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FROGGY FROG, FROG CHORUS

Lake at Moulin de Julien, Cordes-sur-Ciel

Lake at Moulin de Julien, Cordes-sur-Ciel

We are suddenly woken from our deep, deep sleep on our water bed – you will recall from our last blog that we were only able to half inflate the inflatable bed we use when camping – by a cacophony of noise! Are we dreaming? Or have we been transported to the Amazon rain forest? It is 3.00 a.m. in the morning and the noise is amazing! It is a cross between a flock of geese honking horrendously loudly, a troop of monkeys going ballistic, and several people being strangled – all at once?! It takes us a few minutes to realise that this horrendous noise is coming from the rather beautiful and placid lake only a pitch away from where we are camped!? It is frogs … scores of them … French frogs … a veritable Froggy frog, frog chorus! It goes on for ever – two hours at least – and then transmogrifies into the dawn chorus as the frogs at last desist but the birds start up?! Thank goodness (and the French chemists) for those wonderful French ear plugs that you can only buy in France!

There had to be something negative about this wonderful French campsite where we are staying at Moulin de Julien, only 20 minutes walk from the beautiful medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel. It is just the kind of campsite that Julia and I love. It is not too posh – indeed it has that rather scruffy, deliberate ‘shabby chic’ appearance. The pitches are spacious with plenty of trees to provide shade and respite from the blazing sunshine. There are excellent shower/toilet/wash-up blocks nearby, and Wi-Fi connection throughout the site. There is a nice swimming pool area with a couple of pools and a fun water shoot for those who are so inclined to use! There are a few other activity areas – crazy golf, table tennis, volley ball, and a small children’s play area – but the site is not really one for young children even though there are a number of families here. It is ideal, however, for couples like us who just want to rest and relax in the normally tranquil environment of the site. There is also a nice bar and patio area near the entrance and office where people tend to congregate of an evening.

Moulin de Julien is the site of an old mill – as the name implies – but was transformed into a campsite a number of years ago. It is owned, and run, by one family. Everything that takes place revolves around Madame, a rather elegant whirlwind of a woman, around 50 years of age I would guess, who seems to be here, there and everywhere whilst still managing to retain a chic appearance together with a unflustered approach to anything and everything that happens. She has recently taken over running the site from her elderly parents, who still live on their own in the large beautifully restored mill house on the site, but who put in an appearance around the site most days … just to make sure that their daughter is doing things right!? Madame is assisted by her 29 year old son, her 17 year old and 14 year old daughters, and her 19 year old nephew. They all work very hard and are obviously doing their best to improve the site, slowly but surely, despite Madame’s parents views and opinions!  Madame’s son is married and has two young children who often make an appearance on site. He also has a faithful dog – a gangly black and white crossbreed of some description, who follows him literally everywhere. He is called ‘Vicar’ … or something like that … and whenever he calls ‘Vicar’ both the dog and Julia jump to attention! O.K., I’m kidding about Julia?!

Madame clearly understands English (and several other languages one suspects) but refuses to speak anything other than French. We suspect that she is a woman on a mission. She speaks slowly and clearly so that we can understand what she is saying … and compliments us when we get it right. If the language barrier becomes a real problem Madame hands the ‘happy camper’ over to her elder daughter who speaks good English! Madame welcomes everyone to the site personally, does all the bookings, and bombs around the site on a little Vespa Scooter (in a long glamorous dress and high heeled shoes) showing everyone to their pitches and problem solving when needed!

There are an interesting collection of people/nationalities on our campsite. There were not too many here when we arrived but the site has slowly but surely been filling up in the short time we have been here. Our fellow campers are mostly French or Dutch. In contrast to our normal visits to France in June there are few elderly Dutch people but there are lots of younger Dutch couples with families. They all speak excellent English and we all get on very well together. There is a very interesting Dutch family on the pitch adjacent to ours – mother and father and four strapping teenage children. They do everything together and are constantly laughing. In the swimming pool the other day they were all laughing uproariously at the same joke … even though they told it to each other four times over?! With the French families we communicate in ‘Franglais’. For some reason we seem to be very popular and we are always being involved in discussions or asked questions. Somehow we seem able to be able to make ourselves understood. There were no Brits, other than ourselves, on site to begin with. Moulin de Julien seems to be, as yet, undiscovered by the Brits … the French and the Dutch know about this lovely site, but not the Brits it seems. So if you are reading this, and haven’t booked your holiday yet … why not look up Moulin de Julien on the internet and book in? You would love it here … and there are chalets as well as pitches for caravans, motor homes and tents.

Yesterday, on the way to the swimming pool, I spotted a motor home with a GB badge. Me, being me, I went over, pointed to the GB badge, and said, ‘Ah! Les Anglais!’ ‘No mate!’ came the reply, ‘We are Aussies! We only bought the van in the UK! Which part of France are you from?’ ‘Dorset!’ I reply … can’t be bothered to go on with the pretending to be French thing for yet another year … ‘What’s the Ashes Test score?’ Bruce tells me he doesn’t know, and goes on to explain that they are only here for one night. They are on a two year tour of Europe and have already done the UK. Suddenly just skiving off for two months doesn’t see that bad at all!

We get used to the Froggy frog, frog chorus, and the dawn chorus, after a few days and no longer need our wonderful French ear plugs. I am in a deep sleep one night when suddenly I hear the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. It comes over and then flies away again … and then flies overhead again … and then flies away again … ad infinitum. I wake up with a start suddenly realising that it is not a helicopter but a tractor! The farmer who owns the fields next to the campsite is out on his tractor cutting hay! It is 3.40 a.m. and the farmer is out in his fields on his tractor cutting hay?! As though the Froggy frog, frog chorus … and the birds’ dawn chorus were not enough to cope with!? The next time I have dinner with Sir Paul McCartney I am going to invite him to come camping at Moulin de Julien … perhaps he can write a hit song about tractors?

 Jim Binney

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