Wild swimming in France

Here are some more pictures of our wild swimming road trip around France. We were there for ten days, swam in five different rivers (and the sea!), covered about 3,000 miles, camped in four campsites, and… just had the best time. Hands down. Hands up. Best.

I thought, rather than giving you a day by day run down of what we did, I’d just post some of my favourite pictures, and tell a few stories alongside them.

It doesn’t even look real does it?

It certainly doesn’t feel real that just a fortnight ago
I was swimming here every morning in lieu of a shower!

Our route

Our first stop (after an early start, a ferry across the channel and a long day’s driving for Mr V) was a beautiful wooded campsite near Angouleme on the river Charente. There were four families there when we arrived and then we had the place to ourselves for the second night!

The river here was gorgeous. One evening, as we sat quietly by the water, we saw a furry little head bob past in the water – we’re fairly certain it was an otter or a eurasian beaver. Either way it was one of those moments you know you’ll always remember.

The campsite itself was in an oxbow of a river (we could see and hear the water from our tent) and quite fast flowing, so on the morning we left we had a great time swimming round in circles (hop in upstream, drift downstream and then run across the narrow sliver of land back into the river upstream!). (This ‘method’ is recommended by Roger Deakin in his lovely book Waterlog, I’ll post his description of it sometime, because it makes me happy.)

While we were there, we also went into Angouleme for dinner. We didn’t see much of the city, but did enjoy the cheeky little bits of comic book graffiti around the place, like this funny little chap:

Doesn’t he look like Where’s Wally’s scruffy little brother?

After two lovely nights in the Charente, we drove in the pouring rain to the Dordogne. Luckily, this was the last bit of rain we’d see all holiday – something we were thankful for after a soggy few months in England!

We spent three nights in the Dordogne at a gorgeous campsite next to a clear, surprisingly chilly tributary of the big river. Every morning we’d wake up hot in our little tent and slip down to the river for a swim before hordes of children overtook it. Those morning swims are the thing I’m missing most now we’re back in the city.

(Wow, I look so glum in this photo! I was going for serene water nymph)

That little pool above was right by our tent, but then we discovered this dreamy pool, and that’s when we knew we’d found a campsite we’ll be coming back to again and again.

During the day, we went to cafes in cute little towns, hired a canoe (I lolled in the bow taking in the scenery while Mr V paddled for three hours, it was epic!), found little nooks in the river to call “our private beach”, did lots more swimming and found dogs to befriend. (I speak pretty good French, but Mr V speaks dog like its his first language.) (Maybe it is, his parents got a puppy when he was two weeks old and they grew up together!)

Dodgy picture taken on my iphone through its waterproof case!

Mr V taught me to skim stones here! I’m now obsessed.

When I call this a ‘wild swimming holiday’, that might be a bit misleading
as we mainly enjoyed floating our way around France. Just FYI!

The view over head. Sigh.

This little fella was so hot and sleepy. We loved him!

After four dreamy days, we packed our little tent in our little car and headed to the coast. We camped at Ronce-les-Bains and, even though we thought the Dordogne was crammed with tourists, we soon realised that that was nothing compared to the crush at the seaside. After a swim in the Atlantic, moules frites on the Ile d’Oleron and a good night’s sleep, we hightailed it to the leafy Loire.

Ah! The Loire. I love the Loire.We hired a canoe again and literally paddled through the moat of a chateau. It was amazing (those pics are on my underwater film camera so not in this post). We swam in the Indre and the Loire, had lovely beers on leafy terraces and felt the last few days of our holiday slipping blissfully through our fingers.

We stayed at another lovely riverside campsite, this was the view from our tent

On our last day, Mr V bought me a basket at the market (I’m a bit obsessed with baskets) and we spent hours and hours with a picnic at another place that felt like a private beach, swimming and skimming and sunning ourselves.

I know you’ve seen this one before, but I really love baskets, ok?

Then the next morning, we woke up, packed the tent up while it was still dark and drove all the way home!

Man. I know I’ve already gone on about how brilliant this holiday was, but it really was magical. Ten shining, bright, beautiful days. We left the ipad at home and listened to audio books. We cooked simple meals over a teensy stove (more on this soon). We woke up and slept with the sun! Ah. I could go on forever….

22 Comments

  • August 31, 2012 - 3:13 pm | Permalink

    This just looks awesome!! When I was 16-17 my best friend and i did our a level course work on a river in the dordogne, we spent days walking around the countryside following a river and having picnics in the sun.

    Would love to go back now as an adult!!

    xox

  • August 31, 2012 - 4:39 pm | Permalink

    This looks absolutely AMAZING! It’s things like this that really make wish we had a car :( I can’t believe how clear the water was is the rivers! It’s absolutely stunning and it’s given me such a craving to go do the same!

    • August 31, 2012 - 4:57 pm | Permalink

      The water was so clear! Amazing. We were lucky when we lived in London that Mr V’s mum would let us borrow her car every now and then – including for a week long french trip once! My friends and I also did the train/hire car thing once – which worked out ok because there were four of us and we only hired the car for about five days.

  • August 31, 2012 - 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been to France, but I’d love to go. Beautiful photos

  • August 31, 2012 - 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That sounds like such an AMAZING experience! It all looks so gorgeous and sounds like an amazing time!

  • August 31, 2012 - 10:16 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like the best type of vacation! You look so relaxed :)

    • September 3, 2012 - 9:15 am | Permalink

      Thanks Ainhoa, I really really was!
      ps. Eeks! You’re getting married on Friiiiday! x

  • September 1, 2012 - 7:41 am | Permalink

    This looks absolutely fantastic, I must do it some day!

  • September 4, 2012 - 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Hello hello! This looks amazing. Dreamy. I had a little chuckle as we were in France at the same time as you, near a little village called Chives, swimming in the lake! I am thinking that branding your holiday a ‘wild swimming holiday’ is v clever as a) it makes you sound v sporty and intrepid, b) you can eat much cheese on a swimming hol and c) you can def buy lots of happy swimwear for it! Ahh. Glad you had a good time. xxx

    • September 4, 2012 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Haha, busted! True, we normally swim everyday on holiday, but what made this a swimming holiday is we based where to go on two guides to wild swimming (pictured here: http://annabelvita.com/2012/08/03/in-and-out/)
      Hope you had fun in Chives! What a funny name for a village :) (Although I guess I wouldn’t think a village called ciboulette was weird!)

  • Christine @ Casa-de-Christine
    September 4, 2012 - 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow- I am so jealous of this holiday!! It sounds absolutely amazing. Relaxing and awe-inspiring and beautiful! It sounds like you really spent some great quality time together too- no phones or tvs to get in the way, etc.

    • September 5, 2012 - 9:14 am | Permalink

      Oh Christine you totally nailed it! That was one of the things that made it so magical. xx

  • September 6, 2012 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Seriously, pack me in your suitcase. I’m so jealous of how land-locked we feel in America vs your amazing French holiday…how dreamy!

    • September 10, 2012 - 6:55 pm | Permalink

      It really was. If it helps, it’s now rainy in England and getting dark earlier every night (plus I’m out of holiday for the year!)

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