lennart is cool, calm and relaxed next to the Lot river.
Floating aimlessly on the Lot river
Our view of the Lot river, notice Lennart and Marlies floating on their rafts.
Maarten and the Lot River meet
Maarten was slightly less adventurous, just happy to splash in the water.
Marlies floating on the Lot
Marlies floating on the Lot river.
Sabien floating on the Lot
Sabien drifting on the Lot river.
Swimming hole at the campground
This was the swimming pool, just a big water holereally.
Kiffin reading his book, as usual
Kiffin in his reading chair in Flagnac, he read an awful lot.
Our camp site at Valras Plage
Our camp site at Valras Plage, the ground was hard, arid and dusty.
Kiffin strolling on the beach trying to look cool
Bonjour Kiffin at Valras Plage.
The kids at the Valras Plage beach
The kids at the Valras Plage beach.
Maartne was so happy with his balloon hat
Maarten was so happy with his balloon-hat-for-heroes and an ice cream cone also.
Maarten in front of the tent
Maarten in front of the tent looking like a real macho-man.
Main avenue of Valras Plage
The main avenue of Valras Plage was quaint, with lots of fun doo-dads for the kids.
Marlies waiting
Marlies, again waiting to go to the beach for her tan.
Marlies and her nice cloth skirt
Marlies bought a typical cloth skirt from the area which she wore all of the time.
Sabien in fron of the tent
Sabien in front of the tent, always in a good mood smiling.
Maarten buried in the sand by his sisters
Poor Maarten got buried under the sand by Sabien and Marlies.
Marlies the bathing beauty
Marlies the bathing beauty.

This map should give you a better idea about where Flagnac and Valras Plage are exactly and how we arrived there. I have indicated the exact route we took with a red line, noting our stops with a digit: 1) Flagnac and 2) Valras Plage. Notice that it is quite a journey to the south, from the lowlands of Holland in the north all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. Gouda is way up north, and to think we drove the last leg back in a single day. We are becoming world travellers and it was more than worth the distance and time it took.

Our fantastic journey
Our journey marked in red: 1) Flagnac, and 2) Valras Plage.
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