This web page is a report on a tent-camping trip conducted by an American couple in France, July 1995. They took their tent and other camping equipment with them on the air flight to Paris. While it cannot be guaranteed that all the circumstances can be repeated, the experiences were very similar to the couple's earlier tent camping trips in Western Europe over a 25-year period.

It is suggested that you visited the main page and read the General Remarks before reading this report. Go to Main Page for Tent Camping in France.

The couple used a 1994 publication of the Michelin Camping Caravaning France. The map references and the standardized symbology are what made it better than the many others found on the book stores' shelves. Also used was an old 1978 Michelin camping guide, as the 1994 version identified less campgounds for the Paris region. Also used in planing was a 1975, one-inch thick, EUROPA Camping + Caravaning guide book. The updated EUROPA book is expensive and not easily found in the US. The EUROPA book had been very good for camping in Western Europe several years back. Both the EUROPA and Michelin camping guides have a rating system for the camp grounds. Fortunately the old '75 EUROPA and '78 Michelin guides had two campgrounds no longer cited in the '94 Michelin book. Both of these grounds (which are mention later) were valuable for the couple's 1995 summer trip to France.
Equipment taken to Europe by this couple consisted of a dome tent, two low-standing sleeping cots that come apart, ground cloth, tent pegs, mallet, brush, water container, flash lights, a small cloth bag of other minor camping items, and two sleeping bags. All camping items but the sleeping bags were carried in a heavy canvas military 'flight bag' (found at many surplus stores). The two sleeping bags were stuffed into a large sports bag. Clothes were carried in backpacks. Two collapsible baggage carts were used to move the approximately 80 pounds of camping-gear baggage. Besides their individual back pack of clothes, each person had a shoulder bag of personal items, reading materials. All this was taken across the Atlantic on the aircraft. Shoulder bags were taken aboard the airplane's cabin; the rest was checked as baggage.
Before departing the States, car rental reservations were made and an International Driver's License was obtained. Also accuired was an International Camping Carnet (ICC). Another useful card was the VISA credit card. The advantages of these pre-departure actions are explained under General Remarks on the main page.
The wife and husband tent-camping team of this report took advantage of the low-cost accommodations offered by camping to enjoy dinning out in the evenings. It was not necessary to take food preparation items for lunches and snacks, as groceries are easily purchased in the many small stores at or near the campgrounds. For morning coffee-making, a blue international Gaz burner was taken. This make is generally well supported in Europe for obtaining the fuel cans, which is necessary since fuel cans cannot be taken aboard the aircraft.

FOR VISITING PARIS, or for the FIRST NIGHT after arriving at the Paris airport, a recommend campground is at Maisons-Laffitte, a very charming suburb northwest of Paris. A serious criticism of the recent Michelin camping guide, referenced earlier, is the omission of this camp site. The campground is aptly named Camping International, with campers from all over the world. The camping area is a 20 acre island in the Seine River (connected to the town by a small bridge) and has very modern bath facilities and a well-stocked convenience store. There is a restaurant in the camp. There are restaurants and stores within walking distance in the town. Part of the camp is reserved for English camping clubs, and the staff speaks English.
The camp is just a few blocks from the RER [Réseau Express Régional] suburban train to Paris. The ride is 15 minutes to the center of Paris, and links with several stations of Paris' excellent Métro subway system. Camping at Maisons-Laffitte is one of the least expensive ways to visit Paris and yet enjoy a quite country-side night's sleep. At night, one will hear the sound of the electric RER trains which run until about midnight. Of course, if you were to be visiting the city late, you appreciate the fact that it is operating that late.
Maisons-Laffitte serves as an excellent camping base for not only visiting Paris, but it is close to St. Germain-en-Laye (with its very fine museum of French history from ancient times, located in the magnificent château that dominates the small suburb) and a nice day's drive along the Seine to and from Giverny (Claude Monet's home and garden). Reservations are advised for the Camping International campground at Maisons-Laffitte, especially for late July and the month of August. A good time for visiting the area would be before mid July and after the first week of September. Latest info on addresses: mail: 1, rue Johnson, 78600 Masons-Laffitte, FRANCE; telephone: (1) 39 12 21 91; fax: (1) 34 93 02 60.
The couple on this trip rented a small economy car at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. One could take the RER from the airport to Maisons-Laffitte. Even though you can drive from the airport to Maisons-Laffitte by skirting the main city of Paris, it is a daunting venture for someone not familiar with the road markings and European drivers on the first day in country. Driving in the French countryside is considerably easier. Cars can be rented in the suburbs of Paris, if one wants to venture further out. Over several visits to Europe, the couple of this report has been pleased with Europcar. It has many locations in France for pick-up and drop-off.
A word of caution about camp grounds around Paris. Although they never tried to experience it, the couple of this report had been warned by other campers that the sites to the east, near Euro-Disney were uncomfortably crowded in the summer. The couple could imagine these sites may be close to what they had experienced years earlier with campgrounds on the Riviera in summer. No thanks.
Like anywhere, the word-of-mouth reports from other campers can be some of the best information. The couple of this trip met some campers who reported favorably on another campground on the western edge of Pais, at the Bois de Boulogne. The couple had known about it, but did not want to drive a car into the city.
The subject couple preferred camping in the French countryside. Maisons-Laffitte was the only campground at which they made reservations. For the rest of their late July 1995 trip they drove at their own pace, stopping to camp when they were ready, consulting the Michelin camping guide to keep their options open. The French road signs mark nearby campgrounds are quite well, and the selection is plentiful. On occasion, the couple would bypass a campground due to mere appearance. For the most part they sought to camp under trees and near a river. There was a remarkably good number of such sites for tenters.

THE LOIRE VALLEY. After an easy day's drive, south from Paris, the couple stopped at the municipal campground at Vendôme (not mentioned in the Michelin camping guide). Enroute, they had time to stop at the medieval cathedral of Chartes and the museum-château at Châeadun. Vendôme is well situated geographically and a comfortable base to explore the famous châteaux and historic locations in the Loire valley. It is an attractive town, known for floral displays and its cultural museum. The latter is in the early medieval church (Cardinale de la Trinité), a very short walk from the campground. During the day and into the evening, people enjoy sitting in front of one of the cafes that border the large cobblestone square. American visitors should find particular interest in the statue that dominates the square. It is of General comte de Rochambeau, who led the 5,000-man French military expedition that was essential to George Washington's victory at Yorktown in 1781. Rochambeau's home, an impressive château (or, more appropriately, a grand maison) overlooking the Loir River, is located in nearby Thoré. The Vendôme camp was called "Des Grands Prés", located in a wooded area adjacent to the town's Cise Centre, which has a large community swimming pool. The couple pitched their tent next to the small stream that separated the campground from the public center. Address: rue Geoffroy-Martel, 41100, Vendôme; telephone: 54 77 00 27.

The FRENCH HIGH ALPS offered wonderful relief to the unusually hot 1995 summer in France. The mountain town of Barcelonnette was a beautiful location from which to enjoy some of the Alpes de Haute. The couple camped at "Le Fontarache" a five-minute drive to the west of the attractive town of Barcelonnette. They chose this site (a two-tent rating) over a site with a higher (three-tent) rating, further west. The latter was heavily populated with families and was more suited to providing entertainment for the children. There were many of these family-orientated campgrounds which charged a little more for the swimming pools and game rooms.
At "Le Fontarache" the couple pitched their tent close to a roaring mountain stream and spent one day visiting picturesque Barcelonnette, and another day driving a mountain circuit south to visit the great mountain-fortresses of Seyne and Sisteron. One could take another day to drive north and visit the impressive fortress at Château-Queyras. However, they planned to take this in as they departed, heading back toward Paris.

SOUTH-CENTER OF BURGUNDY. Our couple found a very comfortable municipal campground at Mâcon, which served as a base to visit the historic medieval sites at Cluny, Tournus, Vezelay and Autun. Each of these towns has religious shrines that played unique roles in the development of medieval church architecture that preceded the more famous structures closer to Paris. There was more to explore in this area than the couple's schedule allowed for this trip.

DEPARTURE. The couple made it back to Maisons-Laffitte two days before their scheduled departure from Charles de Gaulle airport. At the time of their earlier visit to the campground, they had reserved a site with a view of the Seine for their return. The remaining time allowed for one casual day in Paris (which they had visited many times on previous trips), and an easy drive to the airport on the day of departure. Somehow our couple managed to acquire one more duffle-bag of items during the three-week trip. Experience had taught the necessity of packing one, spare bag for this unplanned, but repeatedly inevitable occurrence.

To review contents: Return to top / Planning for trip / Camping near Paris / Camping to visit Loire Valley / Camping in the Alpes de Hautes / Camping in southeast Burgundy

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Page originally posted 30 September 1997, modified 23 May 1999 to support main page.