Feature

France's camping capital

A delightful and relaxing destination

Enjoying the slow life on the Mediterranean coast.

Each week, we spotlight a dream vacation recommended by some of the industry's top travel writers. This week's pick is Argeles-sur-Mer, France.

Courtesy image

"French campsites are where Northern Europeans come to celebrate the Gallic way of life by eating baguettes, drinking wine, and lounging in ill-advised swimwear," said Will Hawkes at The Washington Post. My wife and I both have fond childhood memories of camping vacations in France, so last summer we took our three kids — ages 5, 2, and 3 months — to a campsite in a town that's arguably the French capital of camping. Argeles-sur-Mer is a sun-soaked Mediterranean spot just north of Spain, and it has 50 campsites crammed near its golden, gently arcing beach. To make things easier on our young family, we stayed in a mobile home with all the conveniences: shower, air-conditioning, cooking equipment, fridge. Even so, the best thing about our accommodation was our view of the green, "gently curvaceous" Pyrenees descending into the sea.

I use our first morning to stock up on essentials at the supermarket — cheese, wine, and a huge spread of charcuterie — and soon enough, we settle into the gentle rhythm of campsite life. After a baguette breakfast, we stroll to the beach, then a playground. Lunch (bread, cheese, salad) is followed by a nap, then a trip to the pool. Dinner often comes from the local fishmonger: barbecued fresh sea bream or fat pink prawns. If all that "sounds a little dull, well, it is. But that's the appeal." One day, we interrupt our soporific routine to take a boat to Collioure, an "absurdly beautiful" bayside town 3 miles down the coast. The boys race around the 13th-century castle, "counting cannonballs as they go." Later, we dine by the water. "The ambience is unforgettable: A warm sea breeze blows into the lively, full restaurant as waiters hustle here and there."

One naptime, I'm reminded of our closeness to Spain when I slip away for a swim in the gentle sea. At the beach, a colorful festival is underway, the Aplec de Sardanes, an annual celebration of traditional music. Groups of locals perform the sardana, a centuries-old Catalan circle dance, to the "perky" sounds of an 11-piece band dominated by an oboe-like instrument called the Catalan shawm. "This is France, but Catalonia, too."

Read more at The Washington Post, or book a campsite at La Chapelle Camping. Summer campsites start at $40 a night.

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